Category Archives: News

09Oct/19

UNICEF boosts medical aid in DR Congo as measles deaths top 4,000

Source: UN Children’s Fund
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

The number of measles cases in DRC this year is more than triple the number recorded for all of 2018. Children under the age of 5 represent 74% of infections and nearly 90% of deaths.

KINSHASA/DAKAR/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 9 October 2019 – UNICEF is vaccinating thousands more children against measles and rushing life-saving medicines to health centers across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as deaths from the world’s largest measles outbreak top 4,000.

Since January, 203,179 cases of measles have been reported in all 26 provinces of the country, and 4,096 have died. Children under the age of five represent 74 per cent of infections and nearly 90 per cent of deaths. The number of measles cases in DRC this year is more than triple the number recorded for all of 2018. The measles outbreak in DRC has become far deadlier than Ebola, which to date, has taken 2,143 lives.

“We’re fighting the measles epidemic on two fronts – preventing infections and preventing deaths,” said UNICEF Representative in the DRC, Edouard Beigbeder. “Along with the government and key partners, UNICEF has been racing to vaccinate children against measles, and at the same time, supplying clinics with medicines that treat symptoms and improve the chance of survival for those already infected.”

This week and next, an additional 1,111 medical kits are being delivered to health centers in measles hot-spots. The kits contain antibiotics, rehydration salts, Vitamin A, pain relievers, antipyretics and other supplies to care for over 111,000 people infected with the highly contagious and potentially deadly viral disease.

Over the past year, UNICEF supplied more than 8.6 million doses of the measles vaccine for emergency outbreak responses rolled out by multiple organizations. UNICEF has led outbreak responses in eight hard-hit provinces—vaccinating more than 1.4 million children. The most recent concluded last month in Kasai Central, where over 210,000 children were vaccinated.

“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”

Two doses of the measles vaccine are recommended and roughly 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. In DRC, measles immunization coverage was only 57 per cent in 2018.

“If we’re to avoid massive measles outbreaks like this one in the future, there must be significant investment in strengthening DRC’s national vaccination programme and addressing the serious gaps in coverage,” said Beigbeder.

DRC’s government is preparing to launch its next national follow-up vaccination campaign on 22 October, which aims to immunize children 6 months to five years old against measles in every province. The campaign is supported by many partners, including UNICEF, which is providing technical assistance at the national, provincial and local level, procuring vaccines and helping promote the campaign.

Media Contacts
Jean Jacques Simon
UNICEF DRC
Tel: +243 826 541 004
Email: jsimon@unicef.org

Joe English
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Email: jenglish@unicef.org

09Oct/19

Fuel shortages deepen crisis in Yemen, says Save the Children

Source: Save the Children
Country: Yemen

There is a mounting risk of a spike in cholera and other waterborne diseases, as water filtering systems are unable to operate and trucks carrying safe water wait for fuel.

Intensified fuel shortages in the north of Yemen will affect hundreds of thousands of children and their families already stricken by a five-year long humanitarian crisis.

There is a mounting risk of a spike in cholera and other waterborne diseases, as water filtering systems are unable to operate and trucks carrying safe water wait for fuel. The fuel shortage is causing increased food prices and a deepening health crisis, as deliveries of food and medical supplies take longer and hospitals need diesel to run their generators.

This will increase the suffering of children and their families in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The spike in transport fares will mean parents are unable to afford to take their children to hospitals.

Save the Children Director, Tamer Kirolos, said:

The fuel crisis is already impacting Save the Children’s humanitarian operations as we heavily rely on fuel availability to transport aid to the facilities we support. Between August and September, there was a 60%[1] decrease in the amount of fuel coming through Hodeidah port – this is because of a decree by the Government of Yemen requiring customs duties to be paid in Aden before allowing ships to discharge in Hodeidah, of course this means double customs duty. The price of fuel has increased by 100 per cent over the past 40 days, which made the transport of life saving goods to communities in need 30% more expensive. Transportation which previously took one day is now taking three days as trucks have to wait for fuel, resulting in huge delays in getting food and medicines to communities.

“We ask the international community to work with the Government of Yemen to waiver this decree immediately so that this unfolding crisis can be averted. It is vital that there is free, unhindered access for humanitarian and commercial goods, including fuel, into and across the country as this is a life-line for many families.”

Clean water and adequate sanitation are key to preventing outbreaks of diseases like cholera and reducing the risks of severe and acute malnutrition. Yemen is already facing an ongoing outbreak of cholera with over 620,348 suspected cases identified this year, with 25% of these cases being of children aged under five[2].

Other public services including waste-water treatment plants will be affected creating potential for significant public health risks, such as sewage overflow. With the country already undergoing severe food insecurity owing to the violence and the existing economic crisis, an increase of the food prices will only make it worse, possibly increasing the malnutrition rates even further and families needing to make difficult choices in enabling children’s access to basic services including education and health.

[1] https://www.vimye.org/doc/OSMonthly/Operational_Snapshot_September2019.png

[2] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/CoPub_Yem_Situation_rep_august_2019_en.pdf

09Oct/19

Mozambique: Police Linked to Killing of Election Observer

 

Director of the Gaza NGO Forum (FONGA) and leading election observer, Anastancio Matavele, was allegedly killed by police officers on October 7, 2019, in Xai Xai, Gaza.  


© 2019 Virgilio Conjo

(Johannesburg) – Mozambique police officers have been implicated in the killing of an election observer in an escalation of violence that threatens national elections scheduled for October 15, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today.

 

On October 7, five alleged police officers in a car shot Anastancio Matavele, director of the Forum of NGOs for Gaza (FONGA), after he got into his vehicle following a training session for national election observers in Xai-Xai city, Gaza province. Matavele died from gunshot injuries later that day in a hospital.

“The apparent involvement of police in killing an election observer is a chilling development that casts a dark shadow over the Mozambican elections,” said  Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should see to it that there is a prompt and impartial investigation to ensure justice for Matavele and accountability for those responsible.”

A national police spokesman, Orlando Mudumane, told Human Rights Watch by phone from Maputo that the police were investigating five occupants of a Toyota vehicle from which bullets were allegedly fired. Four of the men, he said, are members of the national police force. After Matavele was shot, the Toyota sped away but soon overturned and crashed, killing two of the men. A third man was receiving medical treatment after police officers detained him. Two other occupants of the car fled the scene. The spokesman said that a police team had been appointed to investigate the killings, and that the findings would be available within two weeks.

Two local men who were among the first to arrive at the scene told Human Rights Watch that they recognized one of the dead assailants as a member of police special forces, Grupo de
Operações Especiais (Special Operations Group), in Gaza province. On October 8, Police Chief Bernardino Rafael suspended two senior officers over the killing pending investigations: Alfredo Macuacua, commander of the Riot Police of Gaza province, and Tudelo Guirrugo, head of the special forces in the province.

On October 15, Mozambique will hold its sixth presidential and parliamentary elections since 1994. Four presidential candidates and 26 parties are taking part in the election, the first without the longtime opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, who died last year.

Human Rights Watch has documented serious abuses and acts of violence in Gaza province since the start of the election campaign on August 31, including violations of the right to peaceful assembly and arbitrary arrests of opposition candidates.

On September 12, police detained the Nova Democracia (New Democracy) candidate for Gaza provincial governor, the well-known musician Refiller Boy, at the Chokwe district police command. He had gone there to file a complaint against supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party, who had prevented his party from holding a meeting in Xilembene. He was released the following day without charges. 

Mozambican police protecting the leader of the Movement Democratic of Mozambique (MDM), and mayor of Beira city, Daviz Simango, during attack by ruling party supporters on October 2, Chokwe, Gaza. 


@2019 Private

On September 16, the police arrested a Renamo candidate for the national parliament, Heique Antonio Sitoe, in Manjacaze district after he posted a message on his Facebook page criticizing police misconduct during the election campaign. On October 2, governing party supporters prevented Daviz Simango, the mayor of Beira city and a presidential candidate, from holding a rally in a market in Chockwe district.

Election campaign violence has also hit other regions of the country, with law enforcement officers appearing incapable or unwilling to stop it or seriously investigate. A Renamo member, Celestina Bande, said that on the first night of the election campaign, August 31, in Moatize district, Frelimo supporters led by a party official attacked her at her house. Another Renamo party supporter told Human Rights Watch that two days later they had “retaliated” for the attack by going to the house of the Frelimo official and attacking his wife.

Five days after the start of the election campaign, on September 5, a group of men invaded the house of a primary school teacher in Zambezia, Aristides da Conceicao, during the night and beat him. His wife told Human Rights Watch over the phone:

They broke in the house just before midnight. We were sleeping. They immediately started beating my husband with machetes and sticks. One of the men told us to stop supporting the Renamo candidate before he left.

The same night, the house of the mother of Manuel de Araujo, the Renamo candidate for governor of Zambezia and mayor of Quelimane, was set on fire. She escaped unhurt.

Fair elections mean that all registered political parties have an equal right to put candidates forward, campaign for voter support, and hold peaceful meetings and rallies, Human Rights Watch said. The Mozambican Election Commission should take immediate measures to ensure that all parties are free from intimidation, physical attacks, and threats ahead of the parliamentary, presidential and provincial elections. All incidents of election-related violence should be promptly and impartially investigated, and those responsible appropriately held to account.

“Election violence severely undermines the credibility of elections and should be nipped in the bud,” Mavhinga said. “Mozambican authorities should swiftly act against all electoral violence to ensure an environment for free and fair elections.”

09Oct/19

Lebanon No Longer A Safe Haven for Activism

Activists at the opening session of the 2019 NEDWA conference, September 27, 2019.


© 2019 via The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE)

Lebanon used to be known as a port in a storm for human rights defenders from the Arabic-speaking world – especially those working on gender and sexuality – to organize freely and without censorship.

A major space for this was the annual NEDWA conference, hosted by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE).

Even as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people faced grave human rights violations over the years ranging from murders in Iraq, to jail time and forced anal examinations in Egypt, to rigid censorship of LGBT content in Qatar, Lebanon was a haven where embattled activists could meet at NEDWA to cultivate their movements’ resilience, tactics, and communal healing in the face of adversity.

That safe haven in the Middle East no longer exists.

Amid a targeted crackdown against free expression and assembly around gender and sexuality in Lebanon, resulting in an unlawful raid by General Security on the 2018 NEDWA conference and a discriminatory entry ban imposed on non-Lebanese participants, AFE was forced to move its conference outside the Middle East and North Africa region for the first time.

The activists adapted. Two hundred human rights defenders, artists, and academics from the region gathered in another country. They discussed health, human rights, and movement building. Queer and trans artists from Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt inspired the conference attendees with performances that reconfigured the meaning of resistance, embodying creative ways to combat state-sponsored repression.

Instead of safeguarding much-needed platforms such as NEDWA and celebrating these activists, the Lebanese government chose to forego its international obligations by claiming that the conference “disrupts the security and stability of society,” and collectively sanctioning its participants.

Lebanon’s suppression of LGBT activism is part of a larger crackdown on free speech in the country. Hamed Sinno, the lead singer of the indie band Mashrou’ Leila, whom the Lebanese government censored in July, spoke at this year’s NEDWA conference, condemning Lebanon’s decline as a center for art and tolerance, while reassuring activists that the fight continues.

Lebanon should take note: intimidation and threats will not silence the voices of resilient activists who will continue to fight for their right to live and love. By closing its doors on activism, Lebanon is divesting its image as the hub for freedom and diversity in the region.