Category Archives: News

23Sep/19

US Consumer Complaints Database Will Remain Public

© Flickr/Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


In a surprise move, the United States Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced it will keep its consumer complaints database open to the public following uncertainty over whether it would do so. The database is a crucial resource containing over a million complaints about consumer financial products, including student loans, mortgages, and debt collection, providing critical information for people living in poverty directly affected by abusive lenders and collectors.

Though the CFPB is legally required to receive complaints and provide information to consumers about financial products, it is not required to make that information publicly accessible. Consumer advocates have argued a public database is an important transparency measure, providing information to consumers and the public about financial products and the companies that market them, and incentivizing businesses to respond. Nearly 98 percent of complaints to the database receive a timely response from the company.

Mick Mulvaney, then CFPB’s acting director and now acting White House chief of staff, had threatened to close the database last year. In its statement reversing that intention, the CFPB said it would keep all existing information public, including consumer narratives and tools to analyze complaints data. The bureau also announced plans to launch new tools for data visualization and explore possibilities for making company responses public as well.

The CFPB also announced changes to address criticisms raised by the financial services industry. The database will now display language indicating it does not represent a statistical sample of consumer experiences. It will also provide answers to commonly asked questions and information on how consumers can contact companies directly.

Though the bureau’s announcement is a positive development, other recent issues at the CFPB signal much larger problems. Delays on payday lending regulation and weak proposed debt collection rules could cause irreparable harm to ordinary people, particularly those living in poverty who are most affected by predatory and abusive lending practices. Retaining a public complaints database is an important step, but the CFPB has much work to do to protect people from these and other abusive practices.

23Sep/19

UNRWA opens schools in Syria for over 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys

Source: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Country: occupied Palestinian territory, Syrian Arab Republic

A total of 42 UNRWA schools in Syria underwent maintenance work during the summer to prepare them to receive the students in time, as some of them had been used as collective shelters for IDPs.

This school year, 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys have gone back to 103 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Syria. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl visited Syria from 14 to 16 September and took part in an event to celebrate high achievers at Agency schools in Damascus and surrounding rural areas. He also attended a ‘Back to School’ event at the UNRWA al-Majdal-Haifa School in Damascus, where he met student parliamentarians, teachers and staff.

“By honouring high performing students, we are honouring each and every Palestine refugee girl and boy who studies in UNRWA schools in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. “You are all part of a network, a family of students and every high achiever I met today is a source of pride to me, to the Agency and to all students in UNRWA schools.”

A total of 42 UNRWA schools in Syria underwent maintenance work during the summer to prepare them to receive the students in time, especially as some of these premises had formerly been used as collective shelters for internally displaced persons fleeing the armed conflict. Where the Agency’s schools were destroyed or heavily damaged, afternoon school shifts have been taking place in 41 schools provided by the Government of Syria, to enable all UNRWA students to attend classes.

For nearly 70 years, UNRWA has safeguarded the right to education for Palestine refugee children and has provided inclusive and quality education to some 2.5 million students who have graduated from the Agency’s schools since the 1950s.

“Your outstanding academic achievement is a testament to your commitment, hope and aspiration for a better future. We are proud of your remarkable success despite the severity of the displacement and hardship many of you have all lived through. We are here to recognize your unlimited efforts, resolve, and resilience. You should be proud of being Palestine refugees and are a source of inspiration to others,” Krähenbühl said.

During his visit Mr. Krähenbühl held meetings with senior government officials, including H.E. Foreign Minister Mr. Walid Al-Mouallem, H.E. Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Meqdad, the Director of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR) Mr. Ali Mustafa and the Governor of Dera’a province Mr. Khaled al Hanous. He thanked them all for their strong cooperation with UNRWA and for the facilitation of the Agency’s work, including through making schools available for use by UNRWA in afternoon shifts. In Dera’a, the Commissioner-General met with representatives from the Palestine refugee community and received very strong words of recognition from them for the work accomplished by the Agency during the most critical years of the conflict in Syria. In Damascus and Dera’a, Mr. Krähenbühl met with UNRWA staff members, paid tribute to those of them who have lost their lives or have disappeared during the conflict, and thanked all colleagues for their extraordinary contribution, dedication and hard work.

This school year, 51,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys have gone back to 103 schools run by the UNRWA in Syria

Background Information:
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget.

UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

23Sep/19

Second Ebola vaccine to complement “ring vaccination” given green light in DRC

Source: World Health Organization
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

This vaccine will be provided under approved protocols to target at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection.

The health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have announced plans to introduce a second experimental Ebola vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, from mid- October. This vaccine, which is given as a 2-dose course, 56 days apart, will be provided under approved protocols to targeted at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus.

“The DRC authorities, in deciding to deploy the second experimental vaccine to extend protection against this deadly virus, have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The evaluation of the second Ebola vaccine will help ensure that we have potentially an additional tool to prevent the expansion of the outbreak and also a potential tool to protect populations before outbreaks hit areas at risk,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will complement the current vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV-GP, manufactured by Merck), which has proven highly effective and safe, and which has helped protect thousands of lives. The Merck vaccine will continue to be provided to all people at high risk of Ebola infection including those who have been in contact with a person confirmed to have Ebola, all contacts of contacts, and others determined to be at high risk of contracting Ebola. To date over 223,000 people have received this vaccination during the current outbreak.

In May 2019, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) reviewed use of vaccines in the ongoing Ebola outbreak and issued recommendations. These included adjusting the dose of the Merck vaccine, evaluating a second vaccine under appropriate protocols, changing strategies when insecurity makes it difficult to reach people – such as providing pop-up vaccination stations — and increasing the number of people vaccinated within communities with ongoing transmission, sometimes vaccinating whole villages.

“In everything we do, we are driven by science,” Dr Tedros said. “The advice we were given by SAGE in May has been applied, always taking into account community needs and preferences, as we know this will make the approach more effective. The changes made have saved thousands of lives in this outbreak.”

New therapeutics and better use of treatment protocols have also saved many lives. “To date, 973 people have been successfully treated and released from Ebola treatment centres, and we expect that the 1000th survivor will return to his or her community in the coming weeks,” Dr Moeti said.

Innovative vaccine strategies

The introduction of the second experimental vaccine is in line with the SAGE recommendations as are a number of other innovations.
The main vaccination strategy used with the rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine is a ‘ring strategy’ where all people who have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of Ebola are given the vaccine. Where people are stigmatized or feel under threat protected, temporary ‘pop-up’, vaccination sites are set up, often at health posts, rather than near the homes of individuals infected with Ebola. This allows people to come for vaccination at a safe, more anonymous site, but also increases protection for vaccinators in areas where there is ongoing conflict and insecurity.

Another approach being used to offer vaccination for people at high risk of contracting Ebola is ‘targeted geographic vaccination’. This strategy involves vaccinating everyone in the neighbourhood, or village, rather than vaccinating only the known contacts and contacts of contacts. Targeted geographic vaccination was used successfully when the outbreak spread to Chowe in South Kivu. Over 90 percent of people who are offered vaccination accept it. Since the start of the outbreak WHO and partners have worked to recruit and train Congolese nationals from within Ebola-affected communities as vaccinators to increase community acceptance and also transfer skills to the region. Now, the majority of ring vaccination team members are trained healthcare workers, doctors and medical students from affected communities who speak local languages and understand community concerns.

There are enough vaccine doses on the ground to meet the current needs, with WHO logisticians ensuring a minimum supply of 10,000 doses at all times, and overall supplies of the vaccine are being constantly monitored. Considering the current number of cases being reported and the doses required to vaccinate around each case, the doses available of the rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine are considered sufficient. Merck has provided WHO with 245,000 doses for DRC and neighbouring countries and built a stockpile of 190,000 doses that are ready to send to DRC. Merck also aims to release 650,000 doses over the next six to 18 months under its replenishment strategy. Under the current SAGE recommendations this means that there are 390,000 doses currently and additional 1.3 million doses will be available.

“The Merck vaccine is highly efficacious, and we’ll soon have a second vaccine to increase the number of those being protected against the virus”, said Dr Tedros. “But vaccine and therapeutics are only some of the tools — the key to ending the outbreak is community ownership. With the communities fully engaged, and with all partners stepping up and rallying behind our common goal, we can and will end this outbreak.”

Media Contacts

Margaret Harris
Telephone: +243 846 902 970
Email: harrism@who.int

Mr Collins Boakye-Agyemang
Communication Advisor
Telephone: +4724139420
Mobile: +242065206565
Email: boakyeagyemangc@who.int

23Sep/19

UNICEF proporciona materiales educativos a más de 300.000 niños en Venezuela

Source: UN Children’s Fund
Country: Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

El deterioro de la situación dentro del país ha dejado hasta ahora un millón de niños sin escolarizar. En los próximos 12 meses, UNICEF, junto con socios nacionales, planea asistir a un total de 1,2 millones de niños y niñas.

Se estima que más de un millón de niños y niñas están fuera del sistema educativo en todo el país.

NUEVA YORK / PANAMÁ / CARACAS, 19 de septiembre de 2019 – UNICEF está proporcionando a más de 300.000 niños y niñas en Venezuela kits de regreso a la escuela para que sigan aprendiendo en medio de condiciones socioeconómicas difíciles.

El deterioro de la situación dentro de Venezuela ha dejado hasta ahora un millón de niños sin escolarizar. En los próximos 12 meses, UNICEF, junto con socios nacionales, planea llegar a un total de 1,2 millones de niños y niñas en escuelas públicas y subsidiadas de todo el país con suministros educativos.

Cada kit de regreso a la escuela contiene una mochila escolar con útiles de aprendizaje esenciales que incluyen cuadernos, lápices y lápices de colores, entre otros. Se están distribuyendo kits a estudiantes en los estados de Miranda, Distrito Capital, Bolívar, Zulia, Táchira, Carabobo, Portuguesa, Barinas, Apure, Falcón, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro, Anzoátegui, Sucre, La Guaira y Nueva Esparta. UNICEF también proporciona, en colaboración con socios del sector educativo, materiales de enseñanza y aprendizaje, kits de recreación y kits de educación de la primera infancia para apoyar aún más a los estudiantes y maestros.

“Es crucial que mantengamos a los niños en la escuela: entornos seguros donde puedan aprender, socializar e incluso acceder a servicios esenciales como la alimentación escolar”, dijo Herve Ludovic De Lys, Representante de UNICEF en Venezuela. “Las escuelas también brindan a los niños un sentido de normalidad que es vital dadas las dificultades que enfrentan muchas familias. Estos kits y materiales de aprendizaje para el regreso a la escuela brindarán a los niños y maestros las herramientas que necesitan para comenzar bien el año escolar”.

UNICEF está trabajando para expandir los servicios educativos y garantizar un acceso inclusivo y un aprendizaje de calidad para todos los niños venezolanos, así como para evitar el abandono escolar.

“Traer y mantener a cada niño en la escuela es siempre la inversión más poderosa, pero especialmente en tiempos inciertos como los que vive actualmente Venezuela”, dijo Bernt Aasen, Director Regional de UNICEF (a.i.) para América Latina y el Caribe. “La educación no es solo el mejor camino, es una apuesta inteligente que va más allá de la política. Cualquier niño en riesgo de abandonar la escuela hoy socava el futuro de todo el país mañana. Venezuela simplemente no puede permitirse esto en este momento”.

Como uno de los principales actores humanitarios en Venezuela, UNICEF está trabajando con organizaciones de la sociedad civil, empresas privadas y autoridades locales para proporcionar asistencia humanitaria a los niños, niñas, adolescentes en necesidad a través de sus oficinas locales. El mes pasado, UNICEF solicitó US $ 70 millones para continuar satisfaciendo las necesidades más urgentes de niños, niñas, adolescentes y mujeres embarazadas en Venezuela. Hasta ahora, solo se ha recibido el 9% de la financiación requerida.

UNICEF agradece las últimas donaciones y hace un llamamiento a la comunidad internacional para que continúe proporcionando los recursos necesarios para responder a las necesidades urgentes de los niños y niñas en todos los sectores.

Más información sobre el llamamiento de UNICEF para Venezuela aquí: https://www.unicef.org/appeals/venezuela.html

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Para más información, contactar a:

Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF América Latina y Caribe, + 507 6169 9886; lduvillier@unicef.org

Rocío Ortega, UNICEF Venezuela, +58 4142306342; rortega@unicef.org

Contactos de prensa

Marilu Wiegold
Especialista en Comunicación y Alianzas
UNICEF
Teléfono: 613-0706
Teléfono: 997-573-218
Correo electrónico: mwiegold@unicef.org

Sandra Esquén
Asociada de Comunicación
UNICEF
Teléfono: 613-0756
Correo electrónico: sesquen@unicef.org

Acerca de UNICEF

UNICEF promueve los derechos las niñas, los niños y adolescentes, y la creación de oportunidades equitativas para que cada uno de ellos, sin distinción de género, etnia, lugar de residencia, condición de vida o de cualquier otra índole, pueda desarrollar plenamente su potencial.

Para saber más sobre la misión de UNICEF en Perú, visita www.unicef.org/peru.

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