Zambia statement expresses concern over lack of peace

In a “Statement of National Dialogue” issued 8 January, the Council of Churches in Zambia, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops stated there can be no peace without justice in Zambia.

“True dialogue means a change of heart, attitude and behavior,” the statement reads. “It is a project, an ongoing process and effort.”

Lack of peace hurts everyone, especially the weak, elderly, the poor, women and children, the statement continues.

“It hurts us Christians because we are essentially brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ who identifies himself with the same poor and the suffering,” the text reads. “Despite the public pronouncements that Zambia is a peaceful country, the reality on the ground is different due to many acts of injustice, a growing culture of corruption, incidences of violence and utterances out of deep-seated hatred.”

The religious leaders urge political leaders to stop insulting each other or anyone who does not agree with their political opinion: “These leaders of political parties must restrain themselves and their members from making inflammatory or irresponsible statements.”

The statement also expresses sadness at the loss of lives from a recent outbreak of cholera in Lusaka and other parts of the country.

“We pray for God’s peace, comfort and encouragement during this time of national crisis,” the statement reads. “We pray for the various teams working on the ground to fight the cholera outbreak so that this may be overcome quickly and life may be restored to normal.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Council of Churches (WCC).

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When you default payment on TV license fees in Ghana

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [GBC] (www.GBCghana.com), has been directed by its Governing Board not to pursue any prosecution of people who may default on the non-payment of TV license fees.

Responding to the outcry and criticism that met the renewed efforts of the State Broadcaster to ensure compliance with the law, the GBC Board assured the public that no prosecutions will occur.

Concerns over the TV license regime followed the Chief Justice’s setting up of special TV license courts across the country (http://APO.af/YfNHEA) to prosecute people who refuse to pay the mandatory TV license fees in line with the TV licensing Act.

Domestic TV users are to pay between GHc36 and GHc60 for one or more TV sets in a household, while TV set repairers and sales outlets are to pay an annual sum of between GHc60 to GHc240.

Following the setting up of the special court, it was expected that defaulting TV owners or operators will be prosecuted per Section 1(a) of the TV licensing Act 1966 (NLCD 89) with defaulters facing a fine or a prison term not exceeding one year.

But a statement from the Board said, “following an evaluation of the situation has instructed the management of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) not to pursue any activity or set of processes, leading to the prosecution of any individual for the non-payment of the Television license fee.”

“The Governing Board is assuring the general public not to entertain any fear for any such possible prosecutions,” the statement added.

The board also urged the National Media Commission (NMC) to explore a more sustainable funding module for the GBC.

“With Respect to the future of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the Board recommends that the National Media Commission (NMC) drives the process of engaging critical stakeholders to resolve the status of GBC, and find a more enduring funding module, that would enable it to discharge its constitutional mandate.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Nana Yaa Ofori Atta.

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Sudan: Critical needs in Darfur, southern Sudan, where the International Committee of the Red Cross will increase assistance

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will increase its field assistance activities in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2018, returning to an area where years of conflict have adversely affected the health and welfare of residents.

The ICRC will also for the first time carry out new assistance activities in South Kordofan. Recent visits to South Kordofan and Central Darfur by the ICRC found people in need of food, safe drinking water and access to health care.

“Families living in Sudan’s conflict-affected areas have been suffering much too long from the effects of prolonged violence,” ICRC President Peter Maurer said during a three-day visit to Sudan that concluded Thursday. “It’s notable that the Government of Sudan recognizes these needs and is allowing the ICRC to carry out a broader range of activities in these critical areas.”

The ICRC assistance activities will gradually increase in partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and relevant authorities. The ICRC hopes in the future to cross lines of control and directly assist all civilians suffering from conflict and violence, including in armed opposition held areas.

“We want to address short-term needs but we know we must also help strengthen the resilience of the people in the long-term,” Mr. Maurer said. “The ICRC has a long history of working in Sudan, but no history of working in South Kordofan state. We look forward to being able to assist those in need there.”

In South Kordofan, Mr. Maurer witnessed the opening of an ICRC-repaired water point where smiling children scooped up handfuls of clean drinking water from shiny taps. The ICRC plans to open a new office in Kadugli, a development welcomed by local authorities.

ICRC assistance in Sudan planned for 2018 includes the distribution of seeds, tools and pesticides to help internally displaced communities and host communities to grow their own food, aid that will help 108,000 people. Food or cash will be distributed to help those families until the harvest. ICRC teams will also repair water pumps and vaccinate livestock.

The ICRC resumed its field assistance work after suspending field operations in Darfur in 2015 because of limited access. The ICRC has continued to support orthopedic patients at the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, to reconnect families separated by conflict, and to act as a neutral intermediary during prisoner releases.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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UNICEF and Save the Children call for action to help children affected by mass IDP (Internally displaced persons) settlement evictions in Mogadishu, Somalia

The recent unannounced destruction of several informal settlements on the outskirts of Mogadishu, together with the forced evictions of thousands of families living there, are having devastating effects on children, UNICEF and Save the Children said today.

More than 4000 families lost their property and many lost their livelihoods, during the evictions at more than 21 settlements at Km13, Kahda district on 29 and 30 December. The majority were women and children who had arrived only months earlier, often after travelling long distances to escape drought and conflict. The evictions were done with no prior consultations. Requests by the community for time to collect their belongings and to safely vacate were not granted.

Many of the children living in the settlements saw the destruction by armed men and bulldozers firsthand, first losing their schools and shelters, books and belongings, and then contact with classmates and friends.

The forced evictions have impacted more than 3000 school children. Four schools were destroyed; a Child Friendly Space providing a protected area for children to enjoy activities, games and informal education was demolished; as was a space providing services to survivors of Gender-Based Violence.

The evicted families have moved into schools and public buildings in other IDP camps with some children living in the open or on the streets, without any shelter. The children and their families need urgent support including health and nutrition services, safe water and sanitation, and education and psychosocial support to help them recover from the traumatic experience of becoming homeless and losing their belongings.

UNICEF and partners reacted swiftly, providing temporary access to safe drinking water for 2000 affected households. Quick work by community education committees saved three schools, relocating the portable structures which are again operational. Meanwhile, two of the destroyed schools are being reestablished in new settlements. UNICEF’s partners reunited 35 children and four adults with disabilities with their families, counselled dozens of children and adults, and provided medical support for 35 children. Nutrition partners continue to deliver lifesaving services in outreach clinics in the new locations of the evicted families.

Save the Children is providing 400 households with kits of non-food items including blankets, plastic sheeting, laundry soap, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, and is giving 200 households cash assistance.

UNICEF and Save the Children are calling on authorities to ensure all affected children are fully supported and are relocated with their families to safe areas; and to prevent any future unannounced evictions of vulnerable IDP settlements.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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