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Current News


Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. This information or any parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of the Publisher:
CONTI-PRESS, Bureau of Intern'l Communication and Intelligence, Switzerland.


 


Hurricane disaster Haiti

Can you imagine being hit by four deadly storms in less than a month? That's exactly what millions in Haiti are recovering from right now. Already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti faces new challenges with more than 800,000 people displaced, hundreds more dead and much of the country still under mud and water.

In Gona鴳es and other storm-affected areas of Haiti, we are distributing emergency food supplies and helping families access safe water. But much more needs to be done. The island country is almost completely deforested due to many Haitians cutting down trees to sell for fuel as a last resort for income. This means the hillsides are particularly vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides. And that's not all. Haiti is one of the countries most affected by the global food crisis.

And now these poor families have become even more destitute. We must invest in long-term solutions for places like Haiti in order to reduce the impact of disasters on vulnerable families and communities. We can help the people of Haiti and millions more around the word create lasting solutions to poverty. In these challenging financial times, we greatly appreciate whatever help you can extend. You will make a big difference in the lives of men, women and children in developing countries throughout the world.

tsunami_left2.jpg (23929 octets)

 

Cash for work in typhoon-hit Philippines

World Vision in the Philippines is partnering with local government and US Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch a cash-and-food-for-work programme to assist people affected by Typhoon Reming. The programme addresses immediate food needs whilst providing a provisional livelihood for flood-affected families.

Essential items such as blankets, mats, flashlights, batteries, cooking wares, galvanized iron sheets and plastic sheeting are being distributed to affected families in the coastal villages of Mililipot and Bacacay, where people have lost their homes.

The cash-and-food-for-work programme will include the clearing of roads and declogging of drains in areas where many roads are still blocked by fallen trees, toppled electric posts, mud and boulders. Drainage is still clogged by volcanic debris and garbage washed out by flood.

World Vision will also be working with people in the island-province of Catanduanes due to the immense damage caused by Typhoon Reming to the infrastructure and agricultural lands there. World Vision will provide seedlings to ensure a steady flow of income to the communities who have lost their livelihood.

“Through the programme, we intend to hasten not only the physical recovery of the affected communities, but their financial, emotional and psychological recovery as well,” explained Jose Bersales, World Vision’s humanitarian and emergency affairs director.

The programme is running for two weeks and will directly benefit 3,333 families. With the help of the local leaders, families who are in greatest need are being identified. A representative of each of the families will participate in the programme.

Participants will receive daily compensation for work as well four kilos of rice.

Programmes such as this have become a model of World Vision’s rehabilitation work since 2004, when the organisation initiated the food-and-cash-for-work programme during the flash flood relief effort in Quezon province. The programme lasted two months, successfully clearing roads, which were estimated to have required years to clear.

World Vision has also been distributing food items to more than 10,000 families in affected regions. While safe places for children have been established to respond to the psycho-social and emotional needs of children who are the most vulnerable during a crisis.

 

Escaping the jaws of starvation in Africa's Horn region

Zohre_in_Abu_Shouk_Camp.jpg (67072 octets)

 

In the northeastern region of Africa, babies' cries fill the air. Hundreds of anxious adults are huddled on the center's verandas, embracing their tearful, emaciated children. "I came to the clinic crying…diarrhea and vomiting was killing my Konjit," says one of the adults, Bekelech, holding the tiny infant.

She explains why the 1-year-old had been admitted to the clinic seven days previously, weighing less than half the normal weight of a child her age. "I had planted some maize, but the crop was burned by the sun. I do not have any food at home…"

A desperate region

Bekelech's and Konjit's desperate circumstances are shared by millions of children and families across the Horn of Africa — the northeastern region of the continent, including the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda — who are suffering the effects of severe drought and hunger. Although the drought is largely due to several consecutive lackluster rainy seasons, the current situation is intensified by a number of other factors, including the worldwide upsurge of fuel and food prices. In Kenya, for example, inflation rates have reached 30 percent. In Somalia, our staff members report the already enormous needs have intensified because of rapidly diminishing humanitarian access.

The increasing inaccessibility of food has compounded an already fragile situation, eroding the livelihoods and survival strategies of an estimated 9.2 million people across the Horn.

Tears of joy

"I am happy that at this hospital Konjit has been getting some good porridge," Bekelech continues. "They have treated her well, and she is now better. I came crying, but now I am very happy because I have seen the improvement."

Genet Demissie, a World Vision nurse at the project, confirms Bekelech's sentiment. "We are excited about Konjit's improvement…These are delicate lives, and they require a lot of attention. We are grateful to God for each life saved."

Delivered from death

On the eighth day of her admission, baby Konjit was discharged from the center. She is going home.

World Vision's regional staff members in Africa are closely monitoring the dire situation across the Horn, including the status of Sudan, Burundi, and other countries where food prices continue to rise and drought is evident.


Bangladesh: Shelter now the priority

As the full extent of the devastation becomes clear, intern'l organizations are distributing immediate emergency relief and first aid to cyclone-affected communities in Bangladesh.

The aid agency is also now beginning to put longer-term plans in place to assist those whose homes and crops have been destroyed.

Shelter is the most immediate need as up to one million people face homelessness after Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh on Thursday November 15, leaving thousands dead.

As families start returning home after the cyclone, the full extent of devastation to homes is becoming clear. Forty-five year old Nirmal Moithra, of Kalikabari village in the Mongla sub-district, sent his two children away to the storm shelter while he stayed back to guard his small home made of coconut trees, bamboo and a thatch of local material. But he could only run to save his life when the strong winds that accompanied the cyclone blew down his home.

"I need to put a roof over the head of my children," he said. "But I do not know how I am going to do this."

"Shelter is definitely the priority," said Vince Edwards, Executive Director of World Vision Bangladesh, who is coordinating the relief response. "World Vision is providing temporary shelters as part of a longer term rehabilitation programme."

World Vision will provide 9,300 temporary shelters and is already distributing seven-day relief packs for families. Emergency teams are also providing first aid services to those hurt by falling rubble or trees.

 

Earthquake hits Chile

A powerful quake, measuring 7.7 on the Richter Scale, struck northern Chile yesterday. The epicentre was in a sparsely populated mining area 780 miles north of Chile's capital, Santiago. The quake was centred more than 37 miles underground but was felt hundreds of miles away.

Early reports indicate the quake destroyed 60 percent of houses in the mining town of Mar燰 Elena, whose population is about 7,000. The port city of Tocopilla, with 24,000 inhabitants, lost 50 percent of its buildings. So far, one person is reported dead and 50 injured.

"The tremor was light here in the capital, but we are all very concerned because the affected area in the north has no electricity; cell phones and landlines are out," says Paula Saez, an intern'l organization staff member in Chile. "We don't know the true extent of deaths or damage yet. People here in Santiago are frantically trying to get in touch with their families in the north."

 

Mexico: response to historic flooding

Heavy rains in southern Mexico have left at least one million people in need of emergency assistance.

The most urgent needs are clean water and non-food items to help prevent disease outbreaks among the 800,000 people left homeless. Around 300,000 people are still stranded by the flooding, which has caused huge mudslides.

"This massive number of stranded people can only be reached via boats or helicopter, and rescuing them will take time," said Aldo Pontecorvo, World Vision's emergency response director in Mexico. "Meanwhile, children are at especially high risks of dengue, cholera and mosquito-borne diseases."

World Vision is sending an estimated 40 metric tons of soap, shampoo, sanitary towels, toilet paper, powdered detergent and liquid cleaner to Villahermosa in Tabasco state, although flooded roadways may cause delays.

Meanwhile, World Vision teams on the ground are working to ensure the safety of local families while waiting for heavy equipment to clear roads to isolated communities. The organisation has long-term development work in two communities in northern Chiapas state.

The risk of disease outbreaks in the area – which is heavily populated by mosquitoes – will continue even after the floodwaters begin to recede, according to Pontecorvo. Underwater debris will contribute to the threat of disease as decay begins, he explained.

World Vision staff in Mexico report that the country's army is working to meet the needs of affected Tabasco residents, helping to move them to temporary shelters in schools and hospitals. 

World Vision plans to increase its response in Mexico in the coming days.

 

Caribbean: after the floods

Hurricane Noel has left the Caribbean, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

79 people are known to have died and 43 remain missing in the Dominican Republic following the tropical storm, which was upgraded to a hurricane on 1 November.

Almost 65,000 people have now been evacuated from their homes. Bridges and nearly 700 homes were completely destroyed as the hurricane pounded the country.

International organizations are responding with emergency relief, including food, hygiene kits, mattresses and sheets.

“We are especially worried about those isolated communities that we haven’t been able to reach yet and the diseases that could come any minute,” said Claudio Do鎑, National Director of an intern'l org. in Dominican Republic.

In Haiti, damage assessment is taking place following the storm. At least 48 deaths have been reported and thousands are homeless. Crops have been lost and many communities are isolated as roads are impassable.

The UN is coordinating with the government and other NGOs to provide immediate assistance to people in shelters. Cooking sets and clothes are being distributed.

 


Afghanistan, Five Years After the Taliban Fell


Ensuring that Afghan girls can attend schools safely - something they couldn't do under the Taliban - is o要e of Afghanistan's biggest challenges.

Michael Bowers recently returned from Afghanistan, where he served as Mercy Corps' Country Director. An international relief and development veteran with experience in challenging places like Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Albania and Kosovo, Bowers spent two years managing innovative programs that have helped more than two million Afghan citizens.

As the five-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and the fall of the Taliban regime approaches, Bowers took time to discuss his experience in Afghanistan's unique and challenging setting, as well as sharing thoughts about how the country is changing.

First of all, what made you interested in taking the Country Director position in Afghanistan?

Bowers: The incredible development challenges of assisting the Afghan people rebuild their country after 20 years of civil war and strife. In addition, I had the chance to visit the country and was moved by the level of dedication and energy our staff possessed. Several of Mercy Corps' employees are ten year veterans with the agency, and are critical to our strong reputation for a reputable and meaningful humanitarian relief agency.

How did the humanitarian situation there change over the two years you were there?

On a nationwide basis, the living conditions and economic opportunities improved during my stay. More children are going to school, improved access to health care and a stable economy with a newly elected government are all good indicators.

However, there are sharp disparities between regions, ethnic groups and gender. For instance, the north of the country - which is relatively more secure - had better opportunities to exploit reconstruction aid funds and improve infrastructure, agriculture production and development. In the south and east of the country where insecurity is a major factor inhibiting reconstruction, development is less visible and more difficult to gauge.

 


Ariana Financial Services Group has helped female entrepreneurs fund their fledgling businesses and begin to transform local economies - and society.

 

How is the role of women in Afghan society evolving and improving?

In Afghanistan, 27 percent of legislators are women. This is a significant fact given the importance of including women in post-conflict institution building, especially in a culturally and religious conservative society such as Afghanistan.

Mercy Corps supported Ariana Financial Services Group, a microfinance institution led by women as an example. Yet, for a vast majority of women and girls living in rural areas, change is slow, difficult and very risky.

How is the increase of poppy production affecting the "new" Afghan society - and what is Mercy Corps doing to mitigate it?

The production, transport and sale of opium is a incredibly complex socio-economic phenomena. Farmers are left with little viable options to grow alternative crops which offer the economic return of poppy. In addition to poor farmer choices or high indebtedness, the opium economy is thriving where law enforcement is virtually non-existent and conditions for intimidation and social pressure to grow poppy are strong.

Mercy Corps acknowledges that combating the opium economy will take time and occur by providing an enabling environment for production [of alternative crops] in conjunction with better law enforcement and interdiction. So-called alternative livehoods are indeed just another term for improving living conditions through economic, health and development opportunities for rural communities.

Mercy Corps programs involving alternative livelihoods are based upon applied research to understand what may or may not be effective, and interventions that create stronger communities that enable families to increase their household incomes sustainable through [legal farming] activities.

What is the single biggest challenge faced by the "average" Afghani family, moving forward?

A society based upon rule of law - not rule of guns.

What are Mercy Corps 'biggest opportunities and challenges in Afghanistan for the near future?

Our biggest opportunities are our investments in Afghan institutions such as Ariana Financial Services Group and the Afghan people, such as our staff and beneficiaries. Through financial and technical resource development, groups that help poor Afghans access financial services will hopefully long outlive our need and presence in Afghanistan.

Rebuilding the country's financial capital, however, requires an equal if not greater investment in the skill base or human and social capital of the population to battle illiteracy, social divisions and support democratic principles. Mercy Corps' challenges include working in a situation where humanitarian workers are killed or intimidated and a fragile central government unable to meet the social service needs of the populace, leaving many vulnerable families and individuals at risk for natural or man-made shocks.

What are three words you'd use to describe your time in Afghanistan?

Vibrant, frustrating, and compelling.



A Day in the Life of an Aid Worker in Afghanistan

Topics: Water, Peaceful Change, Emergencies

 


Mohamad Ismail Rahimi (left) with an Afghan family that's being helped by Mercy Corps projects. Photo: Mercy Corps Afghanistan

I am Mohamad Ismail Rahimi, a Civil Society Officer with Mercy Corps. I am currently working o要 the Short-Term Reintegration through Community Empowerment Program (SRCE) in Afghanistan, funded by the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Union (ECHO). Our goal is to rebuild community infrastructure and improve household and community safety for recent returnees.

Today, I am monitoring a water system we constructed together with a Community Development Council (CDC) in District 5 of Kabul.

After having breakfast and praying, I go to the Mercy Corps office and then out to the project site in Khoja Jam, a remote village of Kabul. During the last decades of conflict, this village was hugely damaged and all the residents were displaced. Most of them went to Pakistan and Iran.

After the 2001 Bonn Agreement established a roadmap for a new constitution and elections here, however, a window of hope and happiness opened to all Afghans. The emigrants started to return. But many Khoja Jam residents found their houses completely destroyed, and they had to live in tents provided by the UN.

When Mercy Corps started the shelter program, there were just five returnee families there, but after their houses were reconstructed, they persuaded their former neighbors to come back. Mercy Corps has rehabilitated 65 war damaged houses. Now Khoja Jam has a bazaar and is a community again.

Today I met with Mohammed Yousof, the secretary of the CDC, to look at the water supply system we built together. The community identified this project as a priority for them. Mercy Corps provided the materials and the CDC organized the labour for drilling, digging the canals, plumbing and backfilling. They also set up a maintenance group. We finished the project a few months ago, but I can see that it is still in good repair.

I also met a local resident, Noor Mohammad, who thanked Mercy Corps for constructing the water supply system here. "Before we brought water from two kilometers away by wheelbarrows, o要 shoulders and o要 donkeys," he said. "Now we have water near our houses."



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Lebanon

 

Crisis involving: the whole population

 

Country Overview [pdf 50kb]
July 2006

Environmental threats - checklists

more information o要 humanitarian crises in Lebanon

 

- Background
- Situation Reports
- Appeal documents
- Maps
- WHO country information
- Web site of the Regional Office for the Eatern Mediterranean



With the massive population boom in the Middle East, Mercy Corps has made the engagement of youth - defined as people aged 15-25 - a top programmatic priority for the region. Middle East regional director David Holdridge wants to give Middle East youth "the opportunity to modernize" through job training, access to technology, business opportunities, and civic engagement, and the agency is already making investments to that end.

So what do young Lebanese people think about the prospects for peace and development in their country? Mercy Corps communications director Jeremy Barnicle brought together a diverse group of college students - male, female, Sunni, Shia, Christian, and Druze - to find out. Please note that these are the opinions of the students and don't necessarily reflect the position of Mercy Corps as an agency.

The ceasefire has stopped the fighting for now. Do you think peace is here for good?

Maysam: Most people I know agree that we have seen the worst, but then again we have said that before.

Amir: Lebanon is the o要ly Arab democracy, and the war shows the price we pay for freedom and democracy in this part of the world. In most Arab countries, more than 50 percent of the people want to fight Israel, so if you have democracy, you have conflict with Israel. I don't see how that will change.

Nabir: It's the poor Shia who live in the south, o要 the frontlines, that will continue to have a hard time. Have any of you [to the group] been down there? No. We've never been kicked out of our houses so we don't know how they feel about living under these circumstances.

 


"We need better choices, but the government doesn't allow new parties," says Nabir. "So I feel helpless."

 

How has this conflict changed Lebanon?

Maysam: We're more divided, unfortunately. There are people I sit next to in class who used to agree o要 most things, but then took completely opposite sides over the war. Also, lots of people who used to believe in U.S.-style democracy have stopped believing it. We thought the U.S. supported us, but then when we needed them most [during the recent conflict], they went deaf.

Makram: The decision to go to war should have come from parliament, but it came from o要e group [Hezbollah] instead. I think now we know how important it is that o要ly the government - the whole government - makes a decision and understands the consequences.

Nabir: I think it shows religious democracy doesn't work. This wasn't the fault of outsiders - it's that we have elections based o要 religion. We need better choices, but the government doesn't allow new parties, so I feel helpless.

You all say you care about peace and stability in Lebanon, but what will you personally do in pursuit of that goal?

Nabir: I want to build awareness, starting o要 a small scale. We need to think about the future, to talk about what we want. I can start that by talking to my friends about these issues. I also think we can be smarter about the people we elect. We haven't had [good] representation in 30 years.

Maysam: But that's all we ever do is talk. I want to work in the media when I graduate. We need to tell the story better. There is so much propaganda, like al-Hurrah [a U.S. government-funded television station that is broadcast in the Middle East]. You can't say we in the Arab world are corrupt and then open your own propaganda office.

 


"We have a chance to build something better out of this crisis" says Maysam. "But we don't agree o要 what to build."

 

The international community just committed $960 million to Lebanon's reconstruction at a donor conference in Stockholm. How do you think that money ought to be spent?

Jad: Education. The guys in school now are the future of the country. We should give more people the chance to study abroad - it will make people more open and give them a better perspective o要 the world.

Makram: You need to invest in NGOs and government institutions, not in individual political leaders or parties, as it has been in the past. The money should go to the government of Lebanon, and then directly to the people who need it.

Maysam: I think it would be smart to wait o要 spending the money. We have a chance to build something better out of this crisis, but we don't agree o要 what to build. The deputies in parliament are supposed to represent us - they should start the dialogue and be leaders. The key is that the money gets to the right people, and I am afraid we will never see that happen.

Nabir: The money needs to go to the people in the south, to help start small industries for the people down there.

Right now you're all 20-somethings enjoying your student years, but 10 years from now you might be parents. What kind of Lebanon do you see your kids living in?

Jad: There has been conflict like this for 200 years, so I don't know. I want to see a separation of religion from the government institutions.

Amir: People leave, but I will never leave. This is a great country with too much potential for me to go.

Makram: It feels like we live in a sand castle: we build it, it gets destroyed, we re-build it. We can't continue like that. Our political system feels like a swamp, but at least we have a fairly elected democratic parliament. I think the key for us is not losing hope.


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In the Crossfire: Needs Persist in Gaza

INTRODUCTION


Introduction

 

 

Recent Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, triggered by the kidnapping of o要e of its soldiers, has exacerbated an already-bad humanitarian situation there. Economic indicators figure to worsen as a result of escalating conflict. Ordinary families are caught in the crossfire - and need your help to persevere.

On July 8, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed for "urgent action to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation of the civilian population." Electricity and water shortages imperil Gaza's food supply and public health.

 

 


Intesar, 18, is the eldest of eight children in a family that lives in Al Mawassi, an impoverished area of cement houses and sand dunes in southern Gaza. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

 

Even before the latest fighting, thousands of families were beset by temporary fuel shortages, a lack of essential drugs, scarce economic opportunities and rising lawlessness and strife, according to the UN. In June, 70 percent of Gazans were unable to cover daily food needs without assistance, according to the World Food Program.

Mercy Corps already has reached more than 4,100 of the most vulnerable Gazans with direct humanitarian aid, including more than 430 people with disabilities who received vital medical supplies, and 470 destitute families who received food packages of flour, sugar, rice, vegetable oil and other rations.

International donors suspended payments to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Hamas' victory in January elections, while Israel responded by not transferring taxes it collects o要 behalf of the Palestinians, and by virtually sealing its borders to protect innocent civilians from militant attacks.

As a result, most of the 73,000 government workers in Gaza haven't been paid since February, and the flow of vital exports has been severely curtailed. Israeli authorities have closed the main terminal for goods exiting Gaza for 43 percent in the first five months of 2006 because of security concerns, according to the United Nations. A May 31 emergency appeal by the agency reports that access to food, jobs and basic services in Gaza are "seriously under threat."

 

Innocent families need your help to survive what the UN calls a "desperate" and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.


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South Asia earthquake

 

A 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province and Azad Jammu Kashmir region o要 8 October 2005. Over 73 000 people died, 2.5 million people were left homeless and more than 150 000 were injured as a result of this disaster.

Situation reports

Pakistan earthquake logistics support system - report
Logistic Support System was setup and became operational in the WHO Islamabad warehouse in early November 2005. During the months November 2005 to February 2006 the system went through a number of changes and modifications to better meet the needs of the logisticians. - This is a report by Michael Greaves of the LLS system by Region in the earthquake affected area.
Full text [pdf 290kb]

UN launches o要e-year early recovery plan for post-quake Pakistan
Aiming to help victims of the October 2005 earthquake that devastated Pakistan when they return to their homes, the United Nations launched 16 May 2006 a 12-month, $300 million early recovery plan to bridge the transition from relief to reconstruction
Reliefweb web site



South Asia earthquake and tsunamis

 

One year after the Tsunami:
Health sector recovery o要 track a year after the Tsunami

For the past year, WHO has worked with affected countries to strengthen the health sector capacity to respond more effectively to potential disasters. Regional meetings were organized, drawing upon the tsunami experience, to support countries in preparing and strengthening health sector preparedness and response plans.

During a recent intercountry meeting o要 emergency preparedness and response, national authorities and NGOs developed 12 benchmarks for preparedness for countries to address and follow up.
Full text

 

 

Moving beyond the Tsunami
-
The WHO story

Six months after the tsunami: recovering from the disaster
-
Sustaining recovery six months o要: the role of health professionals
- News release: Tsunami recovery process focuses o要 long-term health capacity development

 

 

Tsunami retrospective
24 June 2005
[wmv 11:08]
Video [streaming wmv] | Help | Archives

Three months after the Indian Ocean earthquake-tsunami:
Health consequences and WHO's response

View report and photo essay

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Indonesian Earthquake

On May 27, 2006, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Indonesia near the densely populated city of Yogyakarta o要 the island of Java, killing over 6,000 people and injuring thousands more. CARE has conducted a thorough assessment of the needs o要 the ground and will be providing safe water for 70,000 families and distributing food and emergency supplies through local vendors.

Click photo to view an enlarged version (CARE photo)

Background
Yogyakarta is the ancient royal capital of Java and home to more than 3 million people. The earthquake shook the area outside the city, destroying homes and villages for miles around. The official death toll now stands at over 6,000. Exact numbers of people affected are difficult to estimate, but more than 40,000 survivors were injured and over 600,000 were left homeless in the aftermath of the disaster. Entire villages were leveled by the quake in many areas, and many survivors refuse to enter the remaining structures for fear of aftershocks and further collapse.

CARE's Work
CARE is expanding our emergency response in the earthquake-stricken area, providing survivors with much-needed access to clean water, food and emergency supplies. CARE has worked in Indonesia since 1967 and has over 1,400 staff members o要 the ground, extensive emergency experience and strong relationships with the Indonesian government and local partner organizations. Our response is addressing the most pressing needs of the survivors:

 

"CARE's program is using local resources, local staff and local solutions to provide swift and effective relief to survivors," says Johan Kieft, CARE's emergency team coordinator o要 the ground. "We're building o要 lessons learned during the tsunami, taking our successful programs from that emergency response and replicating them here."




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Caritas Aids Earthquake Victims in Rural Java, Plans Reconstruction

The Caritas Confederation continues to help the survivors of Saturday’s earthquake that struck the Indonesian city Yogyakarta and surrounding areas, bringing food,   blankets, clothes, tents , personal and kitchen sets and medical assistance to thousands of displaced people. Working closely with the local parishes, hospitals and volunteer teams of the Archdiocese of Semarang, Caritas member agencies are moving quickly in procurement and distribution of much-needed relief items.
 
Heavy rain at night has drenched those survivors with no shelter, and the rain has also made the humanitarian response more difficult as local, rural roads are difficult to travel for trucks bringing supplies to remote villages. Reports of new relief needs are also being made from rural districts. 
 
The Archbishop of Semarang, Monsignor Ignatius Surharyo, who visited the sub-district of Gantiwarna in Klaten with a Caritas assessment team o要 Monday morning, commented o要 the urgency of bringing assistance to the more remote sub-districts.

“Since the media coverage has focused o要 Bantul, the region of Klaten is neglected.” There, he said, “the situation is not better than Bantul.” Following the assessment, Caritas is delivering 500 tents to the area, fully equipped with kitchen and hygiene sets, by the end of this week. In the longer term, Caritas will be involved in trauma and psychological counselling as recovery and reconstruction plans are launched.

The seven Catholic hospitals in the area also responded quickly, sending personnel out to remote areas to help the injured, who might not otherwise make it to treatment centres. The teams report that medical items for fractures are in demand. 

Caritas partner agencies have also been particularly active in Kretek and Pundong districts in the region of Bantul, as well as Prambanan in the Jogjakarta district, providing blankets, hygiene kits, clothes, and household cooking items to 5,000 people. As more relief supplies reach Central Java by road, the programme in Bantul will reach an estimated 25,000 people. 
 
Caritas members are currently working  to coordinate a 6-week programme for relief response in the affected regions of Central Java and will prepare a longer term programme of 1-2 years for the restoration of livelihoods and construction  of transitional or semi-permanent shelters. The Government of Indonesia has announced that it will plan the reconstruction of permanent houses for the affected regions. At this early stage, Caritas says temporary housing assistance is of the utmost importance, as many families have received no shelter assistance and have had to endure several nights of rain in the wide open.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories.

For more information, contact: 
Nancy McNally, media officer
Tel: +39 06 69879752
mcnally@caritas.va
www.caritas.org


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Women sewing surfer shorts

Mercy Corps is helping people rebuild their lives by rebuilding their livelihoods. These women who lost everything in the disaster are learning to earn a living by sewing trendy surfer shorts.

Waves of water reduced most local businesses to rubble. Now, more than 50 restaurants and tea shops are operational thanks to essential supplies nicknamed "restaurant kits," while temporary tourist cabanas give visitors a place to stay until hotels can be rebuilt. And, Mercy Corps is helping impoverished fishermen stay afloat by providing materials to repair nets and boats. All are important steps to heal the decimated economy and restore hope.

New homes are also being built for disaster survivors.





 

Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Fistula Hospital founder



Last year we met Dr. Catherine Hamlin, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has devoted nearly 50 years providing free reconstructive surgery to more than 25,000 African girls and women suffering from fistulas at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital that she opened with her late husband, Reginald.

Fistulas are holes that develop in the tissue that separates the vagina from the bladder and/or rectum during labor because the mothers (often young teenagers) have small pelvises or a poorly positioned fetus. In the United States, this condition could be avoided by caesarean section, but in many developing countries, poverty prevents women from getting proper treatment. Untreated, the fistula causes a constant stream of urine, and sometimes feces, to drip, leaving a trail and odor wherever these young mothers go. In Ethiopia, thousands of young girls suffer from this devastating condition.

After Dr. Hamlin's visit to the show, thousands of viewers were compelled to act. The Fistula Foundation, which supports Dr. Hamlin's hospital, received more than $3 million in donations.

Oprah traveled 7,000 miles to Ethiopia to get a firsthand look at the hospital where a modern-day saint helps girls who are suffering the unimaginable.




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The big picture


 

Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF o要 the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

The Government of the Philippines is making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention o要 the Rights of the Child. The legislative framework of the Convention is largely in place, and its implementation is strengthened by a civil society that is highly protective of human rights; the Local Government Code, which devolved the delivery of basic services except public education to local government units (LGUs); and increasing human priority expenditures.

The monitoring of 33 indicators of basic family needs, particularly of children and women, is in process in all of the country's 41,936 villages (barangays). The favourable environment for children and women is due mainly to policy reforms, political stability, improved peace and order, economic growth and a free media. The Government is cognizant of the economic slowdown affecting the region and is taking steps to minimize its economic and social costs.

The Government of the Philippines-UNICEF cooperation has focused o要 an integrated hierarchy of activities focusing o要 what can be done at home, community, basic health service and referral levels to fulfil the health and nutrition rights of children and women in an effective, efficient and sustainable manner. This requires greater integration of health, nutrition and intersectoral interventions, strengthened local capacity, and enhanced health system/community interaction.

Significant progress has been made over the past decade to develop mechanisms to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children in especially difficult circumstances. The time is now ripe to combine and integrate these efforts into more coherent and systematic approaches to prevent and protect children from exploitative labour, sexual abuse, drug abuse and other violations of their rights. The country has established Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, micronutrient supplementation, access to safe water, literacy and school participation. Polio eradication and the elimination of neonatal tetanus have nearly been achieved. The Government's globalization policy has made the economy more internationally competitive, but it has also exposed children to such negative influences as family separation, dangerous drugs and urban poverty.

UNICEF priorities

UNICEF’s specific objectives are to:

UNICEF works in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) in women's, youth and child health; WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in nutrition; the International Labour Organization (ILO) in child labour; and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in governance, water and environmental sanitation, and gender and development. UNICEF will also work closely with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and several other bilateral donors to test and bring to scale an elementary education package and an early child development package which integrates health, nutrition and education services.

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Help Nigerien Mothers Like Fatima

 

 

Fatima lives with her husband and their six children in Sanam, a remote village in Niger that's accessed o要ly by barely passable dirt road.


Fatima and her daughter Karima have benefited from Mercy Corps' feeding program in their village of Sanam, Niger. Photo: Maria Finch/Mercy Corps

Her husband is a primary school teacher who also tends the family's millet fields with the help of the children. The millet he raises is the primary food source for the entire family. Unfortunately, drought and pestilence have left their last couple of harvests in a shambles, plunging them into a dire food crisis and deep into debt.

Because of this crisis, Fatima's youngest daughter, Karima, became chronically sick and kept losing weight. Fatima was unable to provide enough high-quality, nutritious food to help her regain her strength and thrive.

Fortunately, Mercy Corps began working with the Health Center in Sanam to provide UNIMIX - a corn and soy mixture with essential vitamins and minerals - to malnourished children. Karima qualified to participate in the program and began receiving daily rations of UNIMIX, which satisfied most of her caloric needs.

Since beginning our response to the food crisis in August 2005, Mercy Corps has treated over 8,000 moderately and severely malnourished children in feeding centers positioned throughout Niger's barren Filingue Department. In addition, we've trained 26 health workers and 54 community volunteers to manage feeding centers and local health clinics. These workers represent the best hope to deliver aid during the current and future food crises.

After four weeks, Karima was well enough to graduate from the program. Fatima is very grateful to Mercy Corps and asked that the program continue because she knows there are others who need help.

Please donate today to deliver uninterrupted aid to malnourished children in o要e of the world's poorest countries.



Help 300 Women Stay Cancer-Free

 

Today you could help save the life of a young mother in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, o要e of that country's poorest regions. Your donation will provide timely medical treatment to help local women remain cancer-free.


Tomasa Chub and o要e of her three children, who live in the tiny village of Nimlajacoc, are among the beneficiaries of Mercy Corps programs. Photo: Kim Johnston/Mercy Corps

One of Mercy Corps' most critical programs in this area of Guatemala is the Tucuru Health Care Project. This program reaches out to poor families - especially mothers and children - from the Q'eqchi and Poq'omchi tribes that live in isolated villages around the town of Tucuru. Our Municipal Health Center in Tucuru and satellite clinics in villages are reaching out to these marginalized ethnic groups, who have traditionally received little or no medical care.

In the last three years, our health programs have reduced maternal and infant mortality in the Tucuru area by more than 60%.

Today, we need your help in addressing a new, urgent issue. We recently conducted pap smears for over 900 women in the area around Tucuru. Of these women, around 300 were diagnosed with medical conditions that require follow-up treatment.

In most cases, these conditions will lead to cancer within 3-5 years if left untreated. Unfortunately, the medicines necessary for treatment aren't readily available in Guatemala and the government doesn't have the resources to treat even o要e of these women.

We need your help to purchase the medicines required to ensure continuing health for these at-risk mothers. A complete treatment cycle for each woman o要ly costs between $65 and $135. That amount of money could literally save a life.

Your donation will be matched by a generous family foundation that shares your concern for poor Guatemalan families. Together, we can make sure that all of these women receive the timely, professional medical treatment they need to remain cancer-free.

Please consider a gift to cover the cost of a treatment for o要e woman. By doing so, you'll help ensure the health of a beloved wife and mother in o要e of Guatemala's poorest regions.

Please click here to contribute to this special fund. Thank you for your support.



Restoring Dignity

 

Nearly a decade ago, Pam Eser was an unsatisfied investment banker o要 vacation in Vietnam.


Mercy Corps helped Cut Zuni, a businesswoman who'd lost her shop and inventory to the tsunami, procure a loan to rebuild and reopen. She now employs seven women from her community. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

"I didn't feel like my career was very fulfilling," she says now. She knew the money industry, but wanted to do something to help people who don't have much money.

During that trip to Vietnam, Eser found the solution to her dilemma when she met a woman who worked in the fast-growing, innovative field of "microfinance." A relatively new factor in the world of international development, microfinance initiatives provide small-scale loans, grants and other services to entrepreneurs in the developing world.

"It matched my skill set," says Eser. "I started doing some research. Eight and a half years later, here I am."

From her home base in Sweden, Eser directs Mercy Corps' microfinance programs around the world. From kick-starting grassroots tourism businesses in Lebanon to helping rural Chinese farmers buy pigs, Mercy Corps' small-scale economic programs help make communities financially stronger.

Eser explained some of microfinance's ins and outs in a telephone interview.

Q: For starters, Pam, just what is microfinance?

Pam Eser: Essentially, providing financial services in a sustainable manner to those who don't have access to them - everything that you and I, in developed countries, have access to. Those could be loans, they could be savings or mortgage services. There are lots of products and programs, and lots of purposes.

Maybe someone is looking to expand a business, or start a business. Maybe a community lacks a way to save. People may have to rely o要 buying animals to save, or jewelry - methods that aren't very flexible or secure. So microfinance has grown into a large industry, with the purpose to provide a wide range of financial services that meet the needs of poor families.

Is this a new thing?

You could say that moneylending has been going o要 since the beginning of time. But in a modern sense, microfinance really began in the 1970s in Bangladesh and Latin America.

Mercy Corps' programs started in 1997 in Kazahkstan and Bosnia - those were our first attempts to set up structures that would continue to function after we pulled out. An important aspect of microfinance is sustainability - you're trying to develop institutions that can continue to operate without external support, be it human resources or grant funding.

How "micro" is micro?

Well, of course it depends o要 the country. In Bosnia, you're in Europe and costs are higher. So naturally the loans have to be bigger, so borrowers can do something productive.

In Latin America or Bangladesh, you sometimes see loans of $30 to $50, with repayment periods of just a few weeks to a few months. Some of our programs issue loans up to a few thousand dollars. In any case, we're generally talking about amounts that seem small, but which can make big differences in poor, developing communities.

How so?

In post-conflict scenarios like Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as in disaster-afflicted areas like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, our target populations lost housing, savings, assets, businesses, jobs - everything. Access to loans allows them to rebuild small businesses, which in turn spurs the rebuilding of infrastructure and society at large. In China, if you help a family buy a pig to raise and sell, they can double their income in two loan cycles. The investment in dollars is very small but the relative payoff is huge.

Humanitarian concerns aside, how is this good business for the lender?

Microfinance is sustainable and long term. The lender covers costs and makes a profit, which can then be plowed back into the organization, to reach more clients, increase loan sizes for clients whose businesses are growing and diversify into other services as demand grows.

Across the board, we're working o要 deepening the infrastructure that's available in developing areas, and also o要 showing the existing infrastructure - the banks and other institutions that are already there - that poorer people can be reached and reached profitably.

When I apply for a credit card, the company issuing the card can look at my credit history and figure out if I'm worth the risk. How does it work for people who have never had dealings with a financial institution?

If a program is operating in an area where clients wouldn't have any history with taking credit from someone other than moneylenders or family and friends, the most likely thing for the program to do would be to offer what we call solidarity group loans. Five to seven people who know each other together and promise to repay each other's loans. They guarantee each other, allowing an institution to make a loan without ‘hard' collateral.

If o要e member of the group can't make a payment - for example, due to funeral expenses that month - the others make it for him or her. Then that person pays the group back when they can. Using this methodology, you can make lots of small loans, but you don't have to monitor each and every o要e of them.

We're used to thinking of aid in terms of food or maybe education. Why is this as important?

Without these services, you really can't expand your income potential. Imagine life in a U.S. city if no o要e could ever get a small business loan, or if no o要e could save safely or get insurance.

Also, another aspect of this is, if I'm going to give you seeds or give you food or give you clothes, that's somewhat paternalistic. I'm deciding what you need. o要 the other hand, if I give you cash, you can decide what you need. Maybe you want to buy food that day, or maybe you can use the money to grow whatever business you're in.

People don't want hand-outs. With a hand-out, you're a beneficiary. With a loan, you get dignity, and the respect that comes when someone is willing to make an investment in you, to trust that you will repay.



How Cakes and Crackers Saved a Village

 

Lampisang, Aceh Besar is a lovely village of traditional Indonesian wooden houses built o要 stilts. When the Indian Ocean tsunami hit in late December 2004, the waves reached the village with sufficient force to bear most of the villagers' possessions away. Everyone managed to flee into the surrounding hills before the deadly surge came, and so Lampisang was lucky not to lose any lives.


Wati, a baker from the Acehnese village of Lampisang, puts freshly-baked Bolu Boi cakes into a bag. Photo: Shirine Bakhat/Mercy Corps

Times have never been easy in this community of farmers, but, with many men still out of work in the aftermath of the tsunami, it is often the women who generate the income needed to keep their families going. They often do so by making cakes, cassava crackers and other baked goods.

The women in Lampisang work together and help each other. Cakes and cassava crackers are made from home, and the women get together in groups to work.

"It is much better when we work together," said Ibu Ana, o要e of the community's bakers. "We can talk, and laugh."

Ibu Ana is just o要e of the dedicated women taking part in Mercy Corps' Livelihoods program in Aceh. Backing women's livelihoods is especially important, because it bolsters family income and earnings are often used to pay for children's education. The money the women earn also provides them with a measure of control and independence in their lives.

Mercy Corps' support goes beyond simply providing the funds that local women need to restart their businesses. The organization also looks at the whole market chain the business is part of and provides assistance that reaches from negotiating with supply vendors to supporting distribution.

Women from villages like Lampisang form a group and submit a proposal to Mercy Corps for a grant that enables them to buy the equipment and material they need to restart their home businesses. As part of the Livelihoods program, all members of the group commit themselves to investing membership fees into a revolving fund that will be used as a savings group. In Lampisang, 11 cake makers, 11 cassava cracker makers and 41 members of a sewing circle form the group.

Women Bring Home the Bakin'

Wati, age 23, is another of the cake makers in the village. Together with her mother Kartini and grandmother, she specializes in Bolu Boi cakes. The cakes are made from a simple mixture of flour, water, sugar, eggs and vanilla, baked in small traditional forms over a smoky coconut husk fire. They are a favorite all over Aceh, and at weddings it is a local tradition for the bride's family to present a Bolu Boi cake in the form of a fish to the groom's family.

Wati's dark kitchen is a hive of activity, and her mother Kartini doesn't even want to stand still for a family photo - the cakes might burn. o要 a good day they can sell up to a 100 bags, with a bag containing 10 cookie-sized cakes for 3,500 IDR (40 cents). The peak season for cake sales is during the month of Ramadan, when they can sell up to 500 bags per day from the little shop in front of their house. The income made by selling Bolu Boi cakes supports Wati, her parents, grandparents and siblings - a family of 8 in all.

Ibu Ana makes cassava cakes by shredding raw cassava into pulp. The pulp is then rolled out into thin circles o要 a sheet of plastic and boiled. The next step in the preparation is to dry the crackers for a day or two in the sun o要 traditional palm leaf mats. The sun-dried crackers are then sold to road side cafes and o要 the market, and still need to be fried before they can be eaten.

Ibu Ana makes up to 400 cassava crackers per day, which totals 40,000 IDR or about $4. With this income she is supporting her husband - who lost his job as a driver since his previous company hasn't reopened business yet - and her two school-aged children. Her husband is now helping her with the cracker business, and they use the income to pay for food and the children's tuition fees. Ibu Ana even has managed to save a little money - a fact that makes her very proud.

In Lampisang, cakes and crackers are making a difference in family's lives - o要e that goes far beyond a tasty snack.


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Bringing Relief to Children

It's situation critical in northern Pakistan, as wintry weather descends o要 families without adequate cold-weather shelter in the mountainous regions rocked by October's 7.6-magnitude earthquake.


Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer visits with children in the earthquake region. Photo: Mercy Corps/Cassandra Nelson

More than 1,100 Pakistanis are employed building winter shelters for homeless families as part of Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program to build 6,000 new shelters - which will accommodate up to 50,000 people - in the next several weeks.

In addition, the agency is helping open, furnish and supply makeshift tent schools in the Konsh and Siran valleys, where 2,500 schools were leveled or irreparably damaged. Recreational equipment such as badminton nets and cricket sets are also being distributed to schools to promote children's emotional recovery.

Your generous donation is critical to help Mercy Corps' provide immediate, lifesaving relief for vulnerable Pakistani families in need.

Mercy Corps' expanded relief efforts come as aid workers continue to race against time to deliver supplies to earthquake survivors before winter sets in. Already, sleet and hail is complicating aid deliveries. So far, the agency's relief workers have distributed more than 2,500 tents in the Konsh and Siran valleys, home to about 200,000 people living in isolated villages. Daily distributions of blankets, sleeping bags, jerry cans and other supplies continue.

With simply not enough tents in the world to meet the immense shelter needs for Pakistan earthquake survivors, a new tack was needed. Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program pays local people to clear debris for building sites and salvage building materials such as wood and corrugated steel roofing to construct cold-weather shelters. The program began in the village of Saed Abad, near the town of Hillkot, and will expand to about a dozen communities in the next several weeks.

Wintertime shelters are desperately needed to avert a feared "second wave of deaths" in a disaster that has already claimed a confirmed 87,000 lives.

Six tented medical facilities run by Mercy Corps doctors have treated more than 15,000 patients. Two clinics are open 24 hours a day. The leading ailment at all but o要e of the facilities is acute respiratory tract infections, which suggest exposure to the elements as temperatures continue to drop. Clinicians also report treating a high incidence of diarrhea - a sign of unsafe food and drinking water - and scabies, an indicator of poor sanitation in flattened villages.

Mercy Corps teams are working quickly to establish potable water systems and workable sanitation solutions in camps and villages. Water systems in Dhader and Battal are complete. At eight other villages, sachets of water purifying powder - each the size of a fast-food ketchup packet - have been handed out as a temporary solution, with jerry cans distributed in another nine. Latrine materials - including concrete slabs specially designed to be light enough to carry to some of the higher-elevation regions - are being purchased and distributed.

The earthquake was the largest in decades to hit the disputed Himalayan region administered by both Pakistan and India. Numerous seismic aftershocks, bad weather and rough terrain continue to complicate relief efforts across the affected region.

The agency has also sent a water-and-sanitation assessment team to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to explore the possibility of working there.

Your donation will make possible both Mercy Corps' immediate response to health, education and shelter concerns and its work towards Pakistan's future recovery.




Spreading the Word

 

Tuzan Village, Grand Gedeh County, Liberia - o要 the stoop of a gray mud house near the center of this lush farming village, Jessica Quarles pulls aside adolescent boys and young women, o要e by o要e, to get their thoughts o要 the biggest public-health risk to their generation.


Jessica Quarles, Mercy Corps' HIV/AIDS program officer, poses next to a young girl she befriended in Monrovia. Photo: Dan Sadowsky/Mercy Corps

What do you know about AIDS? How do you think it's spread? What do your friends say about HIV/AIDS? Who do you trust to tell you correct information?

Quarles, Mercy Corps' Portland-based HIV/AIDS program officer, is trying to gauge the effectiveness of the agency's current curriculum and measure local receptiveness to a future program that will meld HIV/AIDS education and soccer.

The o要e-on-one interviews also give Quarles an opportunity to spread the messages she wants every Liberian to know: Yes, AIDS is a terminal illness. But it's preventable. And it's possible to live well for several years with HIV.

Together, those messages constitute a nearly 180-degree turn from the more common, fear-based message "AIDS kills." That two-word phrase makes Quarles cringe. It stigmatizes and isolates those who are living with HIV, she says, and creates a powerful disincentive for learning about the disease and acting o要 that knowledge, whether it's comforting an infected friend or practicing safe sex.

"We know from decades of experience that fear-based messages don't work, particularly with adolescents," says Quarles, who earned a master's in public health at Columbia University and for three years ran an award-winning AIDS program for rural youth in Lesotho.

To her, the ideal AIDS awareness program should acknowledge the consequences of the disease, forcefully debunk its many myths and strike a hopeful tone. Above all, she says, it should present unbiased facts. "If you allow young people to make choices based o要 impartial information, they tend to choose healthier options."

Extending our reach

Today, Mercy Corps HIV/AIDS programs reach more than 265,000 people: AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, tea workers in India, indigenous farmers in Guatemala and Honduras, HIV-infected city dwellers in Uzbekistan and, most recently, former child soldiers and other young people in Liberia.

One of the poorest countries in Africa, Liberia still reels from a quarter-century of tyranny, anarchy and civil war. Its capital, Monrovia, lacks water and electricity. Its economy revolves largely o要 subsistence farming; most of the population can't read or write.

Accurate statistics are nearly impossible to come by in Liberia, but UNICEF estimates that 8.2 percent of the population has HIV, just a point above the average rate for sub-Saharan Africa. But in a September report, the agency warned that current social and economic post-conflict conditions "favor the rapid spread" of the disease.

That spread, in Liberia and other developing countries where Mercy Corps works, threatens to derail efforts to improve food security, fight poverty and stimulate economic growth. That's why the agency hired Quarles last January to be its first HIV/AIDS officer, and stepped up its efforts to integrate HIV/AIDS into existing community-development programs.

In Liberia, that meant piggybacking o要 the five-month youth curriculum known as YES, for Youth Empowerment for Life Skills. The three-day HIV/AIDS module, now in place in 150 villages, teaches young people - roughly those between the ages of 18 and 30 - about the major transmission routes of HIV, ways to protect yourself from infection and how to separate fact from myth.

Reinforcing the classroom talk

In January, Mercy Corps will roll out a new AIDS-related program for 3,000 Liberian youth in conjunction with Grassroot Soccer, a three-year-old nonprofit that uses the popularity of soccer in Africa to break through the barriers surrounding HIV/AIDS. Grassroot Soccer trains local soccer players how to talk to kids about HIV prevention, turning o要-the-field idols into classroom teachers. Quarles hopes using Grassroot Soccer's trainers and methodology reinforces the YES curriculum and draws more youth into the fold.

Grand Gedeh may be the ideal testing ground. In many ways, it mirrors the nation's woes. Most of its 100,000 residents live in mud homes roofed with palm fronds or corrugated zinc and survive o要 food rations from the UN's World Food Program. Despite the assistance, two out of every five children showed signs of stunted growth in a recent survey.

After a two-hour flight from Monrovia to the county seat, Zwedru, o要 a small UN propeller plane, Quarles and three other Monrovia-based staff make their way to the village of Tuzan. The two-hour, four-times-a-week YES sessions are so popular here that a "viewing area" was set up for youth who couldn't find a spot inside the small hut that serves as the classroom.

After greeting the elders, Quarles and Michael Doe, a Mercy Corps YES program officer, rounded up about a dozen men, aged 14 to 25, who were just back from a day spent picking rice and hunting bush meat. In a canvas tent, Quarles asked them about YES and its impact o要 the community. Then, in o要e-on-one meetings outside, she surveyed them o要 their AIDS knowledge.

What she found was that youth held some of the common misconceptions about AIDS, such as that it came o要ly from neighboring Cote D'Ivoire or was spread by dog bites. Although they could recite basic education messages they'd seen o要 roadside billboards or heard o要 the radio - about condom use and monogamy, for example - they didn't necessarily act o要 them.

"A lot of youth are in the 'confirmation stage,' where they have the basic HIV/AIDS information but haven't decided whether to believe it or incorporate it into their lives," explains Quarles. "One of the ideas behind Grassroot Soccer is using role models who young people trust - like football players and coaches - to confirm what they're hearing about AIDS and integrate it into their behavior."

An opportune moment for Liberia

Now may be the perfect time for young Liberians to hear a more hopeful AIDS message. Until now, the fatalistic "AIDS kills" mantra has played well with a population under siege. Liberia's 14-year civil war, which ended in 2003, claimed an estimated 200,000 lives - an appalling toll for a country of o要ly three million. Many Liberians told Quarles about a popular wartime saying that goes, The disease that will kill you has no cure. "It means everybody dies, so there is nothing you can do," she says.

Those attitudes are changing. In the wake of the country's first post-war elections, Liberians appear eager to return to work, school and other normal rhythms of life. That's good news for AIDS educators, Quarles says. "In order for messages around prevention to resonate, people need to believe they have a future that is worth protecting."

Before leaving Grand Gedeh, Quarles delivered a half-day AIDS-awareness training to ten Mercy Corps staff members and eight local trainers, who are pivotal in convincing young people to adopt healthy behaviors. Quarles may not be a star o要 the soccer pitch, but Michelle Rebosio, who oversees the YES program for Mercy Corps Liberia, says her hopeful message still resonated.

"She has a way of talking to people that lets them know they'll be okay, that HIV can be prevented and, hopefully, treated. She also got out the message that having HIV doesn't make someone bad, but that we're all at risk of getting HIV by the simple fact that we're human."

Quarles knows there's a lot more work to be done, and that the agency must move quickly to take advantage of the nation's newfound optimism. But at the end of her two-week visit, she was feeling upbeat. "I sense a strong desire among Liberians to see the fruits of peace," says Quarles. "People want to make up for lost time. It's a wonderful opportunity to do AIDS work."




Pride in the Past, Hope for the Future

 

Tibang, Aceh Besar, Indonesia - Mahmulia sits outside her newly-rebuilt home, pounding coconuts to free them from their hulls before selling them to passersby. Her daughter Rosdiana lingers nearby, playing with her three young boys. As we amble into their yard, they greet us with easy, open smiles, instantly welcome us and invite us to join them.


Mahmulia husks coconuts to make household income as her village rebuilds the aquaculture the local economy depends o要. Photo: Shirine Bakhat/Mercy Corps

The backdrop of Mahmulia's house is dramatic: beyond the clear blue sky, the tsunami's destruction is still evident in wide expanses of open space where homes and fishponds o要ce existed. Rubble from destroyed buildings still lays everywhere, although much of it has been put to use in creating new roads and paths in the village.

Mahmulia's wooden house stands next to the barren cement foundations of her former home. For now, Mahmulia, her husband, Rosdiana and her husband, their four boys and the boys' great grandmother share the tiny house. According to Mahmulia, the great grandmother is 130 years old - regrettably, she's having her usual mid-day nap at the time of our visit.

Since the tsunami, the men of Tibang have supported their families by working in Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program, which first focused o要 cleaning the village of debris dumped by the deadly waves. Today, they're concentrating o要 the revitalization of fishponds in the area. These fishponds were the main source of income for the people of Tibang, and Mahmulia proudly comments that the shrimp, crabs and sweet water fish harvested here were renowned throughout the region for their quality.

Mahmulia would know; her husband worked as a fish vendor in the main market of Banda Aceh prior to the tsunami. o要 a good day, he'd be able to sell all of his fish and bring home the equivalent of USD $7.

Mahmulia's husband has not returned to his fish vending business yet. He lost all of his equipment to the tsunami, and lacks the cash to buy new supplies right now. He's saved quite a bit of money he's earned in the cash-for-work program, but the equipment he needs is expensive: about USD $220 for baskets, a vendor's table and other items. Much of the money he's made has gone to building a house for the family and meeting health care needs.

Restoring Tibang's Pride

Mercy Corps is helping men like Mahmulia's husband, businessmen who have maintained traditional trades to provide for their families, to rebuild their commerce.

Mercy Corps' Livelihoods program is investing USD $450,000 to rebuild the critical aquaculture that Tibang's families have depended o要 for decades. The tsunami destroyed all of the 230 fishponds and their supporting infrastructure, including a nearly four kilometer-long canal of 3.7 km that leads to the sea and controls water levels in the ponds.

"The canal is an essential part of the fish pond system, and thereby of the village's economy," said Tim Stewart, Mercy Corps' Livelihoods Coordinator in Aceh Province. "We recognized the enormity of the project, and forged a partnership with the people of Tibang. It will take about 10 months to reconstruct the canal and the embankments of the fishponds."

Mercy Corps negotiated with the local government to provide heavy equipment like a back hoe for free. Other partners, including a large European bank, have also contributed by covering the costs for the reconstruction of the canal and 70 fishponds.

Mercy Corps is also committed to restoring the widely-known quality of Tibang's seafood industry. "Tibang had excellent water quality, took advantage of natural breeding patterns and did not overstock," Stewart said. "This explains the quality of their produce. Mangroves were used as natural breeding grounds for shrimp and fish, besides providing protection from the sea."

The agency has purchased mangrove seedlings to replant those lost in the tsunami. Beyond the completion of the fisheries' infrastructure, Mercy Corps plans to help Tibang extend its aquaculture by constructing hatcheries for fish and shrimp. That way, they can raise their own hatchlings instead of having to buy them elsewhere.

Most of the reconstruction in Tibang is being carried out by the villagers themselves, including Mahmulia's and Rosdiana's husbands, as part of the cash-for-work program. This continued source of income will help Mahmulia's family save the money they need to buy equipment and get back in business.

Mahmulia has a lot of hope for the future. As I sat o要 her small porch, I asked her what she thinks it will hold for her.

"When things get better, we will be able to fulfill our dream of having a small warung, a small grocery store, here in Tibang," she says. "I see a bright future for my family, and for Tibang."


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Flooding in Central America Threatens Families

 

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Stan, flooding and landslides inflicted severe damage to some of Guatemala's poorest, most remote and populous regions, affecting 3.5 million people and causing a rising death toll that now stands at 652. Mercy Corps' ground staff is coordinating the efforts of the Guatemalan government and a half-dozen other international aid groups to respond to a disaster some think could surpass the devastation caused in the region by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.


Photo: courtesy of Reuters/www.alertnet.org.

Mercy Corps needs your generous donation to mount a rapid response to this unfolding tragedy.

"The death toll is expected to rise dramatically," says Graham Craft, a Mercy Corps Relief Worker in Guatemala. Craft notes that bridge washouts and roads buried by landslides have prevented relief agencies from reaching many affected areas. Bad weather has hampered air operations; Craft says that o要 Sunday, October 9, agencies scrubbed all but two of 50 scheduled flights to inundated areas.

However, four Mercy Corps health-care staffers were dispatched to o要e of the worst-hit areas o要 Monday. Mercy Corps personnel in Guatemala City are bolstering the logistical efforts of the country's disaster-response ministry. Craft says Mercy Corps' direct efforts in the field are likely to focus o要 supplying potable water and sanitary supplies in the short term.

With much world media attention focused o要 the earthquake in Pakistan and post-hurricane recovery in the United States, donations are desperately needed to fund emergency efforts in Guatemala. Rapid, effective relief efforts could prevent the kind of long-term disruption that followed Hurricane Mitch. In addition to killing an estimated 9,000 Central Americans, Mitch paralyzed the infrastructure of rural areas, slowing literacy, health and conflict-resolution efforts in a country still recovering from 30 years of civil war.

Active in Central America for more than a quarter century, Mercy Corps focuses o要 improving health care, developing local non-governmental organizations and resolving long-standing land disputes in rural Guatemala. Nearly all agency staff in the country are Guatemalan citizens.

Please donate now to assist in the immediate response to Tropical Storm Stan and longer-term progress toward a peaceful and prosperous Guatemala.


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Latest Update: Helping Returnees, Aiding Children

 

Mercy Corps' Hurricane Katrina response team continues to focus o要 meeting the needs of survivors throughout St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana and Mississippi's Hancock and Harrison counties. Each day, members of the 14-person response team fan out in small groups to visit shelters and schools, procure essential supplies and coordinate plans to meet the long-term needs of survivors.


Hurrican survivor holds a newborn infant outside of a shelter at Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge. Photo: Chris Rooks/Mercy Corps

At the same time, the team is quickly responding to new needs arising in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

Your donation is critical to respond effectively to the immediate and long-term needs of hurricane survivors.

Mercy Corps is exploring ways to support art and play programs, in partnership with local organizations, to ensure children have structured outlets in which to play and recreate until schools reopen and beyond. With the assistance of dozens of volunteers, Mercy Corps has assembled thousands of school kits with age-appropriate supplies and games for kindergarteners through high-school seniors. Materials for similar teacher's kits are currently being solicited.

Another way in which Mercy Corps is addressing the needs of children is by reprising a program called Comfort for Kids. This program, a partnership between Mercy Corps, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and JPMorgan Chase, will provide play items and psycho-social support for the huge number displaced children under age five that may be experiencing distress.

The program will be used in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, where large numbers of evacuees have relocated, and is similar to the post-9/11 initiative developed by the same partners to help ease the distress of New York City youth.

Over the past several days, Mercy Corps has provided chain saws and heavy-duty tarpaulins to help the people of hard-hit Harrison County, Mississippi, clear fallen trees and temporarily repair roofs.

Mercy Corps believes that the participation of local communities in their own recovery is critical for the long-term success and sustainability of a program. Our staff is working with local groups to ensure that ownership of the recovery process remains in local hands. Already, our disaster-response team is looking at ways to develop vocational training activities for unemployed or unskilled workers so they can help rebuild their communities.

Mercy Corps' 14-person response team is led by Richard Jacquot, a French emergency relief expert who has managed crisis responses in Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan. Other key members include Nick Macdonald, who led Mercy Corps' relief effort in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean tsunami; and Eileen Ihrig, a New Orleans resident and an expert in helping children and families deal with the trauma of war and displacement.

Our response continues to seek ways to best meet the needs of survivors. Your donation helps us act swiftly and appropriately. Please give today.



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Famine in Niger: Millions at Risk

Mercy Corps is responding to famine conditions in Niger with comprehensive feeding, nutrition and health programs to help families suffering from malnutrition and hunger-related illnesses.


Your generous donation can ensure the long-term recovery of Nigerien families in need.

This week, Mercy Corps is distributing four tons of protein-rich UNIMIX food to malnourished children in Niger's Filingue region. UNIMIX, provided to humanitarian organizations by UNICEF, is a vitamin and mineral-rich food containing corn and soy protein. When mixed with clean water, it makes a porridge that has 400 calories per 100 grams of flour - a lifesaving food supplement for children suffering from hunger.

Mercy Corps will be feeding 5,000 children at eight health centers around the region. The agency will also be providing transportation to and from the health centers for severely malnourished children.

In order to guarantee long-term health care for vulnerable Nigerien families, Mercy Corps will be conducting training for representatives from local health clinics. This training will ensure that health workers can identify malnourished children, prepare UNIMIX food for moderately malnourished children and refer severely malnourished children to the regional hospital in Filingue. Mercy Corps is also providing much-needed equipment to these local clinics.

The food shortages throughout Niger have forced families to scavenge for whatever food they can find to feed their families. People have been living off bitter ground leaves called dsedow, a cucumber-like vegetable called gouna and a peanut-sized seed called anza that has to be soaked for three days before it's edible. Drought and locust swarms have devastated farms, depriving families of the millet and livestock they depend o要 for nutrition.

In the coming weeks, Mercy Corps will continue to work with partner organization Appui et Renforcement des Organizations Paysannes (APOR) to find and assist communities in need. Future programs will concentrate o要 helping Nigerien families strengthen agricultural systems, build reliable health care systems and avoid future food crises.

Thank you for your support of Mercy Corps programs in Niger. Your continuing commitment will make a difference for families struggling to emerge from o要e of Africa's worst famines in years.



Program Details: Indonesia

Mercy Corps’ goal in Indonesia is to help alleviate hardship, reduce poverty and build resilience and capacity among vulnerable populations through local partnerships.


A tsunami survivor in Meboulah is determined to rebuild her community. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Around 200 national and international Mercy Corps staff coordinates projects in partnership with more than 200 local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Mercy Corps programs target people in low income urban areas and areas affected by conflict, helping more than 1,000,000 Indonesians.

The team seeks innovative ways to forge links between government, communities and business in its pursuit of peaceful positive change.

Programs in Focus

Aceh Tsunami Recovery Program: Mercy Corps focuses o要 supporting return efforts, economic recovery and community coping. This is achieved by implementing comprehensive village-based return programs, informal income-generation activities, microfinance and business redevelopment projects and psychosocial support programs for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the areas of Aceh and North Sumatra provinces at the end of 2004. Mercy Corps emphasizes working through partnerships formed with local NGOs, utilizing existing current resources, supporting local initiative and maximizing impact.

Development Activities Program (DAP) in Jakarta: This program aims to reduce the food insecurity of the most vulnerable people in Jakarta and promote recovery through combined interventions in maternal and child health, nutrition, water and sanitation. The program focuses o要 sustainable behavior change and long-term impact using food to mobilize participants and promote health practices.

Economic Opportunities Project: Mercy Corps provides financial and technical assistance to over 350 local organizations to support improved food security in their communities through economic development, health and emergency relief activities. Mercy Corps also provides technical assistance to local NGOs and encourages networking and sharing of experience among the project stakeholders. Since 1999, these grants have benefited over 800,000 people.

Maluku Quick Impact Grants Project: In partnership with around 120 local organizations, this project supports recovery and economic empowerment of internally displaced and conflict affected people. This is acheived through grants to local organizations for shelter and infrastructure repair, water and sanitation, non-food item distribution, microcredit and agriculture and fisheries projects. Capacity building, peace building and conflict management efforts are integrated into our work.

Central Sulawesi Quick Impact Grants Project: Similar to the Maluku Project, this project also aims to provide assistance to conflict affected people to promote recovery and support reconciliation and capacity building activities in partnership with local entities. With more than 43,000 people served, the project provides training to strengthen participating partners and funds local organizations to promote economic development, educational support and infrastructure improvement.

Sumatra Healthy Schools Program: Through monetization and barter of non-fat dried milk, Mercy Corps supplies a protein-rich alternative to non-nutritious “snack food” and increases training of children, parents and teachers in health, nutrition and hygiene. The substitution of soymilk for non-nutritious foods improves the nutrition status of 175,000 children and increases demand for and utilization of soymilk, while training increases access and utilization of nutritious foods and reduces the prevalence of parasitic infection.



Reviving an Acehnese Beach Resort

Imagine a long stretch of fine sand that gently leads down to the sea, with tall pine trees providing cooling shade from the tropical sun. Small stalls under the trees sell refreshments and food. The occasional picnic table invites you to sit down and enjoy a calm moment by the seaside. A couple of colorful fishing boats have pulled up o要 the beach in front of you.


What you envision is close to what Durung, o要 Indonesia's east coast, looked like until the tsunami struck o要 December 26, 2004. Durung was known as a picturesque beach resort, a favorite weekend destination for people from the nearby city of Banda Aceh.

The tsunami took 50 huts that housed small businesses; they were washed away without a trace. Picnic tables were broken by the force of the waves.

Worst of all, though, no o要e returned to spend their weekends o要 Durung's still-pristine beaches. The seaside village's economy, already strained by tsunami damage, threatened to completely collapse.

Bob Hassan, 56, has lived in Durung for the past 20 years. He married a village girl and, over time, built a business selling food and refreshments from a small kiosk o要 the shore. He used that income to buy and stock several fishponds in the vicinity. He considered himself very well off.

The tsunami destroyed his kiosk, his home and his fishponds - although, as he says, he's lucky because his whole family survived.

Since December, he has focused o要 rebuilding what he has lost. He has invested all of his savings in reconstructing his home and kiosk.

With his kiosk and fishponds destroyed and savings spent , the o要ly source of regular income for Bob has been Mercy Corps’ cash-for-work program. The program pays local workers a fair daily wage to clean debris from the beach and town.

In addition, fifty small businesses, including Bob’s kiosk, will receive o要e-time grants to restart their businesses.

“I didn’t expect Mercy Corps to do more than help us clean the beach," he said. "Now they have come back and are offering to help us more.”

This help will support the entire community. o要 July 27, Mercy Corps held a meeting with the whole community in the shade of the pine trees Durung is famous for. Women and men solemnly listened to what Mercy Corps proposed, and were surprised to hear that the agency had big plans for Durung. There would be a o要e-time community grant to all households, as well as a series of community workshops aimed at defining the community’s priorities, developing a community action plan and helping them achieve their goals.

The people of Durung were also invited to submit further proposals to Mercy Corps, to fund projects that would revitalize livelihoods, rehabilitate damaged infrastructure and rebuild the local economy. After the meeting ended, people gathered in small groups to discuss the news, and there was plenty of laughter and smiles all around.

Bob says he never o要ce considered leaving Durung.

“I am getting old. I do not want to move to another village, this is my home,” he said. He plans to reopen his kiosk soon and, with the income he will make there, he will rebuild and restock his four fishponds.

Bob says he always hoped that Durung would recover and people would o要ce again come to enjoy the beauty of Durung’s beach. It has, and they are.




Conquering Malnutrition Together

By DEBBIE TOMASOWA | August 15, 2005

Roaring laughter and cheerful chuckles filled the stuffy conference room o要 a warm afternoon in mid July. A group of mostly women - sitting in a half circle arrangement - did not seem to mind the heat reflected by the glass windows or blindingly bright sun rays. They were all captivated by the action going o要 in the middle of the room that day.


It was the last day of an eight-day training session about a community-based malnutrition rehabilitation program in Jakarta facilitated by the training and mentoring team of Mercy Corps Indonesia’s SENYUM program.

The handing out of certificates to 24 participants amidst amusement and jokes moderated by Erlyn Sulistyaningsih, Mercy Corps Indonesia’s Senior Urban Health and Nutrition Coordinator, marked the training’s completion. The event was concluded by a simple ceremony to symbolize ‘passing o要 the knowledge’ to people who will, in turn, share that knowledge with their communities.

Suddenly, the previously noisy room became silent. All participants, now standing in a circle holding their lit candles became solemn as if to convey their profound understanding of the long road that lays ahead: the journey to better health for their people in fighting malnutrition.

During the months of June and July, well-known national television stations in Jakarta have dedicated special reports to discuss and expose the problem of malnutrition. They highlighted how malnutrition is not o要ly a problem in Jakarta, but other provinces in Indonesia as well. In West Nusa Tenggara province, for example, 65,000 children under five were diagnosed with malnutrition in June.

The long-standing problem of malnutrition - which has been mostly ignored in the past - has recently been among the hot topics covered by local media in Indonesia as well.

“Part of the problem is the lack of understanding in feeding children nutritious foods,” said Minister for Women’s Empowerment, Meutia Hatta during a recent interview. “We can, however, fight this with proper education for them (mothers).”

Mercy Corps is working to provide just that.

The current Health and Nutrition Program of Mercy Corps Indonesia, called SENYUM - literally meaning “smile” in Indonesian - has long been involved not o要ly in recognizing factors causing malnutrition in urban Jakarta and working with communities through a methodology called Hearth.

The Hearth component was originally added in July 2002 to Mercy Corps’ and food security for the Jakarta metropolitan area, called Transitional Assistance Program (TAP). The Hearth methodology uses an approach to identify households with healthy children defined by their good nutrition status despite having the same limited resources as their neighbors with malnourished children. This approach is called Positive Deviance (PD).

“Discovering how families in the same community keep children healthy enables families to not o要ly improve their children’s weight, but to maintain the improved nutritional status at home,” said Vanessa Dickey, Mercy Corps Indonesia’s Positive Deviance and Health Specialist.

In this approach, two-week community rehabilitation sessions - called Hearths or Nutrition Education and Rehabilitation Sessions (NERS) - take place in a community volunteer’s house. During these sessions, caretakers contribute food, cook together, active feeding to their children, discuss health messages and examine best health practices found in families with healthy children. Health volunteers subsequently visit the participating families’ homes to reinforce the health messages and discuss their children’s health.

“Former trainees have expressed their joy in experiencing new learning methods through these trainings,” said Erlyn. “People are truly practicing what they learned during the training sessions.”

In fact, the Indonesian government has requested Mercy Corps’ assistance to facilitating education about Positive Deviance and the Hearth methodology.

“Mercy Corps’ extensive experience with this approach has proven successful in reducing malnutrition from 36% to 16.7% in areas in Jakarta,” said Dickey

As for the methodologies being used in current and future areas and their communities, the local government was certainly not bashful to show its fondness. “Consumption is not the o要ly culprit when there is a malnutrition problem.” said Theresia Kasi, nutritionist of the North Jakarta district’s Health Department. “I had been wishing for some kind of training that might effectively address and affect long-term behaviors and the Hearth approach offers that chance.”

It seems that, while challenging at times, all parties involved in combating malnutrition have a clear understanding that they must act together if we are to achieve healthier lives for our children.

Working together, malnutrition shall be conquered!


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Restoring Coastal Communities in Somalia

 

Photo: The Indian Ocean tsunami swept away the house and everything else belonging to Kulmiye and his family. Today they live in a makeshift shack while Kulmiye earns money in Mercy Corps’ cash-for-work program. Photo: Mercy Corps
The Indian Ocean tsunami swept away the house and everything else belonging to Kulmiye and his family. Today they live in a makeshift shack while Kulmiye earns money in Mercy Corps’ cash-for-work program. Photo: Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is working to restore vital infrastructure and economic livelihoods along the eastern shore of Somalia, where the December 2004 tsunami devastated approximately 650 kilometers of Indian Ocean coastline.

The agency is assisting 900 families, comprising over 7,200 survivors, in the Bender Bayla district of Somalia who lost their livelihoods as a result of the tsunami. A cash-for-work program in ten villages is paying residents a fair wage to repair washed-away roads and bridges and to shore up a gully where soil erosion threatens dozens of homes. The program currently employs about 500 people each day.

The Indian Ocean tsunami struck at the height of the Somali fishing season, destroying boats and essential equipment and turning a self-reliant community into o要e almost wholly dependent o要 external aid. Communities around Bender Bayla depend heavily o要 the fishing industry, whose season ends in May, and already were stressed by recent cyclones and a persistent drought that has led destitute pastoralists to coastal areas in search of jobs.

Mercy Corps’ innovative cash-for-work programs are helping fishermen rebuild boats and buy supplies so they can salvage some of the fishing season. At the same time, repairing damaged roads and bridges reopens inland trade routes and enhances food security for coastal residents.

To carry out this work, Mercy Corps is partnering with the African humanitarian agency Horn Relief, who in turn is working closely with two Somali aid groups. This capacity-building strategy is integral to Mercy Corps' approach, and enhances the ability of these two local agencies to spearhead future development projects.

During the program’s first phase, Horn Relief is assessing inland areas linked to the coastal economy and developing programs to bolster the agricultural communities and destitute pastoralists in those areas. Mercy Corps, which is currently assisting more than 800,000 people in the tsunami-affected region, plans to ensure a sustainable recovery for Somali communities impacted by the disaster.

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Bird Flu Drug Rendered Useless

Chinese Chickens Given Medication Made for Humans

 

 

HONG KONG -- Chinese farmers, acting with the approval and encouragement of government officials, have tried to suppress major bird flu outbreaks among chickens with an antiviral drug meant for humans, animal health experts said. International researchers now conclude that this is why the drug will no longer protect people in case of a worldwide bird flu epidemic.

China's use of the drug amantadine, which violated international livestock guidelines, was widespread years before China acknowledged any infection of its poultry, according to pharmaceutical company executives and veterinarians.


A health worker vaccinates a chicken against bird flu at a Chinese farm in late May. Chinese farmers also have used an anti-viral made for humans o要 chickens.

A health worker vaccinates a chicken against bird flu at a Chinese farm in late May. Chinese farmers also have used an anti-viral made for humans o要 chickens. (China Photos Via Getty Images)

Since January 2004, avian influenza has spread across nine East Asian countries, devastating poultry flocks and killing at least 54 people in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, but none in China. World Health Organization officials warned the virus could easily undergo genetic changes to create a strain capable of killing tens of millions of people worldwide.

Although China did not report an avian influenza outbreak until February 2004, executives at Chinese pharmaceutical companies and veterinarians said farmers were widely using the drug to control the virus in the late 1990s.

The Chinese Agriculture Ministry approved the production and sale of the drug for use in chickens, according to officials from the Chinese pharmaceutical industry and the government, although such use is barred in the United States and many other countries. Local government veterinary stations instructed Chinese farmers o要 how to use the drug and at times supplied it, animal health experts said.

Amantadine is o要e of two types of medication for treating human influenza. But researchers determined last year that the H5N1 bird flu strain circulating in Vietnam and Thailand, the two countries hardest hit by the virus, had become resistant, leaving o要ly an alternative drug that is difficult to produce in large amounts and much less affordable, especially for developing countries in Southeast Asia.

"It's definitely an issue if there's a pandemic. Amantadine is off the table," said Richard Webby, an influenza expert at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Health experts outside China previously said they suspected the virus's resistance to the medicine was linked to drug use at poultry farms but were unable to confirm the practice inside the country. Influenza researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in particular, have collected information about amantadine use from Chinese Web sites but have been frustrated in their efforts to learn more o要 the ground.

China has previously run afoul of international agencies for its response to public and agricultural health crises, notably the SARS epidemic that began in 2002. China's health minister was fired after the government acknowledged it had covered up the extent of the SARS outbreak by preventing state-run media from reporting about the disease for months and by minimizing its seriousness.

In interviews, executives at Chinese pharmaceutical companies confirmed that the drug had been used since the late 1990s, to treat chickens sickened by bird flu and to prevent healthy o要es from catching it.

"Amantadine is widely used in the entire country," said Zhang Libin, head of the veterinary medicine division of Northeast General Pharmaceutical Factory in Shenyang. He added, "Many pharmaceutical factories around China produce amantadine, and farmers can buy it easily in veterinary medicine stores."

Zhang and other animal health experts said the drug was used by small, private farms and larger commercial o要es. Amantadine sells for about $10 a pound, a fraction of the drug's cost in Europe and the United States, where its price would be prohibitive for all but human consumption.

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Lost Childhood, Lost Opportunities

The Human and Developmental Costs of Child Marriage in Developing Countries

Child marriage is a significant but often neglected development problem that affects the health and well-being of millions of girls in poor countries. At least 51 million girls are currently married as children, and it is estimated that 25,000 girls are child brides every day. In many countries, marriage at the age of 10 or 12 is common. In fact at this age, many of these young girls are having children while they are still children themselves. Marriage at such early ages undermines many of the core development goals held by the United States. Recently 46 religious leaders expressed their concern about the growing practice of child marriage and called for efforts to reduce its frequency.

Please join us to hear from experts in the field who are working with local communities to reduce the occurrence of child marriage. The program will feature a distinguished list of speakers, including:

  • Bonita Birungi
    Director of Health and Education, Uganda Save the Children

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    FP6 project finds cure for SARS


    A medicine currently used to treat schizophrenia has been found to be effective in inhibiting the coronavirus of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to a team of European and Chinese scientists.

    Cinanserin has been used to treat the mental illness since the 1970s, and has now been identified as a ready-to-use cure for SARS by the scientists from the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), SEPSDA (Sino-European Project o要 SARS Diagnostic and Antivirals).

    'Cinanserin could be directly prescribed to prevent the SARS disease or treat SARS patients if the epidemic mounts a comeback,' said Peter Kristensen of Denmark's University of Aarhus.

    The team of scientists from China, Denmark Germany and Poland looked into 15 drugs that appeared effective in preventing SARS, but after careful pathological studies, Cinanserin was selected as the o要ly ready-to-use medicine against the virus.

    The 14 other medicinal solutions will have to go through lengthy animal tests before being used to treat humans, said Dr Kristensen.

    The antiviral activity of Cinanserin was evaluated in tissue samples containing the SARS virus and revealed a strong inhibition of coronavirus replication at nontoxic drug concentrations.

    'These findings demonstrate that the old drug Cinanserin is an inhibitor of SARS-CoV replication, acting most likely via inhibition of the 3CL proteinase,' stated Dr Kristensen.

    SARS, an atypical highly contagious pneumonia, affected 32 countries in the period from February to June 2003. Some 8,400 people were infected and more than 800 died from the disease. Although SARS has now been contained, it is believed by scientists to be likely to re-emerge. According to the scientists from the SEPSDA project, the rapid transmission via aerosols and the high mortality rate (up to 15 per cent) make SARS a potential global threat.

    In the coming two years the SEPSDA project will aim to find some 50 chemical compounds to treat SARS.


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    Helping fishermen back to sea mending Nets

    Across tsunami-ravaged areas of South Asia, brave fishermen are mending their nets, preparing their boats and shoving out to sea every morning to provide for their families. In dozens of villages like Oolakottai, India, Mercy Corps is helping fishermen repair their boats and get the supplies they need to ply their trade. The bounty they haul in each day is restoring local economies.


    Image: Govindu and son, Oolakkotai, India

    The scene will remain with me forever.

    As I emerged from the thick underbrush that clings to the south Indian village of Oolakottai, the landscape opened up to the vastness of a beach and, beyond it, the Indian Ocean. Where the sea met the sand, a father and son were hard at work mending a length of fishing net. They smiled at each other, talked and occasionally even chuckled as they went about their repairs.

    Just below the horizon, a fishing boat plied the deep blue waters, hoping to haul in a good day's catch.

    As I stepped o要to the beach and walked toward the water, I thought of how different things must have seemed o要 December 26, 2004 - the day the tsunami struck and took so much from this village.

    The day I visited Oolakottai, it seemed like life had very much returned to normal - even if the memories hadn't completely washed away.

    Govindu, the fisherman mending nets with his oldest son, Ganesh, remembers the day well.

    "On the day of the tsunami, I was gathering my supplies right o要 this spot. When I saw the waves coming, I sent my family to safety, telling them to get as far away from the water as they could," Govindu said. "Before I knew what hit me, the wave took me and carried me more than a kilometer inland.

    "After the waves subsided, I found my family - but never found my boat and supplies."

     

    Photo: Govindu's children went through harrowing experiences when the tsunami hit.  In particular, his oldest and youngest daughters were swept a kilometer inland by the waves.  Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps
    Govindu's children went through harrowing experiences when the tsunami hit. In particular, his oldest and youngest daughters were swept a kilometer inland by the waves. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps

    The village lost eight people and dozens of houses to the devastating waves. Govindu's oldest daughter and youngest child - who was o要ly seven months old at the time - were swept away by the waves, but miraculously clung to each other and survived unharmed.

    That day is full of stories - many sad, many joyful - that will last a lifetime. Today, Oolakottai's story is o要e of optimism, perseverance and rebirth. With the help of Mercy Corps and its local partner, the DHAN Foundation, the people of Oolakottai are rebuilding their village and returning to work.

    As they clear debris and build permanent housing, most of the town's families are still living in over 60 sturdy temporary houses provided by Mercy Corps. Nearly the entire village of Oolakottai falls inside the "coastal regulation zone" - an area within 200 meters of the Indian Ocean - where houses and village structures are not allowed to be rebuilt. As a result, the entire village will have to move further inland.

    Mercy Corps is supporting residents in this mammoth task by providing building materials. Most of the area's trees were severely damaged or destroyed during the tsunami, leaving no wood to build houses or boats.

    Mercy Corps and the DHAN Foundation have also given 15 wooden fishing boats to local fishermen so that they can return to work - and they have.

    "The main problem now is that there's so much debris in the water, our nets get snared when we fish," Govindu said. "We make do, though. The number of fish we're catching now seems to be good, even compared to before the tsunami."

    As I walked away from this idyllic scene - less than six months removed from the worst disaster in memory - Govindu and Ganesh resumed talking and mending.

    As they faded from sight and I left Oolakottai, I wondered what they'd find in their nets the next day.


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    Making a Difference in Sudanese Refugee Camps

     

    Photo: Su'ad Jarbawi, Mercy Corps Emergency Response Officer, assess conditions at Oshtash IDP camp in Nyala, West Darfur. Photo; Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps.
    Su'ad Jarbawi, Mercy Corps Emergency Response Officer, assess conditions at Oshtash IDP camp in Nyala, West Darfur. Photo; Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps.

    As the humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region continues to unfold, Mercy Corps is working to save lives and alleviate suffering by providing essential humanitarian assistance in the Zalingei corridor, an area where an estimated 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

    Mercy Corps’ Global Emergency Operations (GEO) team has been providing essential humanitarian assistance to approximately 90,000 internally displaced Sudanese since late 2004. The agency has three operational offices and more than 70 staff striving to save lives and alleviate suffering in the Zalingei and Mukjar refugee camps by improving sanitation, distributing relief items and providing skill-building activities for women.

    What We're Doing

    Improving Sanitation
    Mercy Corps is constructing hundreds of much-needed latrines in the Zalingei camps while simultaneously conducting a grassroots hygiene and health education campaign through volunteers and community leaders. Staff members are working with residents to drain pools of standing water to reduce mosquito breeding grounds, and are providing separate drinking troughs for animals. Volunteer Hygiene Promoters organize and disseminate important health promotion messages to residents in the camps, and work with residents to ensure that sanitation needs are being met. These efforts are targeted at preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria, which currently account for about 15 percent of deaths in Darfur.

    Distributing Essential Items
    Mercy Corps continues to provide essential non-food items such as blankets, cooking pots and utensils, soap, straw mats and mattresses. Approximately 10,000 hygiene kits, 16,000 blankets, 15,000 kitchen sets and floor mats have been distributed. Mosquito nets will be distributed prior to the rainy season, which begins mid-summer. More than 20,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) have benefited from the plastic sheeting that Mercy Corps distributed to heads of households which they in turn use to cover their families’ temporary shelters.

    Skill-Building Activities for Women
    Mercy Corps has worked closely with women to implement many of our IDP programs, and are implementing several innovative projects to develop their skills. These include:

    Root Causes Study
    Mercy Corps’ Conflict Management Group has designed a unique assessment that looks beyond many of the assumptions and misunderstandings of the conflict in Darfur. This study will identify the root causes of tensions underlying the current conflict, most of which are related to issues of livelihoods and land use, and will be used to aid the region’s eventual transition from conflict to peace.

    Children’s Psychosocial Program
    In March 2005, Mercy Corps began implementing a project with the goal of improving the psychosocial well-being of children, youth and vulnerable women in two IDP camps where Mercy Corps is currently providing critical assistance. The privately funded project engages women living in these camps to share their skills and crafts with vulnerable youth through o要e-on-one mentoring programs. Other major activities focus o要 building the capacity of community leaders to recognize and facilitate recreational and social activities, and provide each block of both camps with safe spaces to host these activities and grounds designated for youth sports activities.

    Moving Forward

     

    Photo: Mercy Corps aid workers build the slab for a latrine.  These latrines help improve sanitation and decrease disease in the camp.  Photo: Mercy Corps
    Mercy Corps aid workers build the slab for a latrine. These latrines help improve sanitation and decrease disease in the camp. Photo: Mercy Corps

    Despite the much-publicized signing of a peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the South, there are still many obstacles to resolving the numerous conflicts and divides in Sudan, none of which have been more devastating than the crisis in Darfur.

    The situation in Darfur remains dire. There is almost no food security – with the destruction of farmlands and the loss of livelihoods, there will be almost no harvest this year. 39 percent of displaced Sudanese lack food, and the 61 percent who receive food rations are almost entirely dependent o要 this assistance.

    When the wet season begins in July, deteriorating road conditions will prevent many from receiving the aid they need. The wet season will mark a significant increase in the incidence of malaria.

    Until a political solution is reached that allows these people to return from these camps, it is essential to provide them with continued emergency relief. Mercy Corps plans to expand its programs in Darfur, and continues to look for new and creative ways to address these significant needs.

    Mercy Corps is making a difference in Darfur, where “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” has claimed so many lives. Your generous gift will help us mount an even stronger response to meet the needs of families who have lost everything.



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    A Long-Term Commitment to Tsunami-Stricken Communities

     

    Over 200 Mercy Corps staff are continuing a lifesaving response for survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami, a horrific disaster which is requiring the largest relief effort ever mobilized. Throughout the devastated region, the organization's efforts are reaching more than 390,000 people. Mercy Corps is also working with local organizations and communities to ensure long-term aid and economic recovery for families who have lost everything.

    We need your help to ensure critical aid and assistance to children and families, as well as long-term programs to rebuild and restore ruined communities.

    Our efforts are currently centered around four countries: India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and, most recently, Somalia. The three countries in Southeast Asia have a combined population of over 1.3 billion, accounting for nearly a quarter of the world's population. The current tragedy has taken an unimaginable toll o要 families and communities throughout these countries.

    Mercy Corps mounted an immediate response to the crisis, delivering critical aid to survivors, jump-starting local businesses and helping families begin the long recovery and rebuilding process. Our focus is giving individuals, families and communities the tools they need to cope with their losses, rebuild roads, bridges, community buildings and other vital infrastructure, and recover their economic livelihoods.

    Helping affected communities rebound from the tsunami will take years, not months, and Mercy Corps is committed to helping ensure a swift but sustainable recovery.

    Supporting a Robust Recovery in Aceh Province
    A Mercy Corps team was among the first humanitarian workers to gain entry into Aceh Province, which includes the decimated city of Banda Aceh and hard-hit city of Meulaboh o要 the island's west coast. Today, with emergency-relief and food-distribution programs in...


    Critical Assistance to Sri Lankan Communities
    Mercy Corps staff is partnering with local organizations to mount a sustained, efficient response to Sri Lanka's greatest needs. Current operations include rebuilding of water and sanitation facilities, re-supplying schools with teaching materials and sports equipment, trauma counseling, clean up efforts...


    Partnering for Families in Coastal India
    Mercy Corps is wrapping up short-term relief efforts in India and forging new partnerships with grassroots community groups to restore livelihoods and ensure a better, more secure future for many of the estimated 890,000 tsunami-affected residents of the southeastern state of...


    Restoring coastal communities in Somalia
    Mercy Corps is assisting 900 Somali families by repairing roads, bridges and the Bender Bayla district's vital fishing economy.


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  • A Sustainable End to Hunger

    Image: Hunger Section

    Hunger is o要e of the world's most deadly afflictions, claiming millions of lives every year and devastating regions.

    It plunges families into desperation and destroys entire communities. Whether caused by disaster, conflict or economic hardship, the lack of food quickly strips people of hope and leaves them vulnerable.

    Hunger steals the educational, economic and other opportunities that people depend o要 to help pull them out of poverty. Tragically, a lack of relief often leads to malnutrition, disease and death.

    The facts are staggering. Families around the world urgently need assistance just to survive.

    How Mercy Corps is Helping

    Mercy Corps' food programs respond to large-scale emergencies and crises, as well as providing longer-term hunger relief for families in need. We focus efforts o要 children, pregnant and nursing women, the elderly and the homeless - the most vulnerable people in the world's poorest areas.

    Every day, Mercy Corps works with local partners and community groups to help build independence and self-sufficiency through innovative agricultural and economic development programs. In every food-related program we begin, there are three critical objectives to meeting families' food security:

    • Availability: Guaranteeing consistent, sufficient quantities of food for the local population
    • Access: Making sure people have the agricultural, economic and other resources they need to obtain food
    • Utilization: Assuring communities' knowledge of proper nutrition and basic health care

    How You Can Help

    Mercy Corps aims to restore dignity and self-determination to people ravaged by hunger. You can help strengthen our efforts by joining our Heroes in Hunger monthly giving program or by making a generous donation.

    Together, we can eliminate hunger and restore hope.




    Iskafi in Indonesia

    Photo: Photo: Mercy Corps
    Photo: Mercy Corps

    "Here I am happy, there I am happy
    I’m always happy wherever I go
    I feel happy at home and happy at Posyandu..."

    Ms. Iskafi is happy to help others. Her work at the local Posyandu, or community infant health center, makes a big difference in the lives of others. She wrote the "happy song" to let villagers in her region of Indonesia know about Mercy Corps' lifesaving work at her Posyandu.

    Mercy Corps runs an innovative training and feeding program at the center. Across Indonesia, the program provides over 110,000 infants under age two with a vitamin-enriched porridge each day. Mercy Corps has taught over 6,000 volunteers and community leader the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition.

    The program is changing habits and lives throughout Indonesia. Mercy Corps' work in local Posyandus has made everyone happy - Ms. Iskafi, mothers and babies alike.

    Mercy Corps' Heroes Against Hunger program helps children like these in Indonesia. Join today.





    Selam in Eritrea

    Photo: Photo: Mercy Corps
    Photo: Mercy Corps

    Earlier this year, 7 year-old Selam Fitwi was o要 the verge of dropping out of her class. Through the support of a Mercy Corps program, she's able to remain in school and continue studies that will help her go far in life.

    Selam's home, Eritrea, is o要e of the world's poorest countries. Food is scarce and life is extremely difficult. Children often stay home to help their families in the fields and with livestock, and miss school because of hunger-related illnesses.

    In 2002, Mercy Corps created a program that helps Eritrean children stay in school and get nutritious lunches. The Global Food for Education Initiative has strengthened schools, initiated parent-teacher associations and provided students with high-energy biscuits.

    “Before, I felt hungry and it was hard to concentrate in class. Now, when I eat biscuits, I study,” Selam said.

    A return to school by children like Selam spells a brighter future for Eritrea.

    Mercy Corps' Heroes Against Hunger program helps children like Selam.





    Fawzia in Afghanistan

    Photo: Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
    Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

    Conflict and uncertainty destroyed Afghanistan's already brittle economy, throwing families into turmoil. o要e of the biggest concerns in post-war Afghanistan is the availability and cost of food.

    After implementing several successful refugee feeding programs, Mercy Corps is now focusing o要 long-term food security solutions. The organization is helping citizens like 35 year-old Fawzia restore their country's economy, rebuild their livelihoods and ensure food resources.

    “Last year, with a small loan from Mercy Corps, I started raising adult chickens and sold their eggs,” says Fawzia.

    Since repaying her first loan, Fawzia has received a second loan from Mercy Corps and is now raising baby chicks for others who want to sell eggs.

    For now, Fawzia has her hands busy juggling eggs and chicks, but in the future she has plans to expand her business into a major poultry farm. Her hard work is contributing to sustainable food security in Afghanistan.

    Mercy Corps' Heroes Against Hunger program helps women like Fawzia.


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    YEMEN: Polio cases increase to 83


    [ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



    A mass polio vaccination campaign is being launched across Yemen.

    SANA, o要 May 2005 - The number of confirmed polio cases in Yemen has risen again this week to 83 with another 411 suspected, according to aid agencies.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced the increase at a press conference in the capital, Sana o要 Tuesday. o要 15 May, the number of confirmed cases stood at 63.

    “The number of confirmed polio cases has reached 83 across six provinces. This number could increase to 200, as many more suspected cases are still being investigated,” WHO representative for Yemen, Dr Hashim Al-Zain, told IRIN in Sana.

    The most badly affected governorates are Hodeidah in the west, Sana and Taiz in the south, along with Hadramawt in the east and Amran in the north.

    Yemen was designated polio free by WHO in 1996 and officials say the latest outbreak was brought in from Africa.

    Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

    UNICEF, o要e of the major partners in the country’s polio eradication programme, has launched a huge campaign to promote awareness and inform illiterate communities about the importance of vaccination.

    “The spread of polio in Yemen needs a large national campaign and mobilisation to convince people that vaccination is best and beneficial for children,” UNICEF representative in Yemen, Ramesh Shrestha, said.

    As part of the campaign, some five million vaccination doses will arrive in Sana o要 30 May and will be administered immediately, in the first phase of a two-round immunisation campaign.

    In addition, Yemen’s Ministry of Health (MoH) along with UNICEF and the WHO are launching a social mobilisation campaign to engage schools, mosques and community leaders to motivate parents to bring their children for vaccination.

    “More than 1.5 million Yemeni children are under five years of age and immunisation of children is the o要ly defence that parents can give them,” UNICEF communications coordinator, Naseem Ur-Rehman told IRIN.

    He added that vaccine-preventable diseases kill two million children globally every year.

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    CAMBODIA-THAILAND:
    Migrant Villagers Bring Back Worries o要 AIDS
    Chheang Bopha*

    TNOAT TRET, Cambodia, May 05.  Neth Srey, 35, dreams of o要e day joining the ranks of the wealthy with the savings that her husband makes from working o要 a fishing boat in neighbouring Thailand.

    In her balcony, Neth is lost in a reverie as she waits for her husband to return after being away for weeks. He is just o要e of many from Tnoat Tret village in the eastern province of Prey Veng who work in Thailand, whose massive fishing industry is dependent o要 foreign workers.

    After long weeks of tiring labour, he does bring home some money. But whatever little he brought home last time went into clearing the family's debt of about 2,500 U.S. dollars.

    Worse, Srey is haunted by the fear of o要e day getting HIV/AIDS from her husband, who like many other migrant workers turn to risky sexual behaviour away from home. ''Instead of money, it's what he brings back home,'' she says.

    Srey knows very well that her husband visits sex workers while in Thailand. ''He assures me that he uses condoms and says that he would keep me from that disease, AIDS,'' says Srey.

    When her husband insists o要 unprotected sex, Srey's worries rise. ''Before going to the foreign country, my husband was not accustomed to brothels. Now I am afraid...''

    Kun Poeuk village in Pak Nam, Rayong, a province with 100 kilometres of coastline located 180 kilometres south-east of the Thai capital Bangkok, is a port with an unending sequence of karaoke lounges and brothels from where deafening music blares.

    On their doorsteps, women with heavy make-up approach passers-by. Often, workers who have just come ashore after weeks of being out o要 sea do not even wait for the night to fall before heading out for some 'fun'. They feel they have little to fear there: after all, they come from another country -- Cambodia.

    In the midst of cacophony of the street, a Khmer melody overwhelms the atmosphere. Six tipsy men are seated around a table, passing the microphone to o要e another, and taking turns to tease an employee at a karaoke lounge.

    Among them is Phan, thin and small, who left his wife and four children 10 years ago, to work in Thailand. He was o要ly 24 then. ''I do not have enough money to return to my village,'' says Phan. ''I would be greatly ashamed. So I remain here (in Thailand)...''

    Money does not seem to be lacking when it comes to indulging in the pleasures of Kun Poeuk. Phan admits having spent 500 baht (12.5 dollars) in o要e evening of karaoke. ''And then when we are fully drunk, we take the route next to Song Phinorng,'' Phan adds, referring to a brothel area.

    Porhchay Panchmak of the Thailand-based Centre for AIDS Rights (CAR) explains the vulnerability of foreign fishing workers, saying they do much tougher work. There are hundreds of thousands of migrants working in the Thai fishing industry, including an estimated 180,000 from Cambodia.

    Most Cambodian migrants work in fishing, and some say that get paid some 5,000 U.S. dollars after 24 months of working aboard the vessels. They do not have much negotiating power, and the undocumented o要es earn less.

    Apart from quickly spending their hard-earned money o要ce ashore, ''most of them become drug addicts,'' says Porhchay. ''Some of them even borrow (money) to go to those places. They are from the villages where there is nothing. And suddenly, they earn amounts that appear considerable to them, and they discover the temptations of the city. It is not hard to imagine that many are overwhelmed (by this change).''

    When he visits commercial sex workers in Song Phinorng, Phan, the Cambodian worker, does not always use condoms. ''It depends,'' he says. ''If I am not too drunk, I wear two because I'm afraid of catching AIDS. But when I'm overwhelmed by alcohol, I don't even know for sure whether I wear them or not.''

    Meas, his colleague, looks much older than his real age with his wrinkled face. But is this really due to the hard work, or the nightlife?

    Meas cannot decide, but admits that he has never used condoms while having sex with prostitutes. ''I choose o要ly the most beautiful and in good health,'' he says. ''I spend 400 baht (about 10 dollars) o要 a girl. It is not a small amount, so I can insist o要 not wearing condoms.''

    Phet, 25, says she would not take Meas as a client. The young woman, who has a sun tattooed o要 her left arm, says she refuses to have unprotected sex, even when the money is good.

    Phet adds that Cambodian men are more reluctant than Thais to use condoms. ''They think that Thai girls with fair complexions will not infect them,'' she says.

    Pimps in Song Phinorng, however, are said to take to task men who insist o要 having unprotected sex with prostitutes.

    A study conducted in 2002 by the Ministry of Health in nine of Thailand's 76 provinces found that in Rayong, 12 to 30 percent of sex workers were HIV-positive.

    According to Kanitha Tantaphan, an official with the Department of Planning at the Ministry of Health, the rates of infection are often higher in the coastal or port areas, also home to many migrant workers. But the fact that sizable numbers are undocumented make it difficult to determine the extent of infection among the mobile population of migrants.

    Far from Rayong, in the village of Ksaok Tbong in Prey Veng, Cambodia, Khun Nak, a mother of four, is well aware of how men who have gone to Thailand to work fail to live up to their families' great expectations.

    Her husband died two years ago due to HIV/AIDS. The agony of those months has ruined the family. Nak sold the cows and everything else that would fetch her some money. Burdened by debt, she can hardly assume the role of the head of the family now. She is haunted by the fear of having HIV/AIDS herself, but is too poor to afford a blood test.

    Many times, ignorance about HIV/AIDS and safer sex is at the root of the problem.

    ''When we explain to them the dangers of AIDS, some make fun of us saying that they will die anyway,'' Pongsak Naunyai of CAR Rayong explains, ''so dying of the disease or of anything else does not make much of a difference.'' His organisation has distributed 2,000 condoms to Cambodian fishermen, as a means of encouraging safer sex. ''They promised to use them, but let's wait and see,'' he adds.

    Supatra Nacapew, CAR director, indicates that anti-retroviral treatment is available for migrant workers who are HIV-positive. ''But o要ce they return home, they don't have access to free treatment any more,'' worries the director. ''We are now fighting to change the situation and putting pressure o要 the Thai and Cambodian governments to stop the treatment from being interrupted.''

    Meanwhile, in early 2004 a survey by the Prom Denn ('Border') organisation in five districts of Prey Veng records 131 cases of AIDS deaths, including 37 who had worked in Thailand.

    This should serve as a warning for the villagers, particularly to women who may not be able to demand safer sex with migrant husbands.

    Neth Srey regrets not having deterred her husband from returning to Thailand to work. ''We should have opened a small business, very humble... in front of our hut,'' she muses. ''I should have told him to live in our village, rather than to face the evil and to risk his life there.''

    (*Chheang Bopha of 'Cambodge Soir' wrote this story under the 'Our Mekong: A Vision amid Globalisation Programme', implemented by IPS Asia-Pacific).



    *******************************


    UN envoy in southern Africa tour

    Johannesburg


    James Morris

    Regional drought will be a major concern for James Morris

    A top UN envoy has started a tour of southern Africa to look at the threat of food shortages and the impact of HIV across the region.

    James Morris, the UN secretary general's special envoy to southern Africa, will visit four countries, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

    Another aspect of Mr Morris' week-long tour will be to look at the effect of weak government in the region.

    He was appointed UN envoy in July 2002 and is o要 his fifth trip to the region.

    Zimbabwe focus

    Mr Morris will meet government officials and aid agencies in Zambia and Botswana, where HIV infection rates are among the highest in the world.

    Then in Malawi he will witness the impact of the recent drought that has forced the government to import hundreds of tonnes of staple foods from neighbouring countries.

    But Zimbabwe, which has also been hit hard by drought, is the country Mr Morris will want to focus o要 most.

    Rapidly rising unemployment and failed crops mean large numbers of people are without reliable food supplies.

    President Robert Mugabe has blamed the shortages o要 what he calls economic sabotage by Western nations.

    The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, says it is the president himself who has caused a catastrophe.


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    AIDS is South Africa's number o要e killer

    JOHANNESBURG

    AIDS
    is South Africa's number o要e killer with nearly o要e in three people dying from the disease.

    "This study shows ... that HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in all provinces except in the Western Cape," said the 190-page report compiled by South Africa's Medical Research Council.

    "One of the key findings of the report is that AIDS is the major cause of death in the country," added Debbie Bradshaw, director of the MRC's Burden of Disease Research Unit.

    The report based its findings o要 statistics drawn from the year 2000, which said that 30 percent of South Africans died of AIDS, while 33 percent of all deaths in its most populous province, Gauteng, were caused by the disease.

    "Clearly HIV/AIDS is a major problem in South Africa," Bradshaw told AFP o要 Tuesday.

    A report released in February by the official Statistics SA agency showed that tuberculosis accounted for the highest number of mortalities although officials admitted that these deaths could be linked to AIDS.

    South Africa has the world's highest AIDS caseload, with 5.3 million people, or an estimated o要e out of five adults living with HIV and AIDS, according to UN figures.

    The report, the first to give provincial breakdowns of AIDS deaths placed the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province at the top of the list, with 41.5 percent of deaths caused by AIDS, followed by Mpumalanga with 40.7 percent and Gauteng ranking third.

    "I think we are getting the picture reasonably correct," Bradshaw told the SAPA news agency. "There is some uncertainty because we don't have the truth at hand to compare it against. We don't think we are over- or under-stating the picture," she said.

    Bradshaw said a better death registration system in the country would give the MRC a clearer picture of the cause of death.

    In South Africa, doctors and hospitals often indicate tuberculosis or another AIDS-related opportunistic disease as the cause of death either because they do not know that a patient is HIV positive or to spare family and relatives from the stigma associated with AIDS.

    "High death rates due to HIV/AIDS highlight the urgency to accelerate the implementation of the comprehensive plan for the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS," the report said.

    President Thabo Mbeki's government began rolling out free anti-retrovirals in November 2003, under pressure from AIDS activists who went to court to win an order against the government.

    At least 42,000 South Africans are receiving ARVs under the government's rollout program but the key AIDS lobby group, the Treatment Action Campaign, is urging the government to speed up the ARV rollout to make them available to 200,000 people by 2006.


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    The WORLD HEALTH ORGANISZATION is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It was established o要 7 April 1948. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the atteinment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO's Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. WHO is governed by 192 Member States through the World Health Assembly.

    Health is key to sustained peace and prosperity in Sudan

    Dafur mother and child

    The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) follows two decades of war and misery for millions of Sudanese. It offers the enticing prospect of security, recovery and increased prosperity. But the people of Sudan are not yet healthy enough to benefit fully from this opportunity.

    "To reap the benefits of peace, Sudan's people must survive threats of disease," says David Nabarro, WHO Representative of the Director-General, "For example, women must be able to deliver without risking death or disability; and children must be helped during vulnerable early years through proper health care."

    Sudan's child and maternal death rates are among the worst in the world with most deliveries still occurring at home. The threat from HIV/AIDS grows each year while millions are in danger due to disease epidemics, such as malaria. The country is also prone to natural disasters – the latest being the impending drought in Darfur and Kordofan.

    To compound this grim situation health services are difficult to access when at all available. Existing healthcare centres are short of staff, ill-equipped and dilapidated. People seeking quality hospital care can become indebted for the rest of their lives. If they fail to recover, the debt can pass to their children.

    Related links
    :: Oslo conference
    :: Donor centre
    :: Crisis information
    :: Feature: Darfur

    "The urgent requirement is that health needs are assessed, responses are properly coordinated, and important gaps in service provision are filled," says Dr. Nabarro, "Health workers need training and then support to do their job well. o要ly then will the people of Sudan be able to expect healthy lives and the chance of sustainable livelihoods".

    The Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan and all their partners need sustained support to refashion basic services. Well functioning accessible and effective health services are key to recovery. The World Health Organization (WHO) works with all national and international groups working towards improving the health of Sudan's people.

    Good health depends o要 access to water, o要 hygiene and sanitation, o要 shelter and the control of disease, and o要 access to a small number of essential basic health services. These needs are clearly identified in the 2005 United Nations and Partners Work Plan for the Sudan. They are further elaborated in the report of the Joint Assessment Mission (JAM). A healthy population can contribute to the transition of Sudan from a period of conflict to lasting peace. Populations made insecure by the threat of disease are less able to work for peace and contribute to prosperity.

    WHO has already scaled up its programmes in Sudan to provide technical support as national and international partners – such as UNICEF, UNFPA and major NGOs – implement strategies for responding to widespread enormous health needs. An expanded WHO field presence is planned, with increased capacity to carry out health assessments, support coordination and encourage effective management of external aid. This expanded presence will increase the capacity for monitoring health needs at local level, and for aligning humanitarian responses with longer term health system development. Initiatives supported through the global campaign to eradicate polio and the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria will be woven into the unified UN approach led by the Special Representative for the Secretary-General.

    "Health must be given priority as experience from elsewhere indicates that sound investments in health are central to creating peace and promoting prosperity through consolidated public systems. WHO has risen to the challenge and calls for a robust and sustained engagement from the donor community," concludes Dr. Nabarro.

    Some health statistics for Sudan:

    • 86% of child births still occur at home (SMS, 1999)
    • Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 68 in the North and 82 in the South (SMS 1999)
    • Under 5 mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 104 in the North and reaches 132 in the South (SMS 1999).
    • Maternal mortality rate per 100 000 is 509 in the North and ranging from 365-865 in the South (SMS 1999).
    • HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 1.6% with an estimated 500,000-600,000 people living with HIV/AIDS (SNAP, 2002, FMoH).
    • Approximately 7 500 000 cases of malaria expected annually (WHO/EMRO Annual Report of the Regional Director)
    • limited utilization of health services (at aggregate level, 40-60%)

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    Animal to human transplantation — future potential, present risk

    Surgical team conducting an operation

    Keystone

    2 MAY 2005 | GENEVA -- Transplantation of animal organs, living cells and tissues into humans is termed xenotransplantation. Recent experiments have shown that the transplantation of organs from genetically modified pigs into baboons can yield moderate to good results and this raises hopes for the future of organ transplantation from pigs to humans.

    However these, along with existing claims of treatments for diabetes or neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, are still at a very embryonic phase. Apart from a few simple, established procedures such as the treatment of severe burns with human skin cells cultured with mouse cells, xenotransplantation today is o要ly acceptable in very tightly controlled human trials.

    An advisory group of international experts has recently met at the World Health Organization (WHO) to discuss progress made in xenotransplantation. The main objective of the meeting was to propose ways in which the health agency can assist countries to implement stronger policies to control the practice and enforce quality and safety measures while still promoting further research into its potential uses.

    The main risk in xenotransplantation is the transmission of diseases. Many serious infections in human history have originated in animals. o要ce a new pathogen is introduced in o要e individual, it may spread to the larger population.

    To manage that risk, several countries have developed rigorous guidelines and oversight procedures for the performance of xenotransplantation. However, xenotransplantation is also carried out in countries that lack such oversight and where materials and procedures used have not undergone any quality and safety controls. This means there is no proof of the quality of source animals and no monitoring of the recipient, leaving no guarantee of the safety of the procedures for the patient. The problem is globalized when individuals travel to a country where xenotransplantation has no adequate oversight. The WHO advisory group notes that any xenotransplantation performed in countries without adequate oversight poses unacceptable infectious public health risks and should be stopped. International cooperation is clearly of paramount importance in the promotion of high standards for xenotransplantation across all regions. Without such oversight the efforts to minimize risks in some countries will be undermined due to increasing numbers of people travelling to countries with less stringent laws.

    The potential for such risks led the Member States of WHO to adopt a resolution addressing xenotransplantation in 2004. The resolution urges member States "to allow xenotransplantation o要ly when effective national regulatory control and surveillance mechanisms overseen by National Health Authorities are in place."

    The WHO advisory group and WHO experts have concluded that stronger measures need to be put in place by countries to stop the illegal performance of xenotransplantation and to promote harmonized quality and safety controls. To harness the real potential of this promising field, while minimizing the risks of unproven or misused practices, they have revised an action plan to assist Member States to implement the WHO resolution by:

    • updating a compendium of guidelines and recommendations for national health authorities and regulatory bodies to deal with xenotransplantation;
    • improving methods for the collection and dissemination of information o要 xenotransplantation practices — successes and potential risks;
    • raising greater awareness among national health authorities and promoting high ethical standards and well regulated practices.

    RELATED LINKS

    - Guidance o要 xenotransplantantation and its effective regulation is available from WHO
    - Transplantation

    For more information contact:

    Ms Daniela Bagozzi
    Telephone: +41 22 791 4544
    Mobile phone: +41 79 475 5490
    E-mail: bagozzid@who.int


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    WTO1.gif (5471 octets)WTO logo.gif (1247 octets)

    The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the o要ly global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.


     

    Trade Policy Review: Paraguay

    Stability of the trade and investment regime, crucial to achieve sustainable growth.
    Press release
    > Chairperson's concluding remarks
    More o要 Paraguay


    French-speaking officials begin 33rd WTO Trade Policy Course

    Twenty-seven officials from developing countries began the 33rd three-month WTO Trade Policy Course in Geneva o要 2 May 2005. o要e of five planned for this year, this course is in French. It was opened officially by Paul Rolian, director of the WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation.
    News item (temporarily in French)


    Appellate Body issues report o要 cigarettes dispute

    The Appellate Body, o要 25 April 2005, issued its report o要 the complaint of Honduras against “Dominican Republic — Measures Affecting the Importation and Internal Sale of Cigarettes” (WT/DS302/AB/R).
    Download:
    > Just the findings and conclusions in pdf format (2 pages; 19KB)
    > Full Appellate Body Report in Word format (62 pages; 383KB), in pdf format (62 pages; 188KB)
    All documentation o要 the case DS302
    More o要 Appellate Body
    More o要 Dispute Settlement


    WTO/University of Hong Kong trade policy course begins for Asia/Pacific region

    The official inauguration of the Second Regional Trade Policy Course (RTPC) for the Asia-Pacific region in partnership with the University of Hong Kong took place o要 20 April in Hong Kong, China.
    News item


    WTO issues panel report o要 EC shipbuilding measures

    The WTO, o要 22 April 2005, issued the panel report o要 Korea's complaint in the dispute “European Communities — Measures affecting trade in commercial vessels” (DS301).
    > Download the panel report in Word format (145 pages; 1063KB), in pdf format (145 pages; 535KB)
    All documentation o要 the case DS301
    More o要 Dispute Settlement


    WTO dispute body adopts rulings o要 geographical indications and o要 gambling

    The Dispute Settlement Body o要 20 April 2005 adopted the panel report o要 the European Communities' protection of trademarks and geographical indications for agricultural products and foodstuffs. It also adopted the Appellate Body and panel reports o要 the United States' measures affecting the cross-border supply of gambling and betting services.
    Summary of the meeting


    Supachai underscores WTO contribution to world peace and development

    Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, in his introductory remarks at the WTO Public Symposium o要 20 April 2005, said that “the WTO has extended the rule of law into the international trade realm and has contributed significantly to keeping peaceful and stable trading relations between WTO Members”. He added that “trade is not the answer to all the world's problems, but it can make a powerful contribution to international efforts for development”.
    Programme


    Canada donates C$156,000 for second Caribbean Regional Trade Policy Course

    A Canadian contribution of 156,000 Canadian dollars (149,000 Swiss francs) to help train Caribbean officials “will enable them to better understand the WTO agreements and to take a more active part in the negotiation of new market access commitments,” WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said, welcoming the donation.
    Press release


    WTO Training Institute reports o要 activities for 2004

    The WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation annual report describes over 500 training activities conducted for the benefit of developing countries during 2004, ranging from intensive twelve-week courses o要 the WTO to the establishment of computerized WTO reference centres.
    Report 2004


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    The AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION

    The African Wildlife Foundation, together with the people of Africa,
    works to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever.


    AWF.jpg (37800 octets)


    Creation of Tanzania Land Conservation Trust
    In AWF's Maasai Steppe Heartland in Northern Tanzania - o要e of the world's richest remaining refuges for wildlife- the major threats are of habitat fragmentation and degradation. To address these threats, AWF helped form the new Tanzania Land Conservation Trust (TLCT). The TLCT is a non-profit institution incorporated in the United Republic of Tanzania, whose main goal is to acquire critical wildlife areas threatened by private development hostile to conservation. These lands can then be managed to protect the needs of the pastoral communities as well as to preserve the integrity of these areas for wildlife conservation.

    Acquisition of Manyara Ranch
    Manyara Ranch MapIn April, 2001, Manyara Ranch became the first acquisition under the new TLCT . Previously owned by the Tanzanian government, Manyara Ranch occupies a critical central location in the Kwa Kuchinja wildlife corridor between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and comprises a total area of 17,800 hectares. Long-term conservation goals for the two national parks require linking these core protected areas with corridors of undeveloped land across which wildlife can move, and the acquisition of Manyara Ranch serves as an initial major step in this direction.

    In addition to its importance as a corridor, Manyara Ranch offers exciting conservation outreach potential for showcasing how communities can benefit from wildlife conservation outside of protected areas. Set in a landscape experiencing rapid habitat degradation, the ranch will serve as a laboratory to study the factors driving habitat degradation and human-wildlife conflicts . This research will instruct innovative and adaptive management approaches aimed at curtailing habitat degradation, conflict mitigation, and habitat restoration. Approaches will include diverse conservation financing mechanisms, combining both community and private initiatives. The process of identifying, planning, and managing income-generating activities will be guided by the goal of developing a sustainable mechanism for both conservation and benefit-sharing with local communities. Lessons learned o要 the ranch can hopefully be applied to other communities in order to maximize returns from conservation.

    TLCT: o要 the Ranch and Beyond
    AWF has also worked closely with communities to establish participatory, village level natural resources management areas (VNRMA) which dramatically increase the amount of wildlife habitat available in the Kwakuchinja corridor. Business planning efforts are underway to increase the economic diversification opportunities in village conservation areas with the goal of establishing an ecologically and economically healthy corridor linking the two national parks.

    National parks are a conventional and tested method of conserving core biodiversity and will always accompany successful community conservation. The TLCT, beginning with Manyara Ranch, adds a new and innovative mechanism to finance and support the effective management of large and contiguous ecosystems for biodiversity conservation. The long-term vision of the TLCT is to grow into a strong, autonomous body capable of supporting local community initiatives in sustainable land management and conservation. The TLCT will work specifically with community-based steering committees within its activity areas, but it will also serve as a vehicle for education, promoting and publicizing techniques that preserve open spaces and encourage appropriate land use.

    Enterprise Potential in the Maasai Steppe Ecosystem: A primary element of the TLCT strategy is the development of biodiversity enterprises owned either by the local community and or the TLCT itself. The TLCT has already identified several 'bio-enterprise' opportunities in the valuable Kwa kuchinja corridor linking Tarangire and Manyara National Parks. These opportunities include options such as the development of high- end luxury tourism facilities, niche tourism, cultural tourism, a field school or research center with strong links to local communities, and natural products enterprises. The TLCT is interested in exploring these enterprise development opportunities with private sector partners.

    For further information, please contact:

    Clive Jones
    Manyara Ranch Manager
    African Wildlife Foundation
    P.O. Box 2658
    Arusha, Tanzania
    e-mail: cjones@awf-tz.org


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    Save the Children USA




    Save the Children was founded in the United States in 1932 as a nonprofit child-assistance organization to make lasting positive change in the lives of children in need. Today we work in 19 states across the United States as well as in 47 other countries in the developing world to help children and families improve their health, education and economic opportunities. We also mobilize rapid life-support assistance for children and families caught in the tragedies of natural and man-made disasters.

    Save the Children is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, an association of 26 independent organizations that provide child-oriented emergency response, development assistance and advocacy of children's rights in more than 100 countries.


    The Power and Promise of Girls’ Education - Overview

    State of the World's Mothers Report 2005: The Power and Promise of Girls' Education.
    State of the World's Mothers Report 2005: The Power and Promise of Girls' Education.

    Across the globe, 58 million girls are not attending school. Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers 2005 examines the ways investing in girls’ education can benefit present and future generations of children, and society as a whole. It points to effective, affordable programs and policies that are working, even in the world’s poorest countries.

    The report finds that no matter what the economic or cultural challenges, there is a strategy that can work to get girls into school and help them stay there. It shows how schooling girls benefits individuals and has a dramatic ripple effect that can change the course of a nation. When they grow up, educated girls are more likely postpone marriage and childbirth, have fewer children, have the resources to ensure their children’s health and education, and contribute to the improvement of society through their involvement in civic groups and political decision-making.

    Highlights of the ground-breaking report include:

    • Looking back 10 years at gains in girls' education in 71 developing countries (Girls' Education Progress Report), the report finds that countries have a mixed record when it comes to progress in girls' education. Bolivia, Kenya, Cameroon and Bangladesh have made the most gains in girls' education, while Rwanda, Iraq, Malawi and Eritrea have missed the mark, primarily because of conflict, AIDS and rapid population growth.
    • Looking 10 years forward (Forecasts for Children), the report identifies 11 developing countries that are “most likely to succeed” in improving children’s quality of life in the next decade in three important areas of global development: achieving smaller, healthier families; educating all children; and reaching the Millennium Development Goal targets. 
    • The sixth annual Mothers' Index ranks the best and worst countries to be a mother, based o要 a review of 10 indicators of women’s and children’s well-being among 110 countries, including the United States.  Scandinavian countries sweep the top rankings, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa dominate the bottom tier.  The United States ranks in 11th place. The Mothers' Index demonstrates the benefits of investing in mothers to help ensure the survival and well-being of children. In those countries where mothers do well, children do well; in those countries where mothers fare poorly, children fare poorly. 


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      Campaigns

      We employ a working group dedicated to identifying political ‘log jams’ o要 major national conservation issues.

      We look for new ways to better manage our natural resources, encourage governments to improve policy and legislation as our natural environment requires, and promote public awareness of the steps we all need to take for a healthier environment.

      The campaigns working group includes scientists, economists, policy experts and lawyers, and works closely with our science and policy teams and our people in the field.

      Our key aim is to develop science-based, economically viable solutions to major environmental problems. We do this by working with Australia’s leading scientists, economists, policy specialists and industry leaders.

      We currently focus our efforts o要:

      Climate change

      We are encouraging Australians to make a difference to climate change by choosing to use cleaner energy and by encouraging the Australian government to ratify the Kyoto protocol More

      Cracked Earth
      Cracked Earth
      WWF Australia
      LATEST CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS

      Report: No need for new coal fired power station in Qld

      Freshwater

      Convening the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists to develop both scientific and sensible economic solutions to allow better management of Australia’s precious fresh water resources, including our wetlands of national and international significance More

      Flooded forest o要 the Murray River
      Flooded forest
      WWF / Fredy MERCAY


       

      LATEST FRESHWATER NEWS

      Balancing Nation’s Water Books - Biggest Challenge for new National Water Commission

      Great Barrier Reef

      We are focussed o要 establishing a world class protected area system and improving water quality from land based pollution for the Great Barrier Reef More

      Great Barrier Reef
      Great Barrier Reef
      WWF / Canon Jurgen FREUND
      LATEST GREAT BARRIER REEF NEWS

      The Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park: A major step forward – but some key sites left out

      Landscapes

      We are looking at practical, science-based solutions to the landscape management issues facing Australia. As identified by Australia’s leading scientists, the broadscale clearing of mature bushland is the number o要e threat to wildlife in Australia. More

      Huon Pine Needles
      Huon Pine Needles
      Eddie Safarik
      LATEST LANDSCAPES NEWS

      Australia’s bushland needs investment NOT deregulation

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      Landmine survivors

      LANDMINE SURVIVORS NETWORK ( LSN ) works to improve HEALTH, increase OPPORTUNITY, and strengthen RIGHTS. We also fiercely advocate for the immediate removal of landmines across the globe.

      We have empowered thousands of people worldwide to reclaim their lives after suffering landmine injuries. Through our intensive research, we’ve learned that recovery is an evolving process with three distinct phases – victim, survivor and citizen – each defined by specific needs.







      LSN Named as Recipient of Award from The Princess of Wales Fund


      We are deeply grateful to The Diana, Princess of Wales Fund, The Franklin Mint, and its owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, for selecting Landmine Survivors Network as o要e of eight special grant recipients. LSN will receive $3,350,000, over three years, to assist LSN’s work to champion health, opportunity and rights of survivors and persons with disabilities in mine-affected countries around the world.

      "In the summer of 1997, I was privileged to accompany the late Princess of Wales o要 her last humanitarian mission. We visited survivors and their families in Bosnia," said Jerry White, Co-founder and Director of Landmine Survivors Network, “where we opened our first Landmine Survivors Network office. She is remembered warmly and honored there annually with the Princess Diana Memorial Sitting Volleyball Tournament.”

      The grant from The Diana, Princess of Wales Fund and The Franklin Mint will help support multiple programs LSN operates in seven Network offices worldwide. These funds will also help LSN build capacity in several areas and continue to champion the United Nations Convention o要 Rights of People with Disabilities, a landmark treaty to apply a human rights framework of laws to ensure the rights of people with disabilities.

      “Princess Diana’s compassion for victims and their families touched everyone she met there. She had deep respect for each individual’s capacity to survive. Each visit was a resiliency tonic that has helped frame our peer support approach, the foundation of LSN's work around the world."

      In their statement, the Grantors stated that the funds were being distributed to “…charitable causes that resonate with the memory of the Princess…”. Landmine Survivors Network is honored to be among these organizations.

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