World: U.S. - Australia - India public-private partnership uses new crop technologies to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
USAID Press Office
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting a new public-private research partnership between the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) and India-based Vibha Agrotech to develop new climate-resilient varieties of rice and wheat, two of the “big three” primary crops required to feed the world. The program is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and it leverages resources from both the public and private sector in Australia and the private sector in India.
Climate change is altering environmental conditions and reducing agricultural productivity, with developing countries showing the greatest vulnerability. South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa are predicted to see yield losses of up to 35% by 2050 for major cereal crops, creating significant economic losses and uncertainty for people relying on staple production for their food security. Already, 25 million ha (over 61 million acres) of cereal production is negatively impacted by drought annually, and it is estimated that at least 20% of irrigated cropland globally is affected by salinity.
This new collaboration will leverage ACPFG’s unique gene technologies and considerable expertise in cereal stress tolerance and Vibha’s field evaluation and rice transformation capabilities to develop new rice and wheat varieties with enhanced tolerance to drought and salinity, allowing farmers more stable production in the face of sudden drought and evolving salt water intrusion. The new lines will be evaluated under representative field conditions and the most successful will be transferred into the varieties that farmers grow. Work will initially take place in Australia and India, but the technologies will be made available to developing countries in South Asia and globally where climate stresses impact cereal yields, so that farmers can be more confident that they will have a good harvest, even as climate change creates more unpredictable growing environments.
“We have to increase global food production by 60% by 2050, even as climate change is already affecting crop yields,” said Dr. Julie Howard, USAID’s Chief Scientist in the Bureau for Food Security and Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Agricultural Research, Extension and Education. “That means we must use all the tools available to us to grow more food on less land and with less water. USAID is excited to launch this partnership and to leverage new expertise, resources and technologies to help make important cereal crops—and, ultimately, the smallholders who grow them – more resilient to climate change.”
Under the Feed the Future initiative, USAID has considerably expanded its investments in climate-resilient cereal research and development. This collaboration is the latest in a series of partnerships announced recently that leverage significant resources from the private sector and are aimed at helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change. Along with public and private research partners in the US, Australia, Mexico, the Philippines, South Asia, Indonesia, and sub-Saharan Africa, USAID is supporting the development of new varieties of rice, wheat, maize, sorghum and millet that are tolerant to heat, drought and salinity and can grow with less fertilizer and water.
“A key role that Australia can play in helping to support food production is through collaboration and sharing of technological advances,” said Michael Gilbert, ACPFG’s General Manager. “The Australian Federal and South Australian Governments established ACPFG as a technology development and delivery organization. Through this support, ACPFG is now recognized internationally as a leading organization in developing and applying the latest technologies to crop improvement.”
About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and under nutrition. More information: www.feedthefuture.gov
About Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics: ACPFG was established in 2003 by the South Australian Government and the Australian Federal Government through the Australian Research Council and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. ACPFG scientists improve cereal crops’ tolerance to environmental stresses such as drought, heat, salinity and nutrient toxicities; major causes of yield and quality loss throughout the world and significant problems for cereal growers. The future resilience of our food production systems in the face of a changing climate will depend upon the development and delivery of new technologies. For more information about ACPFG please visit www.acpfg.com.au.
About Vibha Seeds: Vibha Agrotech Limited (Vibha) is one of the premier private crop genetics and plant breeding research organizations in India. It was established in 1995 at Hyderabad, with a vision of empowering Indian farmers by providing superior quality seeds. Vibha leads the Indian market with its research and development, production and distribution of quality seeds of 230 products in 15 field and 20 vegetable crops. Vibha operate in 22 Indian states through 5500 distributors and 250 thousand dealers, supplying 20 million farmers.
Related Bureau or Independent Office
Bureau for Food Security
Democratic Republic of the Congo: RDCongo : la rébellion du M23 prête à une "cessation immédiate des hostilités"
05/22/2013 18:09 GMT
KINSHASA, 22 mai 2013 (AFP) - La rébellion du Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) s'est déclarée mercredi prête à "une cessation immédiate des hostilités" avec l'armée afin de faciliter la visite du secrétaire général de l'ONU Ban Ki-moon à Goma, dans l'est de la République démocratique du Congo.
Le M23 "informe l'opinion nationale et internationale qu'elle est prête à une cessation immédiate des hostilités pour faciliter la visite du secrétaire général des Nations unies dans la ville de Goma", indique dans un communiqué Amani Kabasha, chargé de la communication de la rébellion.
"Cette trêve qui devra être formalisée par un accord de cessez-le-feu dûment signé par les parties permettra ainsi la reprise des négociations de Kampala pour aboutir à un accord qui donnera aux congolais une vraie paix", ajoute-il.
"Si la trêve n'est pas respectée par la partie adverse, l'Armée Révolutionnaire Congolaise (ARC, bras armé du M23) a été clairement instruite pour réagir vigoureusement avec fermeté" contre les attaques des forces régulières, aux "conséquences humanitaires dramatiques", écrit-il encore.
Depuis lundi, et après plusieurs mois de trêve, les combats ont repris entre l'armée congolaise et les rebelles dans la zone de Mutaho, à une dizaine de kilomètres au nord de Goma, la capitale de la province riche et instable du Nord-Kivu. Les deux camps s'accusent mutuellement d'avoir relancé les hostilités.
Malgré la situation, l'escale de Goma reste au programme de la tournée de Ban Ki-moon dans la région des Grands Lacs, d'après un haut-responsable de l'ONU.
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
Darles a los niños la comida mientras están en el colegio ha sido una estrategia clave para las organizaciones humanitarias como el PMA, que lo ven como una inversión a futuro tanto para el niño como para el país. Actualmente en Brasil se reúnen expertos en el Foro Global de Nutrición Infantil para discutir diferentes maneras de mejorar este tipo de programas. A continuación, destacamos las vidas de tres personas que ya han experimentado estos beneficios.
ROMA - Nim Doma Sherpa está bien encaminada para lograr su gran meta de escalar el pico más alto de todos los continentes. Mamphono Khaketla ya ha llegado a convertirse en Ministro de Educación de su país. Paul Tergat se ganó el cariño de sus seguidores obteniendo el record mundial de maratón y ahora aboga por los niños con hambre en todo el mundo.
Los tres recibieron comidas nutritivas en el colegio cuando eran niños, y los tres están convencidos de que no hubiesen tenido éxito sin estos alimentos que recibían regularmente.
"La alimentación escolar es de hecho una inversión que tiene su recompensa en el futuro con personas mejor educadas, adultos sanos y fuertes, y también una importante red de seguridad para evitar que las personas más vulnerables sufran en tiempos de crisis", dijo la Directora Ejecutiva del PMA Ertharin Cousin en unas palabras recientes sobre las meriendas escolares.
Estas son las historias de tres niños que obtuvieron todo su potencial gracias a la inversión en las meriendas de colegio que recibieron hace varios años atrás.
Para la alpinista Nim Doma Sherpa llegar a la cima del Everest de Nepal fue un largo camino. Todo empezó cuando sus padres la enviaron al colegio para recibir los almuerzos gratuitos suministrados por el PMA. "Poco a poco empecé a interesarme por el aprendizaje, así como por la comida", dijo. Nim Doma recibió una educación y en 2008 logró su sueño de escalar el Everest. Ahora planea escalar los picos más altos en los siete continentes.
La Ministra de Educación
Cuando era un niña, la Ministra de Educación de Lesotho recibió comidas escolares del PMA en su escuela local. Ahora que forma parte del gobierno de su país, está haciendo todo lo posible para garantizar que los niños de su país reciban este mismo beneficio. Unos 1,500 colegios en Lesotho entregan meriendas escolares. "Yo soy un buen ejemplo de lo que se puede conseguir con las meriendas escolares” dice la Ministra.
El corredor de maratón
Antes de ganar dos medallas olímpicas y romper el récord mundial de maratón, Paul Tergat era un estudiante en el empobrecido Valle del Rift en Kenia. Él dice que las comidas escolares que recibió cuando niño jugaron un papel crucial para liberar todo su talento como atleta. Tergat es ahora un Embajador del PMA contra el hambre, abogando en nombre de los niños en las escuelas que padecen hambre en el mundo.
Estado de la Alimentación Escolar en el mundo
El informe del Estado de la Alimentación Escolar del PMA en el mundo, que será lanzado el viernes 24 de mayo proporciona los primeros datos mundiales sobre la alimentación escolar. Esto demuestra que alrededor de 368 millones de niños en el mundo, 1 de cada 5, reciben una comida en la escuela diariamente. El informe analiza por qué la alimentación escolar es importante, tanto en los países en desarrollo como en los desarrollados, además de suministrar datos, mapas, análisis y comprensión de los programas de comidas escolares más eficaces.
La Ministra de Desarrollo Social, Luz Lainfiesta, dio a conocer que en un lapso de dos semanas se espera el traslado de Q. 120 millones provenientes del recién cerrado Fondo Nacional Para la Paz (Fonapaz), al nuevo Fondo de Desarrollo Social, recursos que serán utilizados a 50 mil familias campesinas afectadas por la roya del café.
La funcionaria, explicó que en 8 días se contará con la entidad bancaria que servirá para la ejecución de los recursos económicos. "Tenemos dos planes para la protección social agrícola, la primera es por medio de bonos por trabajo, y la segunda por medio de bolsas de alimentos".
La otorgación del bono por trabajo en obras de desarrollo en las comunidades donde se encuentran las familias afectadas dependerá de la agilización del traslado de los recursos al nuevo Fondo de Desarrollo Social, de lo contrario la bolsa de alimentos será la que se aplique en la asistencia a los campesinos.
Testimony, Donald Y. Yamamoto
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
May 21, 2013
[Before the House Subcommittees on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights; International Organizations; Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; Middle East and North Africa]
Thank you very much Chairmen Smith, Poe, and Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Members Bass, Deutch, and Sherman, and Members of the Committee; for the opportunity to testify before you on this important topic. The countries of the Sahel face a complex series of interconnected and ever-evolving challenges. The crisis in Mali, and security vacuum following the Libyan revolution, exacerbated the Sahel’s longstanding political, economic, and humanitarian vulnerabilities. Instability in Mali and increased arms flows from Libya into the region, collided with a humanitarian crisis brought on by drought and poor harvests in a region already burdened by chronic poverty and food insecurity.
Addressing the Sahel’s intertwined security and humanitarian problems demands a comprehensive approach. We are working closely with regional countries and organizations to improve their capacity to secure porous borders and challenge terrorists and transnational criminal networks. The United States also continues to lead the robust international response to meet the needs of the Sahel’s most vulnerable people. Any short-term progress, however, could be jeopardized by the region’s continued political and economic frailties, including persistently poor governance, weak institutions, and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly for youth. Building strong democratic institutions and promoting inclusive government and economic growth are at the center of our approach as we attempt to solidify security gains and restore stability to the Sahel and its people.
Crisis and Conflict in the Sahel
By extension, security in the Sahel and North Africa are inextricably linked. Porous borders and limited government presence and capacities mean that insecurity in one part of the region can quickly become a security threat in another. In 2011, one result of the Libyan revolution, among many others, was an increase in the flow of dangerous weapons and well-armed, experienced fighters into the Sahel. The collapse of Libyan security institutions caught the Sahel at an especially vulnerable time. In Mali, a rebellion in the north by heavily armed, primarily Tuareg rebel groups, together with weak governance in Bamako, corruption, and an ineffectual counterterrorism response, culminated in a March 2012 coup d’état. Terrorist and extremist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), exploited the resulting political vacuum and seized control of the northern two-thirds of Mali. Terrorists enjoyed greater freedom of movement and, temporarily, access to a larger pool of potential recruits and training opportunities. At the same time, transnational criminal networks used well-established smuggling routes to increase their trafficking in weapons, drugs and people. Chad has been a steady route for illicit weapons trafficking out of Libya. However, the Chadian Government, with State Department support, has significantly increased its efforts to counter the illicit trafficking of advanced conventional weapons including man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
In the aftermath of the terrorist takeover of northern Mali, neighboring countries – including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger –intensified their own efforts to block violent extremists and criminal networks from expanding their operations into other parts of the region. The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) has been the United States primary vehicle to assist these and other countries in the region to improve their capacity to monitor and control border areas and improve their overall counterterrorism capability. TSCTP supports a coordinated and comprehensive U.S. Government approach to building long-term security capacity in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. The program is designed to support partner and regional efforts to contain and marginalize terrorist organizations, disrupt efforts to recruit and train extremists, counter efforts to establish safe havens, and disrupt foreign fighter networks. Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad are utilizing the training and equipment provided under TSCTP to contain the threat of AQIM and other extremist groups.
Sahel countries have played an active role in supporting the French and African-led military intervention that has pushed extremists back into isolated areas in northern Mali. Chad’s role in Mali has been significant. Chadian troops deployed using Chadian assets and have played a central role in counterterrorism operations. Both Burkina Faso and Niger have each contributed around 670 soldiers to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and have pledged to increase their troop contributions when appropriately-vetted elements of AFISMA transition into a UN peacekeeping operation in July 2013.
The United States is in the process of providing up to $96 million to support AFISMA troop and police contributing countries, including Niger and Burkina Faso. Our support includes training, vehicles, communications equipment, and personnel equipment, which will help AFISMA contingents to transition from a regional force into effective UN peacekeepers.
While the French and African-led intervention successfully wrestled control of the majority of Malian territory from terrorists and weakened AQIM, continued asymmetric attacks against international and Malian forces in and around northern population centers illustrate that Mali and the region remain vulnerable to violent extremism. A stable and successful future in Mali depends on a coordinated approach to security, political, development, and humanitarian challenges. We firmly supported the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2100 (2013). The Resolution lays out a comprehensive approach to addressing the multifaceted crises in Mali – an approach that prioritizes not only the need to confront the immediate security challenges in Mali, but also stresses the need to restore democratic governance, implement an inclusive national dialogue, protect civilians, promote human rights, reform Mali’s security sector, deliver humanitarian assistance, and establish effective mechanisms for justice and accountability.
Addressing insecurity in Mali is only one piece of the Sahel’s security puzzle. Terrorists pushed out of Mali will show up in other ungoverned spaces. Instability in Libya and the lack of government control over its southern territory will continue to post an ever-present threat to the Sahel. Porous borders and insufficient reach by security services makes the Mali – Niger – Libya corridor an area of concern because it can facilitate the movement of terrorist groups and transnational criminal networks. We will continue to work with regional partners and organizations to build their capacity and improve regional cooperation to combat this shared threat.
Responding to the instability in Mali and Libya alone would have presented an enormous challenge. Yet in the midst of the international community’s response to this spike in regional instability, the Sahel faced a serious humanitarian crisis in 2012 brought on by a severe drought and failed harvests that put 18.7 million people at risk for food insecurity, including one million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Since the beginning of the conflict in Mali, more than 475,000 Malians have been displaced internally or across borders, further straining already stretched resources. Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger have generously welcomed some 175,000 refugees, despite their own food insecurity. The United States continues to lead the international response to this humanitarian crisis. Since Fiscal Year 2012, we have been providing over $550 million in humanitarian assistance across the Sahel to address food insecurity and the needs of conflict-affected Malians, including refugees.
Early warning systems and a robust international response helped prevent a humanitarian catastrophe; but an estimated 10 million people remain at risk of food insecurity. Sadly, food shortages are nothing new for the arid Sahel, which has experienced debilitating, recurring droughts throughout its history. More attention is needed to alleviate chronic food insecurity and break the cycle of emergency assistance. USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg will provide details on a new U.S. Government initiative to build resilience throughout the Sahel.
Consolidating Gains: Building Governance and Inclusive Economic Growth
While the acute security and humanitarian challenges facing the Sahel today demand a robust international response, we must remember that our short-term successes may be fleeting if we fail to address the longstanding political and economic fragility that make the Sahel susceptible to persistent crisis and conflict. Poor governance, weak democratic institutions, and a lack of development and economic opportunity cultivate fertile ground for instability. Helping these countries to strengthen their institutions and be more responsive and inclusive is equally critical to addressing the region’s deep-seated security, political and development challenges.
The Sahel remains vulnerable, but we are also seeing signs of progress throughout the region to improve governance, boost transparency and accountability, and promote inclusive economic growth. Niger has made measurable progress on political and economic reform since returning to democracy after a 2010 coup. In 2012, Niger achieved eligibility for a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact. There are also signs of progress in Burkina Faso, which in December 2012 held successful parliamentary elections that were judged free and fair by the international community. In Mauritania, long-delayed parliamentary elections are now scheduled for October 2013.
Promoting economic growth and development is also critical to putting the Sahel on a path to stability. Creating viable economic opportunities and meeting the basic needs of its citizens remain a daunting task for countries that consistently rank at the very bottom of any measure of human development. Ensuring women’s full participation in the economy is critical for countries to raise productivity, generate demand, and pull communities out of poverty. We are working with all our partners in the Sahel on a wide variety of economic, health, and education programs. In Burkina Faso, a five-year, $481 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, which is on track to successfully conclude in 2014, is reducing poverty through investments in roads, improved agricultural productivity, land use rights, and primary education. In Mauritania, the U.S. - North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO) is building a network of U.S. and North African business leaders, entrepreneurs, civil society and public sector leaders to foster job creation, regional cooperation, and entrepreneurship, with a focus on youth. Assistant Administrator Lindborg will have much more to share on our efforts to promote economic growth and development.
Comprehensive Solutions to Complex Problems
Addressing the complex and evolving security, political and humanitarian challenges in the Sahel demands a comprehensive regional and international approach. Under the leadership of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, the State Department and USAID have convened a working group, chaired by the Deputy Assistant Secretaries of the Africa, Near East, and Counterterrorism bureaus, that is conducting a thorough review of our approach to security in the Maghreb and Sahel to ensure that our regional and functional bureaus are effectively working together to address the region’s interconnected challenges. Many of our partners, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, and France, are engaging in similar efforts to create multidimensional, Sahel-wide strategies, and we are coordinating closely to ensure a common and complementary approach. The United States is also supporting the ongoing efforts of the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, to develop an integrated UN strategy for tackling the region’s multiple crises.
In closing, we must continue our efforts to approach the Sahel and the Maghreb’s interconnected problems with a comprehensive regional and international effort. Such an effort must address the immediate security threat posed by violent extremists and transnational criminal networks, while at the same time building the institutional capacity needed to address the Sahel’s political economic and humanitarian challenges.
Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, and the thirteenth largest in the world. The current population of 84 million is expected to reach 120 million by 2030, and 145 million by 2050. Ethiopia will play a large role in meeting the global goal of putting 15 million people on HIV treatment by 2015 and in helping create an AIDS-free generation. To do so, the population of Ethiopia needs reliable and consistent access to medicine. At present, however, the ability to acquire medicine is limited due to challenges of access, supply, distribution and cost.
The Ethiopian government is undertaking a bold initiative to ensure that medicinal supply and access are available throughout the country. A major challenge is reaching a population whose majority lives in rural areas. Through a series of centralized and regional hubs, this initiative aims to serve thousands of health centers all over the country and overcome the hurdle to reaching patients. Achieving this aim is a complex undertaking, which is becoming increasingly more so as the diversity and volume of medicines regularly expands.
The Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), a project of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by USAID, has stepped in to support this nation-wide initiative. At ten warehouse sites across Ethiopia, the physical warehousing capacity has greatly increased due to the introduction of a warehouse racking system. Warehouse racking allows for vertical storage without damaging stacked products due to weight.
The racking system enables improved material organization, as products are stored and sorted by rack location. This ensures that short shelf-life products can be located and distributed in a timely manner. It also helps prevent stockouts as regional hubs can respond faster to need requests. Thus, warehouses become more efficient in terms of space utilization, organization and loss-prevention.
Improved warehouse distribution also enhances the ability of warehouses to reduce and prevent product expiry and handle emergency situations, such as product recalls. Furthermore, a better ability to respond to the supply and demand of the population, as well as reduce loss, facilitates for a reduction in product cost.
In Adama, for example, the warehouse capacity was increased by 35 percent, to 880 pallets (the platforms that boxes of commodities sit on for shipping and storage) with the introduction of racking. Organizational improvement is evident, which facilitates for improved cost-efficiency as the products can be stored, located and distributed in a more systematic manner. That, however, is just the beginning.
The government, with support from PEPFAR and the Global Fund, is constructing ten new – and larger – warehouse facilities to greatly increase warehouse capacity.
SCMS will outfit these new warehouses and expand upon existing facilities. When Adama’s new warehouse is complete, and racked, the pallet capacity will increase from 880 to 5,160. Across the ten sites, the existing pallet capacity of 6,039 will increase to 27,007.
The outfitting of racking in warehouses is only one contribution of many mechanisms that SCMS has provided to enhance and support the Ethiopian government in their aims of providing reliable and consistent access of medicine throughout the country. SCMS is not only meeting the needs of today, but planning for the needs of tomorrow.
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La Presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner anunció hoy la entrega, a través del Ministerio de Agricultura, de 10 millones de pesos a pequeños y medianos productores afectados por la última inundación, en las zonas del cinturón hortícola platense, de Berazategui y de Florencio Varela.
Durante el acto de inauguración de la nueva biblioteca “Madres de Plaza de Mayo”, del Colegio Nacional de la Universidad de La Plata (UNLP), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner realizó la entrega de los aportes a cinco pequeños productores en representación simbólica del conjunto que recibirá ese beneficio.
Del acto participaron, el Secretario de Agricultura, Lorenzo Basso, y el Secretario de Coordinación Política y Emergencia Agropecuaria, Haroldo Lebed, en representación de la cartera agropecuaria.
Del total aportado, 8 millones de pesos se destinarán a la asistencia directa de los 693 productores afectados por las inundaciones, según se constató a través de un trabajo de campo que realizaron técnicos del Ministerio de Agricultura y del Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA).
"Los dos millones de pesos restantes se distribuirán en partes iguales entre un Fondo Rotatorio y un Banco de insumos", informó el Ministerio mediante un comunicado de prensa.
Asimismo, la jefa de Estado inauguró los cinco kilómetros de pavimentación y las obras hidráulicas en la calle 467 de la ciudad de La Plata, que permitirán el acceso desde la Ruta 36 al Camino General Belgrano y que beneficiarán a más de 2.000 pequeños y medianos productores.
Para ello, el Estado Nacional aportó financiamiento por 7.218.000 pesos en el marco de la emergencia declarada a raíz del tornado de abril de 2012, que afectó a gran parte del conurbano bonaerense.
La Presidenta destacó que los aportes son para los perjudicados por las inundaciones y por el tornado ocurrido en abril de 2012, ya que son los que "todos los días agachan el lomo para trabajar la tierra".
“Este es un gran reconocimiento a los pequeños y medianos productores del cinturón verde, que mediante nuestro trabajo llevamos el alimento a muchos hogares de la región”, señaló Hipólito Alonso Madariaga, de la Cooperativa Motomendez de Horticultores Platenses.
En representació del conjunto de los productores, recibieron hoy los fondos Galean Herminio Arce, por la Asociación Centenario (ACEN); Hipólito Alonso Madariaga, de la Cooperativa Motomendez de Horticultores Platenses; Néstor Vicente Villa Corta, por la Asociación de Medieros y Afines (ASOMA); Víctor Hugo Lanieri, por la Cooperativa Agropecuaria de Productores del Parque Pereira; y Eliberto Raúl Villa, por la Asociación de productores familiares el Guadalquivir.
Médecins Sans Frontières forced to suspend activities in Mugunga III and Bulengo camps
GOMA/PARIS - 22 May 2013. Fighting with heavy weapons between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the rebel group M23 to the west of the provincial capital Goma resumed yesterday. Many people who were already displaced from their homes after earlier waves of violence are now caught between the shelling and gunfire.
"Mugunga, Lac Vert and Buhimba camps are located on the road between Goma and Sake and have been in the middle of the shelling for the past two days." said Thierry Goffeau, head of mission in North Kivu. "The road between Goma and Sake is strategically located, but fighting in such close proximity to people’s homes is endangering the lives of thousands of vulnerable people."
Six shells landed in the area of Mugunga camps on Tuesday, injuring at least 4 people. An MSF team was able to transfer these people to a nearby hospital facility supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Towns in the area were affected by the use of heavy artillery with several people injured. The district of Ndosho, near Goma, took the brunt of shelling with at least three people killed and more than a dozen wounded.
Since the shooting started, residents of Mugunga III camp fled to other camps nearby or further into the city of Goma in search of safety. "A quarter of the camp has empited. People are continuing to leave, afraid they’ll end up trapped. Those who remain are distraught, not knowing where to go or how to react. People are panicking "said Thierry Goffeau.
The active fighting and positioning of the combatants so close to the camp has forced MSF to suspend its activities in Mugunga and Bulengo camps. The team is assessing population movements and is ready to intervene if necessary.
Last November, M23 launched a first attack on the city of Goma and Sake, forcing many people to flee and seek refuge in camps west of Goma. The fall of Goma ended ten days later and negotiations with the government of Joseph Kabila started.
Renewed fighting between the FARDC and M23 comes ahead of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the country and the establishment of a special UN intervention brigade, which for the first time has a mandate to carry out targeted offensive operations against rebel groups in eastern DRC.
In light of this, MSF calls on all parties to refrain from using force around IDP camps and in areas housing civilians.
MSF provides primary care and secondary care in the province of North Kivu, working in health centers and mobile clinics. MSF supports referral hospitals in Mweso, Pinga, Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale and Kitchanga.
On Monday morning, the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army, or FARDC, clashed in the village of Mutaho, approximately six miles northwest of the provincial capital of Goma. The fighting comes after six months of relative calm between the warring parties following the 12-day occupation of Goma by M23 in November 2012.
The fighting lasted about two hours with small skirmishes continuing thereafter. The United Nations peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said “initial skirmishes escalated to the use of heavy caliber automatic weapons, mortars and rocket launchers. It is reported that FARDC used attack helicopters, in one of their operations,” MONUSCO said. FARDC Colonel Hamuli proclaimed that “[w]e're sending reinforcements. We must protect the town of Goma at all costs". FARDC commander Lt. Col. Mamadou Ndala later specified that 600 commandos were being deployed to protect Goma. The Enough Project can report the redeployment of three Congolese army tanks.
MONUSCO estimates that the fighting displaced close to 1,000 civilians. The Enough Project witnessed a large gathering of about 200 civilians camping outside a MONUSCO military base.
Naming and shaming
Fortunately, according to a MONUSCO source, no civilian casualties were accounted for on Monday. The government later said that M23 lost 15 men with another 21 men injured; FARDC lost four soldiers with another six injured. On Monday afternoon, Vice-Governor of North Kivu Feller Lutahichirwa assured the residents of Goma that the “situation is under control.”
Army spokesperson Colonel Olivier Hamuli claimed that the rebels attacked the army’s position in order to secure the strategic town of Mugunga, just west of Goma. He told The Enough Project that M23 has been threating to re-take Goma since last week to prevent the deployment of the UN Intervention Brigade. The Spokesperson of the Government, Lambert Mende, later echoed his remarks, adding that “foreign elements” support M23.
North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku believes that M23 initiated the offense in order to send a direct message to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, casting doubt over a new UN-initiated peace initiative known as the 11+4 framework. Ban Ki-moon is slated to visit Goma on Thursday together with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. envoy to the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson. M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa tweeted on Tuesday that “Ban Ki-moon should advise the Congolese government to stop war for a peace process. Talks are still the only way for peace in our country.”
The rebel movement shrugged off these assertions and in turn blamed the army. In an official statement, the group said the army attacked M23 after the latter had repelled an attack by another rebel movement known as FDLR. On May 2nd, M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa claimed that the army is working in conjunction with FDLR, eager to advance on the rebel group. It comes to no surprise then that M23 proclaimed it acted yesterday in “self-defense.” Following the fighting, M23’s military spokesman Vianney Kazarama boasted that M23 had secured key positions around Goma but clarified that his group does not intend to take Goma.
Will M23 re-occupy Goma?
Today’s fighting mirrors the lead-up to the taking of Goma in November 2012 when M23 occupied the eastern Congo’s economic powerhouse - home to over 200 U.N. and international aid agencies – supposedly as an act of self-defense. But will Goma fall again? It’s hard to tell.
M23 is suffering from increased defections and efforts to compensate its loss through recruitment campaigns appear to be falling short. Despite rumors that M23 received new military hardware and even support from Rwanda, it is unlikely that the rebels could hold Goma for an extended period of time. While M23 says the group has as many as 4,500 men, independent reports put the numbers of M23 combatants between 1,200 - 1,500. M23 may want to continue various offensives in order to have a bargaining chip in the face of a new foe.
The fighting at the outskirts of Goma comes on the heels of the deployment of a 3,000-man force that the UN Security Council mandated to “neutralize” and “disarm” armed groups in eastern Congo. Over the last two months, M23 has lashed out against the brigade, publicly threating troop contributing countries and vowing to “fight back” if attacked by the brigade. M23 has also reportedly tried twice to convince people living in its controlled territory to demonstrate against the deployment of the FIB but the population refused. With the first contingent of the force arriving in Goma last week, the pressure on M23 is gradually increasing. Ban Ki-moon said today that "[c]onsidering what has happened I think we must expedite the deployment so they will be fully responsible as soon as possible."
However, re-occupying Goma would seriously derail M23’s current public relations strategy that rests on two pillars: Insisting on holding further peace talks, it decries the U.N. intervention brigade to be a declaration of war towards ordinary Congolese. Taking Goma would tarnish M23’s self-made image as a force for good.
Similarly, re-occupying Goma would kill the group’s slim chances of striking a peace deal with the government. While the dialogue in Kampala remains at an impasse, Mary Robinson and the African Union expressed their continued support for the talks. While taking Goma in November 2012 might have been effective in pressuring the government into consenting to a dialogue, a similar move this time around is likely to cause a serious diplomatic backlash in the international arena.
A grim outlook
The fighting continued today with both parties exchanging rounds of artillery fire that Enough Project’s field researchers could hear from Goma. Army spokesperson Hamuli said that "[t]he M23 tried to overrun our positions and we're in the process of pushing them back". M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa tweeted that “FARDC and FDLR resume[d] their attacks against our positions this morning. Tanks, MB [a tank type] are shelling our positions.” Later, he added that "the UN has declared war [on M23]." M23 spokesman Amani Kabasha retorted as well, averring that "[i]t seems the government wants to fight." "There is no political will for bringing peace through a negotiated settlement".
The destiny of Goma and the region at large is suspended in mid-air. M23 tweeted at 6pm local time that the “DRC government army is still shelling bombs on M23 positions.” An hour earlier, AP Journalist Melanie Gouby tweeted that she saw “[s]poradic fighting in Kibati,” 15 km north of Goma. And the latest statement by army spokesman Colonel Hamuli, is rather worrying: "We're keeping a fierce response in store for them [M23]."
Going forward, it is critical for the peace process led by the UN and AU to move ahead quickly to address the drivers of the fighting, so that concrete negotiations and reforms take the place of a military solution. UN Envoy Robinson should both begin regional negotiations between Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda on critical economic and security issues, and help facilitate a process of democratic reform within Congo. Last week, Enough released a report outlining steps that Ms. Robinson should take on the peace process and also urged the UN to come up with a more comprehensive strategy to increase defections among armed groups.
05/22/2013 15:38 GMT
Ghazni, Afghanistan, May 22, 2013 (AFP) - A teenage suicide bomber killed seven people in central Afghanistan on Wednesday when he targeted local fighters who battle against Taliban insurgents, officials said.
The attacker detonated himself in a market place in Ghazni province, two days after another bomber struck outside government buildings in the north of Afghanistan killing 14 people including a provincial politician.
"At around 5:00 pm, a 18-year-old suicide attacker blew himself up in a market in the district of Muqur," Ghazni province deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told AFP.
"As a result, four anti-Taliban fighters and three civilians were killed and 14 others injured."
Local army spokesman Nazifullah confirmed the incident and death toll to AFP.
There are many small bands of tribal militia across Afghanistan who fight against the Taliban insurgents who were toppled from power in 2001. The groups deny receiving weapons and support from the government.
The Taliban launched their annual "spring offensive" last month vowing to use suicide blasts to inflict maximum casualties and warning Afghans working for President Hamid Karzai's regime to distance themselves from the government.
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
By Jane Munyua
Amina lives in Kitunda region in the district of Masasi in the Mtwara region of southern Tanzania. She is a housewife who engages in subsistence farming to feed her family. The second wife in a polygamous marriage, Amina has been married for two years. Sadly though, she has not been able to conceive. Her co-wife, on the other hand, has several children.
“I feel like I have let my husband down,” she says sadly. “I do not understand why I cannot conceive.
Early in April this year, Amina heard an announcement that a team of “madaktari bingwa” (specialist doctors) was coming to the Mkomaindo Hospital in two weeks’ time, and that women with female health issues should go to the hospital for free screening and treatment.
The “madaktari bingwa” were part of AMREF’s Clinical Outreach Programme, which provides specialist medical services to rural and disadvantaged communities across eastern Africa. The programme’s Muhimbili circuit covers Mtwara, Masasi, Lindi, Kilwa, Tosamaganga, Nachingwea, Mchukwi, Lugala, Ifakara, Iringa, Mafia, Berega, Turiani and Dodoma. The programme sends specialists in 25 different medical fields to hospitals in these areas, where they spend up to two weeks treating patients that the hospitals do not have the capacity to handle. The specialists range from obstetric gynaecologists, paediatricians, and orthopaedists to radiologists, anaesthetists and reconstruction surgeons, and are sent to the hospitals depending on need.
The team that went to the Mkomaindo Hospital consisted of an obstetric gynaecologist, Dr Efrem Mrema, and an anaesthetist, Dr Angela Muhozya. A total of 41 female patients, turned up at hospital, where they were screened to determine what their conditions were and how to treat them. The complaints included lower abdominal pain, excessive bleeding and inability to conceive. Some had been diagnosed earlier with uterine fibroids but had been unable to afford the surgery. Others had primary or secondary infertility caused mainly by untreated infections that had blocked their fallopian tubes.
Out of the 41 patients who were screened by the AMREF doctors with the help of Mkomaindo hospital staff, eight were identified for surgery. One of them was Amina, who was found to have a large myoma (uterine fibroid) and an ovarian cyst. Her treatment would include a myomectomy, the surgical removal of the fibroid from the uterus, and marsupialisation of the cyst, which involved making a slit on the cyst and stitching the edges of the incision to create a permanent opening that lets the cyst drain freely. The operation took about one-and-a-half hours. In order to build the skills of local personnel, the AMREF doctors were assisted in the operating theatre by the hospital’s deputy medical officer, theatre technicians and anaesthetist technicians. Clinical officers on internship at the hospital also watched the surgery. Teaching sessions were conducted during the ward rounds as well when Dr Mrema and Dr Muhozya reviewed the patients after surgery.
Lying in her hospital bed the following day, with the morning sun streaming in through the window, Amina felt a renewed sense of hope. Despite the pain from the operation and the discomfort of the catheter and intravenous drip, a shy smile played on her lips as she softly voiced her thoughts:
“I am very grateful to have got this opportunity and I am thankful to the AMREF doctors and to all those who made it possible. I hope that now I will be able to get pregnant and that I will be able to keep the pregnancy to term. This is my greatest prayer.”
KARACHI, May 22 2013 (IPS) - Staring out at his golden wheat field with satisfaction, 50-year old Alamgir Akbar says with a sigh of relief: “We’ve had a good crop this season.”
The farmer has waited a long time to utter those words. A resident of a small rural community on the outskirts of the Ucchali village in the Soan Valley, a 737-square-metre expanse of farmland in the Khushab district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, he has spent five years battling the impacts of a prolonged drought.
With just 12,000 acres of irrigated farmland and only saltwater lakes dotting the landscape, the Valley, which borders the hills of Punjab’s famous Salt Range, is not ideal for practicing agriculture.
Residents traditionally relied on rainwater to recharge their roughly 3,000 community wells, but half a decade of drought in the 1990s brought farming to a standstill and pitched the region’s 150,000 residents into the vortex of poverty.
Farmers here operate smallholdings of no more than five hectares, cultivating crops like cauliflower on flat land as well as terraces and selling the produce in Punjab’s big cities like Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Gujrat.
Before the drought hit, a farmer could typically earn a net profit of 600 to 800 dollars in a 75-day cropping period, but lost a considerable amount of this income on hiring trucks to transport goods to urban markets.
As the rains became increasingly infrequent, farmers were forced to bore tube wells, some as deep as 200 or 300 feet. This new system required investments in turbines to pump out the water, which in turn generated huge energy costs, as the 26-horsepower machines guzzled gallon after gallon of diesel.
Unable to afford the necessary investments, farmers turned to relatives for loans and sold their animals or other assets to continue farming.
When villagers began to chop down trees for fuel it sparked a process of deforestation, which then “accelerated the rate of soil erosion” and increased the risk of prolonged drought, Gulbaz Afaqi, director of the Soan Valley Development Programme (SVDP), told IPS.
Yields dropped, and farmers like Akbar began to despair.
Bringing back water
Driving down the mud track to Ucchali, the tranquil and almost picture-perfect pastoral scene is marred by solar panels.
But what outsiders see as an eyesore, villagers see as an angel of mercy. Owned and operated collectively by 12 families, these three-kilowatt panels are helping to pump water – and new life – into the farmers’ fields.
The landscape is once again alive with patches of cauliflower, coriander, chillies and potatoes as a pilot project spearheaded by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) begins to bear fruit.
Working with 112 partner organisations in more than 90,000 settlements spread across 120 districts in Pakistan, the fund aims to help this country of 170 million meet the targets defined in the Millennium Development Goals before the 2015 deadline.
Armed with donations from the government, international agencies and corporate entities, the PPAF embarked on a nationwide programme of drought mitigation and disaster management in 2003, which quickly identified the Soan Valley as “one of the areas that needed our attention,” PPAF spokesperson Zaffar Pervez Sabri told IPS.
Determined to avoid the worst-case scenario of locals being forced to sell their livestock or migrate from the Valley, the PPAF developed a “water balance model” to manage and conserve remaining resources and address the impacts of climate change, according to Sabri.
To date, the fund has enabled the construction of 124 irrigation pipes feeding over 8,000 acres of farmland; 60 rainwater harvesting ponds, each about the size of an acre; five delay action dams that collect surface water and are ideal for the Valley’s pitted landscape; 40 check dams, which help to prevent erosion; and 12 natural resource management schemes, benefitting over 100,000 people.
Villagers themselves raised the money for the solar panels that pump the water, giving community members a sense of ownership over the project. “We collected 6,000 dollars from the village, and the fund provided the other 6,000,” Afaqi said. By eliminating the need for diesel pumps, the panels have enabled farm communities to save over 2,000 dollars annually.
Villagers also replaced traditional open channel irrigation networks with the more efficient pipe irrigation system to avoid “huge losses and water evaporation in unpaved water courses,” said Afaqi, adding, “The PVC pipes facilitate even distribution of water into the field.”
Mohammad Ismail, an engineer working with the SVDP, told IPS that pipe irrigation is especially useful on slopes where surface water would otherwise run off.
A 50-percent increase in crop yields after this transition nudged farmers into accepting other, more comprehensive changes in their lives, such as new crops and cropping patterns.
Following the SVDP’s advice, farmers gave up cultivating cauliflower, a water-intensive crop that needs to be watered 16 times in 75 days, in favour of potatoes, “which need to be irrigated only eight times,” a local farmer named Sher Khan told IPS.
Potatoes have become a major cash crop in the area, with 46 percent of irrigated land dedicated solely to their production.
In addition, farmers grow chillies in the summer, wheat in the winter and practice year-round horticulture with nectarines and peaches.
The water scheme has made farming viable once more – with just a single acre of land, according to Afaqi, the average farmer can earn a monthly profit of 1,200 dollars on potatoes, 1,500 dollars on coriander and between 1,000 and 1,500 dollars on wheat.
“With an initial investment of about 1.3 million dollars, combined with technical assistance from the PPAF and hard work by the farming communities, we have created a new economy that generates over six million dollars annually,” said Afaqi.
The programme has also spawned interest in local water conservation efforts, including bi-monthly monitoring of ground water resources at 40 different locations, he added.
Reports from quarterly inspections suggest the groundwater table is improving. Regular monitoring also serves as a kind of early-warning system, by alerting farmers about decreasing water tables ahead of cropping cycles.
For farmers like Akbar, the project has literally helped him and his large extended family – spread between 12 homes in Ucchali – achieve their modest dreams.
“All our children go to school,” he says, pride written all over his face as he conducts a brief tour of his humble brick home. The small, attached toilet at the back symbolises huge progress: “It means we no longer have to go out into the fields to relieve ourselves,” he said with a smile.
NAIROBI , May 22 2013 (IPS) - Amid warnings that Kenya’s agricultural water use is surpassing sustainable levels and adversely affecting food security, biodiversity researchers say that agrobiodiversity should be considered as a vital tool to combat this.
“In order to feed the nation, the country must explore agrobiodiversity, specifically (the growing of) vegetables and fruits, which have been neglected in favour of maize,” Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, told IPS.
As climate change continues to wreak havoc on rainfall patterns, resulting in intermittent prolonged dry spells across this East African nation, vegetables present the best alternative to maize because they do not require large amounts of water.
The 2012/2013 Kenya country brief by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that the “October to December ‘short-rains’ season performed poorly … (and) a series of dry spells also caused poor germination … leading to wilting and drying out of crops.”
According to the United States Agency for International Development Kenya, this nation is “classified among the most water scarce countries in the world.” And government statistics indicate that 13 million Kenyans lack access to improved water supply.
“In Kenya, and by extension Africa, desertification and water scarcity are a major threat to agriculture and to pastoralist communities. Strategies such as irrigation, water harvesting and conservation, and tree planting must be revamped,” Nashon Tado, of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Horn of Africa and Yemen office, told IPS.
A food security report by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute said that “official estimates indicate over 10 million people are food insecure with majority of them living on food relief.”
The Ministry of Agriculture says that at least 70 percent of Kenya’s agricultural production comes from smallholder farmers who farm on two to five acres of land. Of Kenya’s 42 million people, eight million households are involved in agriculture, with five million depending directly on it for their livelihoods.
But Kenya’s Food Security Outlook 2013, released on May 15 by the U.N. World Food Programme, confirmed that embracing other crops besides maize was improving food security here.
“Improved availability of green vegetables, green maize and legumes from early June through July is expected to diversify diets and sustain food consumption,” the report stated.
It makes sense that Kenyans should explore biodiversity. Kenya has ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, the globally negotiated agreement committed to sustainable use of biodiversity. Consequently, agrobiodiversity is being touted as a solution to the biting water stresses facing Kenya.
“This year’s International Biodiversity Day’s theme is Water and Biodiversity and is very significant as the country tries to find innovative techniques and strategies to maximise water usage,” Naomi Chepkorir, an agricultural extension officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, in Kenya’s bread basket, Rift Valley province, told IPS.
Indigenous vegetables and fruits are easy to manage, can withstand high and unpredictable temperatures, and are known to have high nutritional value and contain high concentrates of micronutrients, including iron.
“Take the spider plant and African nightshade, which are found in parts of Western and Nyanza provinces, as well as across East Africa. They are known to be nutritious, medicinal and are very rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, anti-oxidants and fibre,” Abukutsa-Onyango said.
The spider plant is known to have high levels of beta-carotene, calcium, protein, magnesium, iron and vitamin C. The plant is also high in antioxidants, which may help prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Chepkorir said that generally vegetables have a shorter life cycle compared to other crops. They grow in a few weeks and require very little irrigation, hence allowing smallholder farmers to reap the benefits of their harvest earlier than they would if they planted a crop like maize – which takes up to three to four months to mature.
Abukutsa-Onyango agreed, adding that indigenous vegetables are able to adapt to climate change because they mature faster. She gave the example of the spider plant and the variety of amaranth that is indigenous to Africa, which can be harvested within three weeks of planting. She added that the slenderleaf ice plant could also withstand water deficit conditions.
Abukutsa-Onyango added that growing a diversity of indigenous vegetables and fruits “would not only address food security, but also nutrition and health security.
“People should eat a balanced diet, and currently Kenyans are consuming inadequate amounts of vegetables and fruits leading to an upsurge of diet-related diseases,” she said.
Good nutrition and healthy diets are important aspects in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight ambitious goals, adopted by all U.N. member states in 2000, aim to curb poverty, disease and gender inequality.
According to the MDG Report 2010 “nutrition has long been seriously overlooked and underemphasised by donors and developing countries, despite good nutrition being a key enabler to meet almost every MDG.”
Yvonne Onyango, a nutritionist in Nairobi, explained: “If a child is not well fed in its first 1,000 days, its growth is affected and the damage is irreversible. The child will never rise to the potential that other children who are well nourished do.”
Government statistics show that about 35 percent of Kenyan children suffer from malnutrition, including iron deficiency anaemia.
But water is a significant aspect of food security and management of this resource requires cooperation from many levels, according to Phillip Muthee, from Kenya’s Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).
KEPSA is the umbrella body of organised business associations, ranging from big to small enterprises in the country.
“When water is managed and shared cooperatively, it supports livelihoods, food security and the economy,” Muthee told IPS.
Muthee feared that Kenya’s new devolved system of government could lead to potential new conflicts around the provision of and access to water. Kenya is now implementing the new system, which allows for decisions affecting Kenya’s 47 counties to be taken at grassroots, as opposed to national, level.
“For instance, the government has already committed to make about one million hectares of land irrigable. But conflict may arise between the national and county governments regarding whose responsibility it is to ensure that this is done,” Muthee said.
He worried that if this happened “water will not reach the people at the grassroots level who need it, not just to feed themselves, but to feed the nation.”
May 22nd, 2013
Having already been working alongside Syrian doctors for more than a year thanks to 15 satellite lines and 9 broadband connections in different hospitals of Syria, Télécoms Sans Frontières is increasing its support to the Syrian people by intervening directly among refugees on the borders of Turkey.
TSF provides broadband communications for the humanitarian aid coordination
TSF has set up a satellite connection for GOAL - international humanitarian NGO present in the North-East of the country. Télécoms Sans Frontières is supporting GOAL in its humanitarian aid operations to families, carried out as part of a program of emergency response to the population affected by the Syrian conflict.
Al Salama camp is located close to the Turkish border at the edge of the main road to Aleppo and currently hosts 15,000 Syrian refugees. There are new arrivals every day fleeing bombings taking place only 10 km away.
TSF installed a broadband satellite connection for the refugee Registration Centre, managed by the new Syrian Red Crescent, as well as for the logistics Coordination Centre, to enable communication of refugee needs in real time.
Al Salama camp is the humanitarian aid main coordination point in the border area of Aleppo. Beyond the 15,000 refugees in Al Salama, this humanitarian aid also serves hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are not in camps. The Coordination Centre reinforces medical support, food and basic goods distribution up to Aleppo.
10 satellite broadband connections for medical coordination in Syria
Since September 2012, TSF has installed nine satellite connections in nine hospitals in major cities of Syria.
Each hospital now about 50 Gb per month, which makes a total of 450 Gb that allows the sending of medical imaging, diagnosis, drug lists...
Besides, the 15 voice satellites lines TSF distributed throughout the whole territory, has allowed 118 hours of communication for the repatriation logistics of wounded civilians to neighboring countries of Syria.
TSF was one of the first international NGOs to enter this country deeply affected by conflict. According to UN data, the civil war that has lasted for more than 2 years, has caused nearly 80,000 deaths and displaced millions of civilians who now face extremely difficult living conditions and constant insecurity.
The vital need for communication continues to grow; TSF will therefore continue to support medical organizations in Syria.
Just a few weeks ago, some 50 Kashmiri women came together to demand that police reinvestigate a well-known case of mass rape. The women—teachers, students, journalists, human rights workers, lawyers, and other professionals—filed a public interest litigation case before India’s Jammu and Kashmir high court. The alleged set of crimes, known as the Kunan Poshpora case, happened more than 20 years ago, on February 23, 1991, when armed forces allegedly raped at least 32 teenaged, adult, and elderly women.
Read the full report on Women Under Siege.
NAIROBI, 22 May 2013 (IRIN) - Over one million people in Somalia are currently food insecure, according to a May report [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/somalia_fsou_05... ] by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET). This number is a significant drop from the 3.7 million [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/astern%20Africa... ] considered food insecure in mid-2011.
The improvement has been attributed to good ongoing 'gu', the March-to-June rains, and the 2012 October-November 'deyr' rains.
Successive droughts and poor rains had culminated in a famine in Somalia in 2011. The famine [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/93280/SOMALIA-Time-for-immediate-action-o... ] led to an estimated 258,000 excess deaths, meaning deaths above normal mortality numbers, according to a 2 May study [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Somalia_Mortali... ] commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and FEWSNET.
Most of these deaths were in the Banadir, Bay and Lower Shabelle regions, where 4.6 percent of the overall population is estimated to have died. In the Lower Shabelle region, a death rate of at least 9 percent was recorded among all ages, with 17.6 percent of under-fives there dying between October 2010 and April 2012, the study notes.
"There is consensus that the humanitarian response to the famine was mostly late and insufficient, and that limited access to most of the affected population, resulting from widespread insecurity and operating restrictions imposed on several relief agencies, was a major constraint," said the study.
Humanitarian workers are keen to avoid a repeat of the famine, which has been described by many as a mainly "manmade" disaster. In this report, IRIN asks a Somalia experts and analysts whether the conditions that led to the famine are still in place, and whether another famine could occur in Somalia.
The experts interviewed were: Abdihakim Ainte, a Somali analyst; Abdirahman Hosh Jibril, a member of the Somalia parliamentary committee for human rights and humanitarian affairs; Abdullahi Jimale, chairman of Somalia's national disaster management agency; Olivia Maehler, operations liaison manager for Save the Children's Somalia/Somaliland programme; Alun McDonald, Oxfam's media and communications adviser for the Horn, East and Central Africa; and Daniel Molla, FSNAU's chief technical advisor.
What have been the key lessons learned from the famine in Somalia?
Daniel Molla: There [was] sufficient and actionable early warning information and analysis provided by FSNAU and FEWSNET [ http://www.fews.net/Pages/default.aspx ] in the lead-up to the declaration of famine in July 2011. However, as widely documented, this did not translate into [a] timely and adequate response on the part of the humanitarian community and donors... Nutrition and mortality surveys should be undertaken outside of the regular calendar when early warning information indicates a deteriorating food security situation, in order to assess the situation and recommend appropriate interventions in a timely manner.
Olivia Maehler: I would think that lessons learned [include]. the need to keep in place a rigorous programme responding to humanitarian needs in normal times so that this can be scaled up [in emergencies]. We were able to scale up quickest in places where we already had a large humanitarian input. Also, the fact that cash transfer programmes proved very successful and stimulated rather than overwhelmed markets, and the need for humanitarian funding to move toward multi-year funding to allow for building resilience.
In the long term, the focus for avoiding hunger crises like this one lies in enhancing the resilience of communities themselves, and national governments have a central role to play. More than aid, government policy, practice and - crucially - investment, are vital to build people's resilience by reducing disaster risk and protecting, developing and diversifying livelihoods.
Alun McDonald: The biggest lesson is that timeliness of the response is key, and early action saves lives. The humanitarian response saved many lives and helped millions of people by providing them with food, water, medicine and other aid - not only for saving lives but also helping farmers and pastoralists rebuild their livelihoods and support their families. However, the response ultimately came too late for many people.
Abdihakim Ainte: Keys lessons are that [the] absence of coordination from the international relief [community] worsen[ed] the enormity of the famine. Also, lack of preparedness on the part of the Somali government and local organizations [was a] key takeaway from the famine. We've also learned that the role of [the] Somalia diaspora in alleviating the famine was critical.
Could the famine have been avoided?
Molla: It is difficult to say famine could have been avoided altogether, but the scale and severity of it could have definitely been curtailed through [a] timely and robust response to the early warning information...
Ainte: [The famine] came at [a] critical time when most of the affected regions [were] run by Al-Shabab, [an insurgent group that] ban[ned] aid agencies. That hostility profoundly worsened the magnitude of the drought. From this point of view, it could have being averted, and it's safe to say it was [a] man-made disaster.
What went wrong?
Molla: The 2011 [famine was] precipitated by a combination of a severe drought and consequent harvest failures for two seasons, low purchasing power of the poor, high food prices, and reduced humanitarian assistance hampered by insecurity and inadequate funding - all taking place in the context of an already weakened population whose resilience has been eroded by repeated exposure to frequent shocks and persistently high levels of acute malnutrition. The result was widespread excess mortality.
McDonald: There was a collective failure by governments, aid agencies and donors to act early. There was a reluctance to act and commit resources until there was certainty about the scale of the crisis - by which time [it was] already too late. Many governments don't step up their response until the crisis is in the news - but it's not in the news until people are already dying. Somalia was also an incredibly difficult place for aid agencies to respond effectively. After years of conflict, it was one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to work. There are lots of lessons to learn about how best to work and provide aid in such an environment. All our work in Somalia is done with local partners, who can often get better access than international agencies.
Ainte: The belated respon[se] from the international community, together with Al-Shabab's blockade [of] aid organizations is what went wrong. If Al-Shabab is wiped out of Somalia, and the international community continues to build an early warning system to enable the Somalia government and local organization to forecast drought, chances of [famine] happening again [are] very slim.
Could a famine occur again in Somalia?
Molla: A majority of the rural poor and displaced population of Somalia remains extremely fragile, with its resilience weakened as a result of frequent and repeated exposure to shocks. Under such conditions, the risk of future famines can't be ruled out unless sustained short-term humanitarian assistance as well as long-term development assistance are provided. [Even so,] the conditions that led to the famine are not there at present. While insecurity continues to pose challenges for humanitarian access, food prices have come down substantially and terms of trade and the purchasing power of the population [are] more stable now. The 2012 'deyr' rains have been good and the current 'gu' rainy season is proceeding normally and is expected to yield average to above-average harvest[s] and good pasture and water conditions for livestock.
Maehler: Given how vulnerable communities continue to be to seasonal shocks, future deterioration in their situation could occur unless we continue to respond and build communities' resilience. We are making progress, but humanitarian funding is dwindling. This could have a potentially devastating impact on the. chances for thousands of families across Somalia.
McDonald: Droughts, food crises and poor rains will definitely continue to happen in Somalia and the wider region. But droughts are natural events, whereas famines are ultimately manmade... [For example,] there was a severe drought in Kenya at the same time, but without the massive loss of life. The tragedy in Somalia happened because of a combination of drought, conflict, poor humanitarian access, a slow response, high food prices and a lack of effective government. If these issues are not addressed, then famine could occur again. Somalia was the first famine of the 21st century, and we need to make sure that it is also the last.
What is the way forward?
Molla: Resolution of the ongoing conflict in Somalia is ultimately a prerequisite to address food insecurity and avert famine in Somalia in [a] meaningful and sustainable manner. In the lead-up to the 2011 famine, insecurity ha[d] adversely impacted both assessment and monitoring of the food security and nutrition situation in several parts of Somalia, as well as humanitarian response. At present, there are several areas in south and central Somalia that remain inaccessible due to insecurity.
McDonald: We need to explore more innovative ways of delivering aid and using new technology - for example one of our partners used SMS and mobile phones to transmit cholera-prevention messages to people in insecure areas. In some areas, there was food available but prices were high and people couldn't afford to buy it - so we need to look at alternative aid such as providing people with cash rather than with food aid. We also need to ensure better links between our short-term humanitarian work and longer-term development work.
Ainte: Three initiatives should be put in place: First of all, building an [early] warning system is very critical. Secondly, strengthening local capacity, including civil society organization[s], is very important. Thirdly, continued engagement and partnership with [the] Somali government and local organization[s] is very crucial.
Is Somalia ready to for another food security emergency?
Ainte: [The] government has [laid] down core priorities, and security is at the top of everything. In some respects, despite its international focus and support, the current government is better situated and equip[ped] to address future disasters.
Jimale: I think Somalia will be able to respond to a drought like the one in 2011 if government capacity to provide services is consolidated and [the] international community acts in a timely manner.
Jibril: The government is yet to provide services in liberated towns [where Al-Shabab has been driven out], and many areas are still in Al-Shabab hands, so it is hard to react if drought erupts.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: World Bank Announces US$1 Billion Pledge to Africa’s Great Lakes Region, Targeting Energy, Roads, Agriculture, Cross-Border Trade, Health, and Jobs
KINSHASA, DRC, MAY 22, 2013–On the first day of an historic joint United Nations/World Bank Group mission to the Great Lakes region, the World Bank Group announced $1 billion in proposed new funding to help countries in the region provide better health and education services, generate more cross-border trade, and fund hydroelectricity projects in support of the Great Lakes peace agreement that was signed by 11 countries in February.
World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who is traveling with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on a three-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda, said that a secure and developed Great Lakes region was vital to Africa’s efforts to dramatically reduce extreme poverty and create prosperity for millions who have had little economic opportunity.
“We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional $1 billion in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region,” Kim said. “This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long. Now the leaders of the Great Lakes region, by restarting economic activity and improving livelihoods in border areas, can boost confidence, build economies, and give new opportunities for millions of people.”
Kim said the new regional pledge, in zero-interest financing from the International Development Association* or IDA, will support two major regional development priorities: recovery of livelihoods to reduce the vulnerability of people living in the Great Lakes whose communities have suffered greatly during conflict in the region; and revitalizing and expanding cross-border economic activity to spur greater opportunity and integration in the areas of agriculture, energy, transport and regional trade.
The World Bank’s proposed additional funding includes roughly $100 million for supporting agriculture and rural livelihoods for internally displaced people and refugees in the region; $340 million to support the 80 megawatt Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project for Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania; $150 million for the rehabilitation of the Ruzizi I and II hydroelectric projects and financing for Ruzizi III, supplying electricity for Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC; $165 million toward building roads in DRC’s North and South Kivu and Province Orientale; $180 million for improving infrastructure and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border; and additional millions of dollars for public health laboratories, fisheries, and trade facilitation programs among others.
While other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing high growth rates, countries of the Great Lakes region have had extremely high levels of poverty and very low levels of key services such as access to electricity. Yields from agriculture also are typically quite low. A key part of the World Bank Group’s development approach to the region is to increase power generation and interconnectivity to take advantage of low-cost and renewable sources of hydropower and geothermal energy. Developing the hydropower potential in DRC, in particular, will provide Burundi and Rwanda access to low-cost power and a stake in regional stability. Currently, there is no regional grid and very limited interconnectivity between countries in the region.
In Kinshasa, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, warmly welcomed the World Bank Group pledge.
“Many countries in Africa are taking dynamic forward strides, and now the people of the Great Lakes region, especially the DRC, deserve their full chance for progress. A peace agreement must deliver a peace dividend. That is why Dr. Jim Kim and I are making this visit. We see a horizon of hope for the people of the Great Lakes, and we are determined to help them every step of the way,” said the UN Secretary-General.
Cross-border trade key to peace
In announcing its new funding pledge, the World Bank Group said that promoting significantly more trade is in the common interest of all countries in the region and will greatly improve the effectiveness of national development policies.
“Together with much more electricity for the Great Lakes, there will be very large economic pay-offs if we can all help to make border crossings easier and faster for people and their goods to move from one country into another,” said Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, who is accompanying President Kim and the UN Secretary General on their fact-finding mission.
“Africa’s potential to provide food for its citizens, however, is not yet being realized because farmers in areas like the Great Lakes face more trade barriers in getting their food to markets across the region than farmers anywhere else in the world,” Diop said. “Too often borders get in the way of getting plentiful food supplies to homes and communities that are struggling with too little to eat.”
Improving roads will also help trade and people’s livelihoods
In calling for a regional peace and development solution for the Great Lakes, the World Bank officials said the new financing pledge will help to rehabilitate roads to connect remote trading communities with regional markets.
Bank support will focus on rehabilitation of primary cross-border trunk roads, to be complemented through the rehabilitation and opening of secondary roads required to bring goods to markets. The benefits of this approach are two-fold: first, increased trade will significantly increase economic activities, livelihoods and jobs; second, connectivity will allow free movement of people and goods, and enable restoration of the state’s regulatory functions.
Within the DRC, the Bank Group’s current roads project (Pro-Routes -US$248 million) is having an important impact by contributing to the reopening of 2,176 km of roads in Province Orientale, South Kivu and Katanga. The economic impact of the rehabilitated sections has been significant, reducing transportation costs by as much as 80 percent in some cases and cutting travel time by more than half. Empirical evidence suggests that insecurity is decreasing in areas where roads have been rehabilitated.
Renewed opportunity for peace in the Great Lakes
Mary Robinson, the Special Envoy of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, who is also part of the fact-finding trip with Ban Ki-moon and Jim Yong Kim, endorsed the World Bank Group’s new development commitment to the Great Lakes and its people.
“There is a fresh chance to do more than just attend to the consequences of conflict,” Robinson said. “There is a chance to resolve its underlying causes and to stop it for good. If this new attempt is to succeed where others have fallen short, there must be optimism and courage in place of cynicism. The governments and the people of this region, and the international community, must believe once again that peace can be achieved, and be determined to take the necessary and well-coordinated actions to obtain it."
*The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing zero-interest development financing for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since its inception, IDA has supported activities in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.
In Kinshasa, DRC
Phil Hay tel : +1 (202) 492 7238
In Kinhasa, DRC
Louise Engulu tel : + (243) 0817 005 215
Elena Gex tel : +1 (202) 473 1708
LILONGWE, May 20 2013 (IPS) - Lloyd Phiri, a fisherman from Senga Bay on Lake Malawi’s shores in Malawi’s central region, knows that the lake’s water levels are dropping. He can see it in his catch, which has shrunk by more than 80 percent in recent years.
Years ago, it was the norm to catch about 5,000 fish a day, Phiri says. But now, if he is lucky, he brings in one-fifth of that. And if he is not, he catches a mere 300 fish a day.
“My fish catch has gone down in recent years and this has affected my earnings. I now have problems paying school fees for my children,” Phiri tells IPS.
The rapid drop in Lake Malawi’s water levels, driven by population growth, climate change and deforestation, is threatening its floral and fauna species with extinction, says Malawi’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management. And included among the wildlife threatened are the fish that Phiri depends on for a livelihood.
“The fish stocks have declined in the last two decades from about 30,000 metric tonnes per year to 2,000 per year because of a drop in water levels.” -- Environmentalist Raphael Mweneguwe “Over the last three decades some water balance models have been done on the lake and have shown that the water levels have dropped from 477 metres above sea level in the 1980s to around 474.88 metres currently,” Yanira Mtupanyama, principal secretary in the ministry, tells IPS of the 29,600-square-kilometre lake that straddles the borders of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
“It’s a big deal because studies are showing that the water levels in the lake will keep on dropping in coming years because there are signs that show (that there will be) less rainfall and increased evaporation,” she says.
An estimated 1,000 different fish species rely on the fresh waters of Africa’s third-largest lake for their survival, which also provides 60 percent of this southern African nation’s protein requirement.
The mbuna cichlids species and the famous tilapia fish, locally known as chambo, are facing extinction. Chambo is Malawi’s most popular fish.
The country’s Department of Fisheries says that fish stocks in the lake have dwindled by 90 percent over the last 20 years. It is a huge concern as, according to authorities, about 1.5 million Malawians depend on the lake for food, transportation and other daily needs.
And of even greater concern are the recent Malawian government reports that say the water mass may hold rich oil and gas reserves. Environmentalist Raphael Mweneguwe fears that if oil and gas mining starts on the lake, it can lead to further biodiversity losses.
“The fish stocks have declined in the last two decades from about 30,000 metric tonnes per year to 2,000 per year because of a drop in water levels, overfishing and rapid population growth. But this may get worse if oil is discovered on the lake,” Mwenenguwe tells IPS.
Williman Chadza, executive director of the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy, a local NGO that promotes activism on environmental issues, shares Mwenenguwe’s fears.
“Oil is a resource of paramount importance to a country like Malawi, which is seeking revenue alternatives for its socio-economic development. But its discovery may deepen the country’s biodiversity loss and impact badly on water sources,” Chadza tells IPS.
Mining also poses a threat to the lake. A uranium mine in Karonga, a town situated near Lake Malawi in the north of the country, is one example. The mine, owned and operated by Australian mining giant Paladin (Africa) for the past four years, is regarded as a pollution threat.
“Uranium is a highly radioactive material and therefore there are still threats of polluting the freshwater in Lake Malawi,” Udule Mwakasungura, a human rights activist, tells IPS.
The need to arrest the loss of biodiversity is particularly important in Malawi where people depend on biological resources to a greater extent than other parts of the world.
The 18,000 families of Nguwo fishing village in Senga Bay are an example of this dependency.
“We know that the fish stock has depleted because of unsustainable fishing practices and non-compliance with fishing regulations … we also know that cutting trees unsustainably is ultimately affecting the quality of the water we drink,” says village headman Radson Mdalamkwanda.
Mdalamkwanda tells IPS that fishermen in the village have been working together with local authorities in the district to address the threats and challenges facing the conservation of Lake Malawi. He says that anyone not following the rules or by-laws is banned from fishing on the lake during October and November, when the fish spawn.
And for the past five years the village development committee has been going to local gatherings to educate residents about the by-laws and about the need to protect the lake.
“Apart from protecting the fish, we also want to safeguard the water so that it’s safe for drinking. We do that by creating awareness at gatherings like weddings and funerals,” the chair of the village committee, Ibrahim Kachinga, tells IPS.
Their efforts also complement the Malawi government’s attempts to address the threats challenges to conserving the flora and fauna of the lake.
“There has been a ban for the last few years on the use of high-yield fishing gear in lake Malawi between October and November when the fish are spawning,” Mtupanyama says.
Mtupanyama also says that in 2003 the government launched a 10-year strategic plan, which largely seeks to restore the lake’s fish stocks.
“So for the last 10 years we have been restocking the lake with fish by breeding juveniles outside the lake and then reintroducing them into the lake. We haven’t done badly,” she says.
Mtupanyama could not, however, say if this had significantly increased the lake’s fish stock.
Regardless of what may come of this restocking project, the Nguwo village committee understands that the future of the lake is important. So they are educating those who can do something about it – the village’s future generations.
Kachinga says: “With the help of government, we are also encouraging teachers in nursery and primary schools to teach our children about how to protect the lake.”
The situation in these regions is critical and humanitarian aid is still very limited
Since the start of the conflict in Mali, the population in the North of the country has been in a desperate situation, as humanitarian aid is still very limited in this region. There is no administration, nor public service, and medical centres as well as schools have been sacked and partially destroyed. Markets are working at a slow pace and economic activity is stalling. ACTED is one of the few organisations present in the region, and carries out food distributions to tackle alarming food insecurity problems for the most vulnerable families.
While many people have fled North Mali to take refuge in the Southern parts of the country or neighboring countries, others have stayed by choice but more often by lack of means or other alternatives. In the Menaka Circle, located in the Gao region in the Northeastern part of the country, families that have stayed behind have suffered from violence occurring between different armed forces in the region. Thousands of displaced people have also come to take refuge in the towns of Menaka and Anderamboukane, where local communities have shown great solidarity. But resources that have been scarce for many months of conflict are becoming nearly depleted, rendering the overall living situation very precarious.
Nowadays, economic activity is still at a standstill
Markets are not well supplied, due to the unstable security situation in the region and the transporters who are less willing to take the risk of traveling. Household food stocks are slowly dwindling, making them more and more dependant from markets, where prices are skyrocketing. Many farmers have not been able to grow their crops or have lost their livestock, and have therefore lost their main sources of income and food supplies. The poorer households have become very fragile and cannot cover their basic nutrition needs. The risks of a rapid deterioration of food security are alarming.
Distribution of food supplies
To tackle this dire situation, ACTED is distributing food supplies in Menaka and Anderamboukane with the help of the World Food Programme (WFP). This immediate assistance programme helped meet the vital needs of 25,000 displaced persons and local families. Beyond this emergency aid programme, it is essential to help local families hosting displaced persons to recover their livelihoods. To this end, there are two crucial elements: supporting agricultural production and livestock farming as well as reviving the local economy. This will be ACTED’s leitmotiv for the coming months in Mali.
The crisis in Syria seems unending at the moment. Meeting the humanitarian needs in the country is one of the largest challenges owing to the insecurity in particular. And as the battles go on, the needs just get bigger and bigger.
Despite the challenges DRC distributed 3,000 hyigene kits to the opposition held area of Aleppo this week and just last week, Danish Refugee Council, distributed mattresses, hygiene kits and clothes to 10,000 displaced people in Sweida in the southern part of Syria – close to the border to Jordan. The week before 35,000 individuals received the same kind of package in Aleppo and Idlib. More than 250,000 individuals have received Non Food Items-packages from DRC inside Syria, in 2013 alone. DRC coordinates all its emergency assistance with the Syrian Red Crescent and ensures distribution in disputed, government held as well as areas held by armed groups. Besides the 1.5 million refugees in the surrounding countries, more than 4 million are internally displaced in Syria. That means nearly 30% of Syrian people have left their homes amid the violence. “We are one of the INGO’s with the best humanitarian access in the country. And with the needs for distribution being one of the largest challenges, being able to meet the emergency needs to this extent is very important,” says Charlotte Kjørup, DRC country director in Syria. The one area, where we are presently faced with most problems of access is the southern governorate of Dara’a. This is otherwise an area, where DRC until 8 weeks ago ensured delivery of hygiene kits at least once per month.
With the turn of the hot summer months and more favorable conditions for bacteria and diseases to flourish, the need for hygiene kits increases for the internally displaced living at rehabilitated schools – turned into shelters. “We are working in 40 shelter schools in four different governorates and our remote capacity is growing every day,” Charlotte Kjørup says and continues: “We are having teams of engineers in Aleppo, Homs, Dara’a and Damascus governorates working on making these former schools more livable for the displaced people and ensuring minimum standards of hygiene and sanitation.” In addition to meeting the emergency needs, DRC also targets the medium needs of the ongoing crisis for the Syrian people – and thereby thinking of the future for the conflict affected population. “We are implementing vocational and psycho-social skill trainings in order to better equip people to cope with the current situation, and not least think about their future, even though it can be difficult with the current situation in mind,” Charlotte Kjørup says. DRC provides in coordination with MoE and private institutes vocational training to 150 people.
In response to the Syrian crisis, DRC has adopted a flexible, holistic and beneficiary-centric approach to protection, emergency response and future durable solutions for conflict and displacement affected populations. DRC’s overarching theme for the regional intervention is protection - and working to assist underserved caseloads as close to their point of origin as possible. DRC has been working in Syria since 2007 and has a significant operational presence in the country. The primary task today is to distribute basic relief aid and rehabilitate shelters to displaced and conflict affected Syrians in Homs, Dara’a, Aleppo and Damascus governorates.