Home » 2017 » December (Page 2)

Drone strikes, diphtheria, and data: The Cheat Sheet

Every week, IRIN's team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate important sources on unfolding trends and events around the globe:

A diphtheria dilemma?

A global shortage of the antitoxin used to treat highly contagious diphtheria could trigger an ethical dilemma for health providers in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps. There were more than 2,400 suspected cases of diphtheria in Bangladesh as of 25 December � but only 5,000 vials of antitoxin available anywhere in the world, according to Medecins Sans FrontiAres. There is not enough of the medication to treat all of the people in front of you who need it and we are forced to make extremely difficult decisions, Crystal van Leeuwen, MSF's emergency medical coordinator in Bangladesh, said on the aid group's website. It becomes an ethical and equity question. Early cases of diphtheria were spotted in November but there were no available antitoxinsin southern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees are now clustered together in haphazard camps and settlements. World Health Organization officials had to hand-carry the first available doses from Delhi in December. There are now about 1,300 vials of the diphtheria antitoxin available in Cox's Bazar, according to the WHO. Fuelled by low vaccination rates, extreme overcrowding and poor sanitation, the sudden re-emergence of diphtheria in Bangladesh followed years of decline: there were only two reported cases in 2016.

Diphtheria, long forgotten in many parts of the world, has also re-appeared in Yemen, which has seen more than 330 cases and 35 deaths in recent months.

US drone strikes in Somalia double under Trump

We reported on this topic in early November, but given Wednesday's announcement that a fresh US drone strike has killed 13 al-Shabab militants, it's worth revisiting. The latest hit, conducted northwest of Kismayo on 24 December, is, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the 34th this year, which compares to 15 for 2016 and 11 for 2015 and includes a strike on a militant training camp last month that killed 100 people. The increased rate of drone strikes is even more marked in Yemen, where US President Donald Trump has overseen a threefold increase from his predecessor, all in the name of the war on terror. Ironically, the latest strike in Somalia came as the Somali government officially took back control of its own airspace from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 27 years after the fall of the central government in 1991. The move marks a symbolic milestone for the administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Nine months into his tenure, in mid-October, Farmajo faced the deadliest attack in the country's history, blamed on al-Shabab, that killed more than 500 people at a busy Mogadishu intersection. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, meanwhile, has begun a gradual drawdown that will see the phasing out of the 22,000-strong multinational force by the end of 2020.

E-book on climate change and food security reporting

It's not often we offer up an item of more than 100 pages compiled by IRIN itself. However, 2017 has seen Project Editor Anthony Morland edit an impressive body of work on one of the world's most urgent issues, namely climate change adaptation � exploring what people are doing to reduce their vulnerability. The project provides a platform for policy discussion, and for the voices of those men and women on the front lines of climate change to be heard. The project covers four countries � Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe � with the goal of sharing lessons so that small-scale farmers everywhere can find support to alter methods of food production to suit climatic variation.

It's goggle time again

No humanitarian data or innovation event is complete without photos of men in suits wearing virtual reality goggles, and sure enough the official opening of the Centre for Humanitarian Datain the Hague on 22 December did not disappoint. It was a relaunch of the existing UN OCHA initiative, enjoying financial support from The Netherlands. Snark aside, the service now claims over 900 sources. Its flagship site gathers and organises information from a range of sources, and continues to grow, offering everything from bilingual map data on Syria to one thousand rows of data on the displacement caused by the recent cyclone Tembin in the Philippines.

Source: IRIN

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New e-book released: IRIN’s reporting on climate change and food security

Over the last two decades, 200 million people across the world have been lifted out of hunger. But as climate change brings more frequent and severe weather shocks such as droughts and floods, and makes rainfall patterns less predictable, these gains are under threat.

Throughout 2017, IRIN has been exploring the impact climate change has had on a large group of people who are extremely vulnerable to its effects and yet play a negligible role in causing it: smallholder farmers in Africa.

Agriculture is Africa's biggest employer. But mean temperatures are expected to rise faster in the continent than the global average, decreasing crop yields and deepening poverty.

IRIN has now completed a reporting project � conducted with support from the Open Society Foundations � to outline the challenges that global warming is triggering, and to explore what local communities are doing to adapt and reduce their vulnerability.

The project covers four countries � Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe � with the goal of sharing lessons learned so that small-scale farmers everywhere can be better supported as their challenges multiply. It provides a platform for policy discussion, and for the voices of those men and women on the front lines of climate change to be heard.

We have compiled all the articles into an e-book, which you can download here.

It contains field reporting on: climate-related problems and threats such as desertification in Nigeria, soil salination in Senegal, and the lack of technical support available to smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe; the range of responses and solutions adopted by farmers and governments; and how livestock-raising communities in the Kenyan county of Turkana are facing up to one of the worst droughts in living memory.

The document also includes three fact files full of key information about how adaptation finance works; the relationship between climate change, food security, and adaptation; and the specific climate challenges faced by pastoralist communities.

Source: IRIN

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Newater Technology, Inc. Announces Half Year 2017 Unaudited Financial Results

YANTAI, CHINA / ACCESSWIRE / December 28, 2017 / Newater Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: NEWA) (“NEWA”, “we”, “our” or the “Company”), a developer and manufacturer of membrane filtration products and related hardware and engineered systems that are used in the treatment, recycling and discharge of wastewater, today announced its unaudited financial results for the half-year ended […]
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General Who Led Mugabe Ouster Now Zimbabwe Vice President

HARARE �An army general who led the operation that forced Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to resign last month is now one of the country's two vice presidents. Critics are calling President Emmerson Mnangagwa's Cabinet a coupnet because of the three army generals who have prominent roles.

A day after President Mnangagwa appointed them as Zimbabwe's vice presidents, retired general Constantino Chiwenga and Defense Minister Kembo Mohadi took their oaths of office Thursday before the country's chief justice, Luke Malaba.

After that, General Chiwenga, who led the operation that forced President Robert Mugabe to resign, spoke to reporters about his new position.

I feel because I have to work for my country" he said. "Once we have been allotted the tasks to do, then we go on. What I can tell you is that: it will be teamwork and we will help his excellency, and we will deliver.

Chiwenga becomes the third general in Mnangagwa's 24-member Cabinet, raising fears that the army will try to influence Zimbabwe's politics when elections are held in the middle of next year.

In an interview after the swearing in of Chiwenga, who retired from the army last week, Arnold Tsunga, who leads the International Commission of Jurists in Africa, said Mnangagwa's government must try to assure citizens that the country is not under military rule.

So that a government that arises out of the electoral process, it can be said it is a government that reflects the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe, exercised through a free and fair election, he said.

Tsunga said there is no legal impediment to former generals serving in the cabinet, provided they give up their military positions.

"However, what is noticeable and very curious is that: the military leaders who proclaimed the removal of President Mugabe have now not only directly contributed to his removal from power, but in fact gone ahead to be the direct beneficiaries [of] appointment to leadership position in government. Certainly it raises issues of credibility and trust, he said.

In addition to Chiwenga, former generals with positions in Zimbabwe's cabinet are Minister of Agriculture Parrence Shiri and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sibusiso Moyo. It was Moyo who announced on state TV in November that the army had taken over state institutions, the act that forced Mugabe to resign.

Source: Voice of America

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Agriculture a hard sell for Zimbabwe’s youth

Laiza Mukute’s 14-hectare plot is a pale shadow of what it was 10 years ago.

The Mukute family – 43-year-old Laiza, her husband, and three sons – obtained the plot in 2001 under a land reform programme that saw thousands of commercial white farmers evicted and their land allocated to black Zimbabweans.

Laiza’s husband was killed by lightning in 2007. Her sons have all moved to the capital to eke out a living as street vendors, leaving their mother only with their younger, teen-age sister. Like many young Zimbabweans, they see no future for themselves in the troubled sector.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe has long suffered from meagre state investment, poor training, and limited access to farming equipment and credit – not to mention the effects of climate change in a region that has repeatedly been struck by devastating droughts and floods.

About 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s population of 16 million is under the age of 24.

“My sons won’t hear anything about farming. They would rather be in the city even though life is also tough for them there,” Mukute told IRIN at her farm in rural Mazowe, some 60 kilometres northeast of Harare.

This youth disillusionment is a phenomenon that extends well beyond the borders of Zimbabwe, according to Peter Wobst, who works on rural poverty reduction at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Africa’s rural youth face particular barriers to accessing productive employment: young women and men tend to encounter challenges in accessing adequate knowledge, information, and education,” Wobst told IRIN. “They have insufficient access to land, inputs, financial services, markets, and, ultimately, limited involvement in policy dialogue.”

This is despite the fact that the almost 200 million people in Africa aged between 15 and 24, as the FAO puts it, represent “a large potential reservoir for the growth of the agriculture sector”.

Different aspirations

Mukute is barely making ends meet. She can’t afford to replace her dilapidated ox-drawn cart and has sold off most of her livestock.

Only her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, helps her in the fields, “Who knows, she may also join her brothers one day and leave me too struggle on my own,” she said.

These are well-founded fears.

“I can’t remain stuck here farming because it comes with hard labour,” Elizabeth told IRIN. “If I pass my O-level [exams] next year, my mother and my brothers will have to find money for me to go for A-levels and, after that, university. I want to be a lawyer and I will employ someone to come and help my mother with work on the plot.”

Whereas the larger Mukute family used to grow maize, groundnuts, and tobacco on the full 10 hectares, now only two hectares are under cultivation.

Food security at stake

Many families in Mazowe and rural areas across Zimbabwe have seen a similar exodus of younger members to cities, gold and diamond mining areas, and other countries.

Wonder Chabikwa, head of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, said the future of farming and food security in the country will depend on the commitment of young people to working the resettled land.

“Most of the youths seem not to have a conviction for farming, and the majority of those that will remain to till the land will do so because they have limited options,” he told IRIN.

This sentiment is echoed on the website of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, a separate association, which recognises that “the future of agriculture lies in the hands of the youths, and therefore there is [an] urgent need to unleash their potential and energy in that direction.”

To this end, for the past five years, ZFU has organised a Youth Agripreneurship Summit, which brings hundreds of young farmers together to acquire leadership skills, network with key players in the sector, and learn about new technology.

One school of thought is that there might be more interest from young people if they could be encouraged to drive through commercialisation in the sector that would help address the low productivity issues.

But Chabikwa warned of the dangers of placing too much emphasis on the types of farming that generate the greatest profits, such as tobacco, even if that crop has dramatically improved the living standards of many resettled farmers.

“Inevitably, youths would always be enticed by farming that brings money through cash, but this is at the expense of food crops like maize. If the youths would rush into tobacco farming and horticulture, food security suffers,” he told IRIN.


A survey of the aspirations of school children in two of Zimbabwe’s provinces conducted in March 2017 found that while some respondents mentioned agriculture, they “didn’t emphasise just any old farming, but they had a clear focus on intensive irrigated agriculture, notably horticulture, but also tobacco” – both “seen as a route to accumulation (of wealth) and future prosperity”.

Cited obstacles to realising these aspirations included lack of farming skills and access to land.

In Mukute’s neighbourhood, the latter is a common concern.

Johnson Hozheri, 34, farms on 1.5 hectares given to him by his father when he married and couldn’t find another farm to settle on.

“My father gave the four of us (three brothers and a sister) plots on this farm on which we were resettled as a family 18 years ago. The plots are too small for meaningful farming, but do we have a choice? We are already congested,” Hozheri told IRIN.

To supplement their income, the brothers pan for gold along the Mazowe River during the dry season. They also cross the border to South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia to buy various goods for resale among the rural farmers or in nearby towns.

“We always come back home because life is tough in the towns or in other countries,” Hozheri said. “Young people from smaller families have been luckier because there is more to share, but disputes over who is entitled to the land in the event of the death of the parents are common in this community. There are several cases where the farms ended up derelict because of the disputes.”

To redress such problems, independent member of parliament Temba Mliswa, also a farmer, is urging the government to speed up a promised audit to identify unused resettled land and make it available for young farmers squeezed into plots allocated to their parents.

He said the government must also prioritise the training of young people in agriculture.

A recent report by the parliamentary committee on lands and agriculture identified major shortcomings among the country’s tertiary educational institutions, exacerbated by shoestring budgets and obsolete or inadequate training materials and equipment.

(Additional reporting by Sally Nyakanyaga)


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