Nov 202014
 

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An international project backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and designed to prevent the deaths of pregnant women, new mothers and infants in Africa, is to be officially launched today.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/st-john-international.jpg

Photo 1: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1566

Photo 2: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1565

Some 1 million newborn babies and around 179,000 women die every year in Sub- Saharan Africa as a result of complications in pregnancy, labour, during delivery and in the first month of a child’s life.

Today, the global healthcare charity St John International (http://www.stjohninternational.org) signals an attempt to turn that tide, with the launch of its new Mother and Baby Programme.

The initiative has been made possible thanks to a Big Lottery Fund grant of £257,365, allowing the charity to mobilise community based volunteers on the ground in Malawi and Zambia, and provide support to households and increase access to health service.

For generations St John International (also known as the Venerable Order of St John) has been providing community based first aid, healthcare and related services to people in need throughout the world.

Trial activity has already seen the Mother and Baby Programme team visiting the communities of Malawi and Zambia, to identify the most urgent need. St John also has plans to roll out the programme in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe by raising further funds.

“The reduction of the horrendous death rates amongst Mothers and Babies was set as a Millennium Goal. Huge strides have been made and the St John programme will be another significant step along the way,” said Sir Paul Lambert, Secretary General of St John International.

“Our teams of local volunteers and healthcare professionals have seen with their own eyes what tragic circumstances are in existence, and how many lives are being needlessly lost.

“With the generous support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our superb support from the Big Lottery Fund, the Mother and Baby programme has a vision of ‘a world where communities take action to strengthen the health of women and children’. Adding his voice to the campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “I passionately support the work of St John and their unique community volunteer led approach towards improving community health around the world and addressing maternal and newborn health in Africa. Without healthy mothers and babies, communities cannot flourish and develop. So investment in this area of healthcare is absolutely vital.”

Volunteers will be trained in topics such as basic hygiene, planning for birth, danger signs during pregnancy, maintaining temperature in newborns, cord care, post natal care needs and risks. With the acquired knowledge and skills, the volunteers will carry out home visits to thousands of households to educate and give advice to women as well as men about the importance of maternal and newborn health.

St John International is seeking to engage the support of corporates, particularly those who have had or currently have, an interest in the communities of Malawi and Zambia.

“Unlike many programmes this does not rely on outside agencies,” added Sir Paul.

“Our local St John Ambulance organisations in Malawi and Zambia will recruit additional volunteers from within the community and after giving them first aid training will train them to provide the support in maternal health and newborn. The generous grant from the Big Lottery will allow the programme to start, however, after 3 years our local St John Organisations will be funding these programmes themselves.

“This is a low cost high impact programme and £150,000 is enough to roll out another programme in another country for a year.” commented Sir Paul.

The issues surrounding maternal and newborn health is one of the key priorities in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015. St John International and its Associations have a crucial role to play in contributing to the MDGs as they have unique access to hard-to-reach communities.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the Venerable Order of St John.

NOTE TO EDITORS

Media Contact:

Chiao Kwan

Tel: +44 (0)20 7553 9319

Email: chiao.kwan@orderofstjohn.org

About the Venerable Order of St John

The Venerable Order of St John (also known as St John International) (http://www.stjohninternational.org) is a global international healthcare charity, whose organisations provide first aid, health care and community based support services in over 40 countries around the world.

About the Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery. The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 we have awarded close to £6bn. The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1st December 2006.

Nov 202014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea has begun its operations with an initial meeting in Geneva.

The United Nations Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry in June 2014 for a period of one year to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea” as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, whose mandate was created by the Human Rights Council in June 2012.

“Our key aim is to help provide Eritrea with the means to improve the human rights of its population,” said the Commission Chairperson, Mr Mike Smith. “Our work is guided by respect and care for the Eritrean people and their proud history, as well as international human rights standards.”

Mr Smith, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, and former Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, is working with Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth, who is the current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and Mr Victor Dankwa, Associate Professor at the University of Ghana and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.*

The Commissioners have come together for the first time in Geneva this week, and are holding key meetings with a number of diplomatic missions, including Eritrea, UN agencies, scholars and civil society organisations. They have also been discussing the strategy, methodology and investigative approach they will employ during their mandate.

“We have a clear mandate from the Human Rights Council. The Council has expressed its strong condemnation of the ‘continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Eritrean authorities’” said Mr Dankwa.

Ms Keetharuth stated “We are committed to reach out to the people of Eritrea to understand the impact of the current situation on the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, we are keen to look at the reasons why Eritreans, including unaccompanied minors, are fleeing the country in their thousands”.

The Commissioners said that they wish for the full cooperation of the Government of Eritrea and to this end have met their representative in Geneva and have asked for full access to the country. “We are hoping that this first meeting in Geneva augurs well for future co-operation with Eritrean authorities,” noted Mr Smith.

The Commission of Inquiry, supported by a team of experienced human rights officers, is publishing a call for submissions to encourage interested individuals, groups and organisations to share information with the Commissioners.

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea was established by Human Rights Council resolution 26/24 to investigate a variety of alleged violations, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, torture, restrictions to civil liberties, human trafficking, discrimination against women and sexual and gender-based violence, violations of child rights, lack of rule of law, and precarious living conditions.

The Commissioners will undertake a first official visit to Switzerland and Italy from 27 November to 4 December 2014 to collect first-hand information on the human rights situation in Eritrea from Eritrean refugees, migrants and other members of the diaspora, as well as other relevant sources.

The Commissioners are holding their first press briefing on Thursday, 20 November, at 10.00 a.m. in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Nov 202014
 

BANGUI, Central African Republic, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, headed by Mr. Ekué Kpodar, visited Bangui, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), from November 11 to 18, 2014 to hold discussions with the C.A.R. authorities on an emergency program that could be supported by the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF).1

At the end of the mission, Mr. Kpodar issued the following statement:

“The Transitional Authorities of the C.A.R. and the IMF mission reached staff-level understandings on a macro-fiscal framework and a set of economic and structural policies to reinforce the progress made since the previous RCF approved by the IMF Executive Board in May 2014. These policies are aimed at further restoring macroeconomic stability, achieving fiscal consolidation, strengthening the capacity of the C.A.R. government, coordinating technical assistance, and maintaining the commitment of international donors. Under these understandings, C.A.R. could receive support on these policies through a follow-up RCF for an amount of SDR 5.57 million (equivalent to CFAF 4 billion). The IMF’s total financial assistance to C.A.R. for 2014 would thus reach SDR 13.925 million (equivalent to approximately CFAF10 billion). Additional contributions from development partners to the IMF’s assistance would bring the total external budgetary support to the C.A.R. to approximately CFAF 80 billion for 2014.

“The protracted political and security crisis in the C.A.R. and the resulting collapse of economic activity continue to present major challenges to the Transitional Authorities. For 2014, while economic activity is gradually resuming and some of the displaced persons have been able to return, the volatile security situation led the mission and the C.A.R. authorities to revise the GDP growth forecast downward to 1 percent. At the same time, the scarcity of basic consumption goods has translated into a steady rise in prices, with inflation projected to reach 11.6 percent on average in 2014, well above the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) convergence criterion of 3 percent. The external current account deficit is projected to narrow to 6.4 percent of GDP in 2014, reflecting the substantial financial support from the donor community as well as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) countries. However, the strong reliance on food and oil imports and the lagging performance of the exporting industries make further balance of payments support necessary.

“In the budget area, the priority remains to further improve the mobilization of domestic revenues and enhance the quality of spending with a view to limiting the domestic primary balance to 5 percent of GDP in 2014 and 4.1 percent in 2015. The Transitional Authorities will continue implementing measures to strengthen public financial management by enhancing the monitoring of cash flow management, further cleaning up the civil servants roster and payroll, revising the convention with commercial banks to administer tax collection, and strengthening transparency in oil taxation.

“Finally, the mission held in-depth discussions on a draft budget and policies for 2015. For next year, we expect that the return of security and the successful completion of the political transition will mark the beginning of a sustainable economic recovery with a real GDP growth rate estimate of 5.7 percent with inflation being contained at 5.7 percent. However, public finances will continue to be under pressure and will require continued support of the international community.

“The mission met with the President of the C.A.R., Mrs. Catherine Samba-Panza, and held discussions with the Prime Minister, Mr. Mahamat Kamoun, the Minister of Finance and Budget, Mr. Bounandele Koumba, and his delegation, and representatives of development partners, the diplomatic community, and the private sector.

“The mission takes this opportunity to thank the C.A.R. authorities for their exemplary cooperation and the candid and constructive discussions that took place.”

1 The RCF (http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/rcf.htm) is a lending arrangement that provides rapid financial support in a single, up-front payout for low-income countries facing urgent financing needs.

Nov 202014
 

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A team of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Ms. Dalia Hakura, Mission Chief for the Republic of Congo, visited Brazzaville during November 11−19, 2014. The mission reviewed recent macroeconomic developments and the near-term outlook, discussed the 2014 supplementary budget, the draft 2015 budget and sought the authorities’ input on the agenda for the 2015 Article IV consultation with the Republic of Congo, planned for April 2015.

At the end of the mission, Ms. Hakura made the following statement:

“Macroeconomic performance has been broadly satisfactory thus far in 2014. Growth is projected at 6 percent in 2014, in light of a slight rebound in oil production. This will also be supported by strong non–oil growth, due mainly to higher government infrastructure spending. Year-on-year inflation has continued to decelerate and the overall price level in June 2014 was virtually unchanged from a year ago, largely as a result of declining food prices. The mission notes that the recently approved 2014 supplementary budget provides for an elevated level of government spending, mainly due to preparations for the All Africa Games. This elevated spending implies a deviation from the fiscal rule that the authorities introduced in 2013. If fully implemented, the budget will considerably widen the non-oil primary deficit and hold back fiscal savings in 2014.

“Against the backdrop of the limited remaining lifetime of oil reserves, the recent decline in international oil prices makes it more urgent for the authorities to revert to a path of fiscal consolidation starting from 2015, while enhancing the efficiency of government spending. In this regard, targeting an early reduction of the non-oil primary deficit that also limits the growth of government spending by more than currently envisaged in the 2015 budget would help to safeguard fiscal and external buffers and contribute to mitigating risks to macroeconomic stability in the medium-term. In a context of rising global oil production, the Republic of Congo is facing an uncertain external environment. There are downside risks to oil prices from a weaker global economic outlook, including slower growth in China.

“For the 2015 budget, the authorities should examine the scope for larger fiscal adjustment while safeguarding targeted social spending and growth-enhancing capital spending. The mission welcomes the authorities’ intention to prioritize completion of basic infrastructure projects whilst also taking steps to begin the conditional cash transfer program. The authorities are also encouraged to follow up on recommendations from the ongoing Public Expenditure Management and Financial Accountability Review by the World Bank and other development partners. This should help to identify reform actions needed to strengthen budget execution, procurement and disbursement processes.

“The authorities should continue with ongoing structural reforms to support inclusive growth in the non–oil sector. The mission welcomes the authorities’ near term focus on ensuring access to water for all, and encourages continuing efforts to improve the business climate, which remains one of the most challenging in Sub–Saharan Africa. These reforms will be important to unlocking the potential of the private sector in the Republic of Congo.

“The mission notes the authorities’ continued commitment to a prudent debt management policy. Against the backdrop of recent increases in external debt, which now stands at about 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the continued reliance on concessional borrowing will help maintain long–term debt sustainability and preserve the hard won gains of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries/Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative granted in 2010.

“The execution of the Republic of Congo’s macroeconomic policy and structural reform agenda would also benefit from enhanced transparency. The long delays in data availability hamper the timely assessment of the macroeconomic policy stance. In this regard, the mission welcomes the authorities’ efforts to strengthen the National Institute of Statistics through the development of a national statistics action plan with IMF technical assistance.

“The mission met with the State Minister of Economy, Finance, Planning, Public Portfolio and Integration, Mr. Ondongo, Minister at the Presidency in Charge of Territory Planning and Large Projects, Mr. Bouya, Special Advisor to the President, Mr. Gokana, Deputy Minister in Charge of Planning and Integration, Mr. Mokoko, National Director of the Central Bank, Mr. Ondaye, and other senior officials. The mission also met with representatives of the private sector, civil society, and development partners.

“We thank the authorities for the warm welcome and cooperation given to the mission, and wish them well in the important and challenging policy tasks they face.”

Nov 202014
 

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary welcomes UN action taken to list two terrorist groups in Libya, underlining need to support UN-led mediation efforts.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“I welcome the action taken by the UN Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee to list Ansar Al Sharia Benghazi (AAS-B) and Ansar Al Sharia Derna (AAS-D). Both groups have links with Al-Qaida and are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder.”

“The decision sends a clear message that the international community will take action against extremist groups in Libya who pose a threat to peace and security. It is incumbent on all Libyans to reject these groups and all they stand for.

“The UK urges all parties in Libya to cease fighting immediately and fully supports the mediation efforts of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Bernardino Leon, in pursuing an inclusive and broad based dialogue.”

Nov 202014
 

MOGADISHU, Somalia, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union (EU) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) welcomed the formation of the Interim South West Administration (ISWA) in Somalia and the subsequent election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President of the ISWA.

“We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach out “We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach to all constituents of the ISWA and, to reach consensus on addressing the many challenges ahead. The establishment of the Interim South West Administration paves the way to focus our minds on providing services for the people and building a functioning administration.”

“In conclusion, we join international partners in urging the Federal Government of Somalia and the new Administration of the ISWA to work towards peace and state formation. We reiterate the commitment of the international community to supporting the authorities in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Somalia”.

Nov 192014
 

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary urges Somalia’s leadership to resolve political differences and focus on security and stability.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond spoke at an international meeting in Copenhagen today to push for faster implementation of Somalia’s New Deal Compact. He also met Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Foreign Ministers from the region.

Following the meeting, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“The UK has demonstrated its commitment to Somalia. We co-hosted conferences in London in February 2012 and May 2013 to galvanise the international community into action. Since then, Somalia has taken important steps to implement the commitments it has made to its people and to the international community. But to maintain this momentum, Somalia’s leaders must resolve their current differences and work to ensure Somalia has a stable and more peaceful future.”

Notes to editors

1. On 16 September 2013, the Somalia New Deal Conference, co-hosted by the European Union and Somalia, was held in Brussels. The Somali Compact provided a new political, security and development architecture framing the future relations between Somalia, its people and the international community. The international community and Somalia endorsed the Somali Compact, pledged support to enable its implementation and re-committed to the Somali political process. The full text of the Compact can be found here: http://eeas.europa.eu/somalia/new-deal-conference/sites/default/files/the_somali_compact.pdf.

2. Today’s meeting in Copenhagen, “The High Level Partnership Forum on Delivering Somalia’s New Deal Compact” will review progress made since the 2013 Brussels conference across the five New Deal Peace and State Building Goals: Inclusive Politics; Security; Justice; Economic Foundations and Revenue and Services.

Nov 192014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in close cooperation with the Red Cross of Chad, has distributed essential items to over 5,000 displaced people living in the isolated area of Am Timan, south-eastern Chad.

Since the beginning of the crisis in the Central African Republic, over 113,000 refugees and returning Chadians have sought refuge in N’Djamena in Chad, as well as in camps and villages in the south of the country, according to the International Organization for Migration. “A year on, the situation remains precarious. Humanitarian aid is mainly focused on the camps in south-eastern Chad, in particular Moyen-Chari, Eastern Logone and Western Logone,” said Gérard Besson, head of the ICRC delegation in Chad.

“Because the south-east of the country is relatively isolated, and people have spread out and gone back to their original communities, the area has been neglected by most humanitarian agencies,” said Mr Besson. The ICRC has been distributing essential items – cooking utensils, buckets, jerrycans, blankets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets and nappies – to the most vulnerable families that have arrived since the beginning of the year.

Most people who come to Chad are women and children. “Many bear the scars of what they’ve gone through to get here. Although they’ve been treated well by the local communities, they have very little to live on. Before the conflict, many lived off trade and livestock farming. But with the loss of their livestock, they’ve lost their main source of income,” said Mr Besson.

During the first week of November, the ICRC, together with the Red Cross of Chad, distributed essential items to over a thousand families (5,000 people) who had returned to the area of Am Timan. According to Ridmadjibaye Nadjinangar, the secretary-general of Salamat, an administrative region in south-eastern Chad, “over 7,000 people have returned to their original communities in the area.”

“I met an old woman who had lost her son in the fighting in Bangui and fled to Salamat with her four grandchildren. She’s been in Am Timan since the beginning of the year, with only herself to rely on, trying to meet the needs of her family. These items should help make her life a little less tough,” said Etienne Djimboveye, an ICRC employee who took part in the first round of the aid operation. The ICRC is planning a second round of distributions before the end of the year, with a further 1,000 families expected to benefit.

Between 1 January and 15 November, the ICRC:

• helped the Red Cross of Chad distribute over 1,600 essential-item kits to people in the transit centre at Gaoui, near N’Djamena, who had fled the violence in the Central African Republic, and 190 similar kits to victims of fires in two villages in the area of Lake Chad;

• visited over 1,700 people deprived of their liberty in 10 places of detention in Chad, and provided sanitary and other essential items in several prisons;

• provided nutritional supplements to over 1,450 detainees, of whom 250 were suffering from acute malnutrition, and 1,200 from moderate malnutrition;

• helped relatives make over 20,000 telephone calls to get back in touch with family members separated by the violence in the Central African Republic;

• reunited 14 unaccompanied children, who had fled the violence, with their parents;

• supported two physical rehabilitation centres to help 5,000 people improve their mobility;

• organized training in international humanitarian law (IHL) for over 1,000 soldiers and police officers, of whom 600 were about to be sent to Mali;

• supported the Chadian authorities in the process of ratifying IHL treaties and incorporating them into domestic law;

• organized several IHL workshops for religious and traditional leaders, as well as members of the media and civil society, and launched the inaugural moot court competition in IHL for law students at four universities in Chad.

Nov 192014
 

STRASBOURG, France, November 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights will debate on 20 November with Mr El Yazami, President of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco and representativ…

Nov 192014
 

STRASBOURG, France, November 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights will debate on 20 November with Mr El Yazami, President of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco and representativ…

Nov 192014
 

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, November 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Ahead of the start of a High-Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) in Copenhagen on 19 November, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has urged the Federal Government of Somalia and its international partners to remain focused on delivering the tangible benefits of the New Deal to the Somali people.

“The New Deal is about the people, for the people and with the people of Somalia,” said SRSG Nicholas Kay. “It is the process of ensuring that after more than two decades of conflict and instability, the Somali people are able to reap the benefits of improved security and governance. The United Nation will do its utmost to support Somalia on the journey ahead.”