Democratic Republic of the Congo: More than 50 children returning to their families

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Beginning today, 52 children under the age of 17 will be rejoining relatives after being separated from them for several months. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had to go to great lengths and undertake extensive research to find the children’s families, who were scattered throughout the country.

“The children – 22 boys and 30 girls – have been living without their parents for many months because of the conflicts in certain parts of the country. Most of them became lost as they fled their villages,” said Veronika Hinz Gugliuzza, who coordinates the ICRC’s tracing services in the country. “After establishing their identities we placed them temporarily in centres or with foster families until we located their families. It’s a great joy for all our staff to be able to lead them back to their homes today.”

The youths will be taken home aboard two ICRC aircraft carrying out flights over several days and travelling thousands of kilometres in several provinces – Kinshasa, North Kivu, Eastern, Katanga and Maniema – in the east and west of the country.

Throughout the year, the ICRC has continued its efforts to enable members of dispersed families to find each other. In all, 626 children have rejoined their families, while 520 others are still awaiting their return home in transit centres or in host families across the country.

IOM, INTERPOL Combat Trafficking in Uganda

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Uganda’s borders are porous and the country is vulnerable to illegal cross border activities, including human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Between 2008 and 2013, 72 Ugandans identified as victims of trafficking abroad were helped to return home by IOM.

In order to improve the country’s capacity to combat migrant smuggling and other cross-border crimes, IOM this week organized a five-day INTERPOL training: “Smuggling Training and Operation Program (STOP)” in Entebbe. It was the first such training held in Uganda.

STOP is a multi-faceted response to criminal activities in the field of people smuggling. The aim of the programme is to empower front line officers at border crossings to detect suspect criminals, forged travel documents and other illegal cross border activities by cross checking data provided by the 190 member countries of INTERPOL.

The training, which was led by an expert from the Interpol Border Management Task Force (IBMTF), was attended by 22 participants from agencies including the Directorate for Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC), the Uganda Police Force, the NCB INTERPOL Kampala, the Internal Security Organization and the External Security Organization.

Participants were trained on both theoretical and operational aspects of combating human smuggling. The training included a practical session at Entebbe International Airport.

In opening remarks, Nerimana Rifatbegovic, IOM’s project manager on border management stated that capacity building and information sharing are vital for fighting all forms of cross border criminal activities, such as smuggling migrants and trafficking innocent people.

The training was part of IOM’s “Strengthening Border Management in Uganda” project, which is funded by the Government of Japan and aims to build Uganda’s capacity to effectively manage its borders and increase the border security. Training runs through the end of December 2014.

Displaced Families in Kenya’s Moyale Town Get New IOM Shelters

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Some 200 households (1,200 people) from communities displaced by communal conflict in Kenya’s Moyale town are set to benefit from new shelters built by IOM.

Inter-communal fighting over resources and political differences – which lasted from August 2013 to January this year – displaced over 30,000 people in Moyale, a town close to the Ethiopian border in Marsabit County. Many people lost everything.

The construction of shelters, which is being funded by Japan through the Japan Supplementary Fund, started in October. A total of 153 shelters now have been completed by IOM with the help of the local communities. The shelters will accommodate vulnerable people, including the sick, elderly, children and pastoralists with low income.

IOM is employing a “cash-for-work” system that allows community members with skills such as carpentry to work on the project. Over 100 labourers from the affected communities are now plastering the walls of the shelters.

IOM constructed the shelters following a request from the Marsabit County to facilitate the return and stabilization of 53,968 internally displaced people whose houses were destroyed or damaged during the conflict.

IOM was already providing essential non-food relief items such as kitchen sets, bedding, jerry cans, hygiene items and solar lamps. It had also constructed community-owned pit latrines in the areas of Mansile, Illadu and Funanyatta in Moyale and 500-litre capacity water tanks to the selected vulnerable households.

Households benefitting from the project were also closely involved in the construction of their own shelter. “To ensure sustainability and ownership, every selected beneficiary had to contribute partly to the construction by bringing locally available materials such aslaths, binding wire and preparing the mud for walling,” said Ahmed Sharif, Head of IOM Kenya’s Migration Crisis Unit.

Widespread destruction caused by border disputes over water, pasture and other issues remain a threat. IOM is working with UN agencies, including UNICEF, UNDP, UNCRD, UNOCHA and UNHCR, and the County authorities in Marsabit, to support cross-border peace agreements signed in March this year.

Seychelles, IOM Move to Combat Human Trafficking

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Seychelles this week launched a media campaign to combat human trafficking as part of a project supported by the government and funded by the IOM Development Fund.

The campaign aims to help the general public and local NGOs better understand human trafficking and identify actual or potential victims. As part of the project, IOM also trained local media in the sensitive reporting of trafficking stories and the protection of victims.

“Seychelles has made progress in the past year in combating this heinous crime,” said Yitna Getachew of IOM’s Southern Africa Regional Office. “The promulgation of a Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act is a major step in the right direction and the fact that it is complemented by a National Plan of Action is truly encouraging. We also commend the government for its commitment to develop tools that will allow implementation of concrete counter trafficking initiatives. IOM is committed to continue providing necessary support as needed in this regard.”

The precise nature and extent of trafficking in Seychelles is not known, due to a lack of systematic data collection and research. But reports suggest that victims may go undetected while experiencing exploitation in various industries including hospitality, construction and fishing.

IOM, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, helped the Seychelles government to develop its National Action Plan to combat trafficking. IOM and UNODC, in cooperation with the SADC Gender Unit, will this week provide technical support to the government to develop a national referral mechanism and standard operating procedures for trafficking cases.

Unexploded Ordnance Poses Threat to Bangui Residents: Sensitization Campaign

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has led to widespread availability of grenades and other explosives in the capital, Bangui. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has also been found throughout the city, often by citizens supporting clean-ups in their neighbourhoods.

IOM, through its European Union (EU)-funded “Community Stabilization and Early Recovery for At-Risk Communities in Bangui” project, employs residents to clean up their communities through cash-for-work schemes in Bangui.

In order to keep them safe from UXOs, IOM and its partners have now developed an information flyer on how to recognize UXOs and what to do if they’re found. The flyer is shared with project participants in information sessions conducted in French and the local language, Sango.

Over 200 people in the 5th district have now attended the training and shared the flyer with their families and neighbours. Fatima, 47, said: “I know about grenades of course, everyone knows. But that the safe distance is 50-100 metres, I didn’t know. I need to show my children how far 50 metres is.”

IOM will continue to offer the UXO information sessions in Bangui in the coming months.

IOM’s cash-for-work rotations, which allow residents to generate income from cleaning up their neighbourhoods, now also are being used for on-the-job training programmes on infrastructure rehabilitation projects selected by the community.

These include the ongoing rehabilitation of public water points in Bangui’s 3rd district and the reconstruction of a special needs school in the 5th district. These projects were selected through community consultations led by local authorities.

The EU-funded programme will run until August 2015. So far it has helped provide cash for work to over 7,800 beneficiaries.

To see the UXO brochure please go to:

http://www.iom.int/files/live/sites/iom/files/pbn/docs/uxo.pdf or

IOM Brings Home Chadian and Malian Migrants Stranded in Cameroon

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On Tuesday (25/11), 650 Chadian and Malian migrants stranded in Cameroon returned home with IOM’s help.

When the fighting broke out in the Central African Republic (CAR) in December last year, thousands of migrants fled to neighbouring Cameroon to find refuge. Cameroon became host to some 17,086 foreign nationals from several West African Countries, including some 15,572 Chadians and Malians. Since then, hundreds of stranded Chadians and Malians have made the long journey home to rebuild their lives.

“For most of them, the return is difficult,” said Roger Charles Evina, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon. “Most of them had lived in CAR for two or three generations. It was home for them. They were mainly traders. Some owned small shops. They were sad to leave when the fighting broke out, but living in camps has also been difficult for them.”

Foreign nationals from 16 countries became stranded in Cameroon as a result of the CAR conflict. IOM repatriated 5,298 Chadians and 702 Malians this year between February and August.

Tuesday’s operation, organized by IOM and funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, moved 449 Chadian migrants by bus from a transit site in Garoua Boulai to Djako, in Chad. The journey took two days.

On the same day, 201 Malian migrants left another transit camp in Kentzou to travel with IOM by bus to Yaounde. They were then flown to the Malian capital Bamako yesterday (27/11) in a plane chartered by the Malian government. IOM provided land transport, food and medical escorts during the journey.

Migrants, Mostly from Africa, Continue Deadly Mediterranean Crossings

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM’s team providing assistance to migrants arriving in Europe by sea from North Africa and the Middle East recorded another 18 migrants reported missing, and presumed dead this week. The reports came from fellow passengers rescued by commercial and military vessels patrolling increasingly wintery and dangerous Mediterranean routes.

Over 5,100 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in the last 10 days, rescued by the ships plying waters in the Channel of Sicily in the framework of the Triton and Mare Nostrum operations, which will continue until the end of the year, when the Italian Government said it will end its Mare Nostrum mission (which this month officially changed its name into “Surveillance and Sea Security Mechanism”).

The most recent landings took place in Sicily yesterday (27/11), when rescue ships brought 320 migrants to Augusta and another 182 to Porto Empedocle. Additionally, several hundred migrants arrived in Greece two days ago, when a 77-meter cargo ship reportedly carrying 700 people was towed to safety to Crete by a Greek navy frigate.

The new arrivals – rescued in 13 separate operations – are mostly sub-Saharan Africans from the Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.

The biggest recent landing took place in Taranto, Apulia, where the ship San Giorgio deposited 913 migrants rescued in the Channel of Sicily.

The migrants left Libya on several different boats, some of which foundered. In one wreck, at least six people were swept away and are missing, presumed drowned, according to survivors.

Another 94 migrants, who also survived a shipwreck, were brought to Augusta on Sunday by the Panama-flagged commercial ship Eviacement.

“They are all Sub-Saharan and left from Tripoli,” said IOM Italy Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “They told us that they were forced by traffickers to use an unseaworthy rubber dinghy. After a few hours it started to have problems and to slowly sink. Some of the people fell in the water. The survivors said that by the time they were picked up, 12 people had drifted away and presumably drowned.”

Recently rescued migrants in Sicily now also include 575 Syrians. According to IOM staff who debriefed them, they left from Mersin in Turkey.

“It is still difficult to say what impact the end of Mare Nostrum will have on life-saving operations carried out at sea,” said Soda. “But we think that the Mediterranean still needs to be patrolled, as it has been up to now, in terms of resources, scope and geographical reach. Otherwise many more lives will be at risk.”

Under the new Triton operation, ships will only patrol within 30 miles off the Italian coast, with a specific mandate to control the European Union’s borders. The Italian Mare Nostrum operation carried out search and rescue operations in international waters beyond the 30-mile limit.

“The flows of migrants will probably continue for some time. Therefore the risk of shipwrecks will not decrease,” noted Soda.

In November alone, at least 8,000 people have been rescued at sea. In 2014, a total of over 161,000 migrants arrived safely in Italy, but at least 3,200 went missing at sea, presumed drowned.

EBOLA VIRUS IN SEMEN OF MEN WHO HAVE RECOVERED FROM EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Key Messages

• Sexual transmission of Ebola virus disease has not been documented

• In four studies that investigated persistence of Ebola virus in seminal fluid from convalescent patients (a total of 43 patients), three men who had recovered from Ebola virus disease were reported to shed live virus in semen 40 days, 61 days and 82 days after onset of symptoms, respectively.

• In two studies, Ebola virus was isolated from semen, but subsequent infections were not identified in household contacts.

• Men who have recovered from Ebola virus disease should be aware that seminal fluid may be infectious for as long as three months after onset of symptoms.

• Because of the potential to transmit the virus sexually during this time, they should maintain good personal hygiene after masturbation, and either abstain from sex (including oral sex) for three months after onset of symptoms, or use condoms if abstinence is not possible.

• WHO does not recommend isolation of male convalescent patients whose blood has been tested negative for EVD.

The Ebola virus is shed in bodily fluids such as blood, vomit, faeces, saliva, urine, tears, and vaginal and seminal fluids. There is evidence that seminal fluids of convalescing men can shed the Ebola virus for at least 82 days after onset of symptoms. Although the scientific evidence is limited, it is clear that semen is a potential source of infection and could therefore cause transmission of the virus through delivery of the infectious virus on a mucosal surface.

1. How long is Ebola virus present in semen?

In a study performed during the Ebola outbreak in Gulu, Uganda, in 2000, the authors tested the semen of a single convalescent patient and were able to isolate Ebola virus up to 40 days after the onset of illness. One study in 1977 (Edmond et al., laboratory infection in England) detected live Ebola virus in semen of one convalescent man 61 days after onset of symptoms. One study in1995 (Rodriguez et al. Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo) also detected live Ebola virus in semen in one convalescent man 82 days after disease onset.

Therefore, it is possible for Ebola virus to be present in semen for 3 months after disease onset.

2. Is semen that tests positive for Ebola virus infectious?

The evidence is inconclusive. One study (Rowe et al.) that followed four men recovering from Ebola virus disease and their sexual partners found that no sexual partner developed symptoms.

References

1. Bausch, D. et al. (2007) Assessment of the risk of Ebola virus transmission from bodily fluids and fomites, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 196, pp. S142-7.

2. Emond, R. et al. (1977) A case of Ebola virus infection, British Medical Journal, 2, pp. 541-544.

3. Rodriguez, L. et al. (1999) Persistence and genetic stability of Ebola virus during the outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1995, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179(1), pp. S170-6.

4. Rowe, A. et al. (1999) Clinical, Virologic, and Immunologic Follow-up of Convalescent Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Patients and their Household Contacts, Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179(1), pp.S28-35.

Dakar Summit: La Francophonie to adopt a youth strategy and step up its action in favour of women

BERN, Switzerland, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The summit being held in Dakar by the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) has as its theme: “Women and youth in French-speaking countries: Vectors of peace, agents of development”. These are priority action areas for Switzerland, particularly in Africa. Switzerland will be represented at the Dakar Summit on 29 November by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter.

According to United Nations forecasts, the number of French speakers worldwide is set to exceed 700 million by 2050. 85% of them will live in Africa, where under-25s make up the majority of the population. Francophone culture therefore has a bright future thanks to one vital commodity: its youth.

At the Dakar Summit on 29 and 30 November 2014, Switzerland will commit to La Francophonie’s youth strategy, which seeks to support young people through educational initiatives in particular, and also to empower young French speakers to become active citizens who play their part in addressing global challenges.

Switzerland is particularly committed to promoting vocational education and training in French-speaking countries and to supporting high-quality basic education adapted to people’s ways of life, in both French and their mother tongue, enabling young people to acquire the skills they need to help them enter the labour market. It does this through the programmes of the FDFA’s Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Switzerland also supports higher education, in particular through the online academic courses (CMELL) established by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) with support from the Confederation (FDFA/SDC). These courses allow students to learn online, even if they live far from any university, and to specialise in urban-planning, water, nutrition, energy and health-care technologies. All of these areas will be crucial for sustainable development, particularly on the African continent. At the Dakar Summit, a partnership will be established between EPFL and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) for the certification of these courses. Switzerland has proposed a specific resolution on education in the digital age.

Also at Dakar, La Francophonie intends to continue its commitment to gender equality and the mainstreaming of women and girls and their health. This will be the subject of a specific resolution, in line with Switzerland’s concerns. A resolution will also be adopted to strengthen the fight against the Ebola virus. Switzerland recently decided to triple its aid for combating the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Among other things, it will commit around CHF 7 million to Guinea, a French-speaking country affected by the virus.

At the Dakar Summit, Switzerland will also continue to advocate good governance rules and to promote democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, it will support La Francophonie’s involvement in the field of education.

These priorities will be set out in the “Dakar Declaration” and the “La Francophonie Strategic Framework 2015-2022”, which will be adopted by the heads of state. Finally, the Dakar Summit will appoint a new secretary general of La Francophonie for a four-year term.

Within La Francophonie, Switzerland will also continue to oppose the death penalty and to promote the voluntary principles on human rights for extractive companies and better protection of children associated with armed forces.

At the Francophonie Village open to all in central Dakar, Switzerland will showcase its activities, particularly those of the SDC and EPFL on education and vocational training in West African countries, under the banner “Education: innovation for inclusion”.

Africa invests in youth employment for food and nutrition security in Eastern Africa / The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) project for Eastern Africa kicks off

EMBU, Kenya, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Food and Agriculture Organization in collaboration with the Governments of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda launched yesterday the Eastern Africa project ‘Promoting Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Diversification to Fight malnutrition and Enhance Youth employment Opportunities in Eastern Africa’.

The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries endorsed the project’s commitment to engaging the youth in aquaculture and poultry production in order to boost market opportunities emphasizing that it is important to facilitate access to markets and to enhance the capacity of young producers in marketing and agribusiness skills.

The project benefits four countries in Eastern Africa: Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda and the USD 4 million project is already in implementation in the beneficiary countries. It aims to promote greater diversity and intensification in agricultural production, namely in poultry and fish farming to improve nutrition, and offer better job prospects for young people in Eastern Africa. In that regard, it was stressed that the aim is to promote business oriented farming for young entrepreneurs.

This project is one of four new projects funded by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund worth a total investment of USD 16 million, set to benefit 24 countries in West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, encompassing youth employment and malnutrition, transboundary animal and plant diseases, food safety and urban food security. In his address, Mr. Tijani noted, “We as Africans must address food security and build capacity of rural youth to obtain decent employment in the agriculture sector and improve their entrepreneurial skills.”

Youth in Agriculture, key contributors to food and nutrition security

Young people under the age of 24 represent more than 60 percent of Africa’s population and over 70 percent of them live on less than USD 2 a day. By generating attractive and decent jobs for the youth in the rural agricultural settings, the project aims to significantly contribute to increased food security, improved nutrition and livelihood resilience that ultimately reduced rural poverty.

More than 500 youth farmers engaging in aquaculture and poultry farming are transforming lives in rural and peri-urban settings. The project targets to benefit about 5,000 people in each of the four countries (20,000 people in all).

For example, the Kenyan and Ugandan component of the regional project will receive support of USD 1,000,000 over a period of three years. This will enhance access to markets and increase the availability of good quality fish fingerlings and feeds and thereby increase the overall production, marketing and value addition capacity of local aquaculture value chains.

In Burundi and Rwanda, the project will invest USD 800,000 with focus on the poultry component aiming to address food security and build capacity of rural youth in these countries to obtain decent employment in the agriculture sector and improve their entrepreneurial skills.

The launch was held in Embu County, Kenya, in presence of the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Mr. Bukar Tijani, and the Kenyan Permanent Secretary of Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Professor Micheni J. Ntiba; the Embu County Governor, Mr. Martin Wambora, high-level Government officials from the four countries, and FAO Representatives for the Eastern Africa Sub-regional Office, Djibouti, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Statement by Ministers Paradis of Canada, Girardin of France and Coll-Seck of Senegal on International Response to Ebola Crisis

DAKAR, Sénégal, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie; Annick Girardin, France’s Minister of State for Development and La Francophonie; and Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Senegal’s Minister of Health and Social Action, today issued the following statement at the close of an important meeting on Ebola held on the margins of the XVe Sommet de la Francophonie [15th Francophonie summit], co-hosted by ministers Paradis, Girardin and Coll-Seck.

“Member country participants of La Francophonie have expressed their support and solidarity for those countries battling Ebola and collectively recognize the importance of strengthening health care systems to better manage such threats now and in the future,” said Minister Paradis. “We are resolved to strengthen La Francophonie’s efforts to collaborate and coordinate with the United Nations. We will do this by encouraging the creation of innovative partnerships to build on each of our strengths and maximize our contributions to advance our response to the Ebola crisis.”

“France has mobilized since the beginning of the crisis to support countries in the region, particularly Guinea,” said Minister of State Girardin. “It implemented, along with its Guinean partner, concrete actions to improve the training of health care personnel, set up several treatment centres and put controls in place at the Conakry, Guinea, airport to prevent the country from becoming isolated. We need to mobilize to win the fight. France is strengthening its commitment and has agreed to play an increased role in coordinating aid to Guinea, in cooperation with the United Nations. France is already working with Guinean authorities on the post-Ebola agenda in terms of both health and economic and social development.”

“Senegal is pleased that this Francophonie summit provides member states with the opportunity to increase their commitment in order to more effectively fight Ebola,” said Minister Coll-Seck. “This dreadful disease is currently a public health concern and a threat on the global scale since, in the absence of a vaccine, it could spread. Senegal appreciates the international community’s efforts to stop the disease, but we must remain vigilant and continue to mobilize at all levels in a global partnership. Senegal also calls for increased solidarity with Ebola-affected countries and in the fight against stigmatization and discrimination.”

“Canada remains gravely concerned by the threat that Ebola represents to the people and countries of the West Africa region and beyond,” said Minister Paradis. “We have demonstrated strong support for the work being undertaken by governments in the West Africa region in close collaboration with the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, the World Health Organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other international and non-governmental partners. Today, the Government of Canada announced it is giving an additional $20.9 million to humanitarian organizations fighting Ebola, including $5 million to the Croix-rouge française to support the operation of Ebola treatment centres in Guinea. With Canada’s support, more Ebola-infected patients in Guinea will receive the treatment and care they need to survive. Canada will continue to invest in strengthening health systems, biosecurity, food security and sustainable economic growth over the long term in this region.”