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IRIN - Mozambique





 



Mozambicans pay dearly for a president’s financial mistake

Tue, 16 May 2017 16:40:17 +0000

Diagnosed HIV-positive two years ago, Kayana Kandagona* suffers regular episodes of dizziness. However, this is not the cause of the 34-year-old’s anxiety as she waits for a routine appointment at a faith-based organisation’s outpatient clinic in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.   Cradling her three-month-old HIV-negative daughter she explains that her 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son are always saying: “Mama, we are hungry”. The collapse of the single mother’s cross-border trading business and her sudden relegation to the ranks of the urban poor was as swift as the sharp slump in Mozambique’s macro-economic fortunes.   Kandagona, like many Mozambicans, blames former president Armando Guebuza for the financial scandal at the end of his final term in office that has wrecked one of Africa’s most hopeful economies.   The scandal involved loans amounting to $2 billion – roughly equivalent to one third of the national budget – to build a tuna fishing fleet and buy maritime security vessels in 2013 and 2014. The problem was those loans, at an interest rate of 8.5 percent, were taken out when the local currency was falling, Mozambique’s gas exports were down, and export prices on its coal and aluminium were also taking a knock.   Compounding the problem, the loans breached commitments to the International Monetary Fund and were hidden from both the Fund and parliament. When they were discovered, in 2016, the IMF and other international partners suspended financial assistance, amounting to $300 million, or nearly 40 percent of the government’s social spending budget.   Crash   On these revelations, the once-stable local currency, the meticais, crashed. Steep price rises quickly followed, while interest rates tripled in order to brace the currency as it threatened to go into freefall, further squeezing economic growth. In March 2017, the inflation rate was 21.57 percent.   Kandagona used to import beds and bedding from neighbouring South Africa and turned a monthly profit of about $700. Owed money by customers, she set monthly repayment schedules of $15, but found, “people can’t afford to pay that, so maybe they pay me back 50 ($0.80) or 100 meticais ($1.60) each month”. Her income has now dropped to as little as $25 a month. Guy Oliver/IRIN Clam pickers at low tide, Maputo The family eats two meals a day of rice, occasionally supplemented by seasonal vegetables from her mother’s rural plot 50 kilometres from Maputo. The school does not provide lunch or snacks for her older children. The father pays no child support.   Cacilda Massango, coordinator for the Catholic church-funded Association for the Right to Health and Treatment for AIDS, tells IRIN: “Everyone is complaining about food prices and asking for food because they are hungry. But we cannot just hand out food. It’s difficult for all of us.”   The provision of free, efficient diagnosis and assessment, coupled with the widespread availability of antiretroviral drugs, has been a game-changer in blunting the country’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS estimated an HIV prevalence in 2015 of between 8.3 percent and 13.3 percent out of a population of 28 million, with infection rates falling.   But, Massango says, good nutrition remains an essential part of the equation for the efficacy of retroviral therapy, and in its absence the patients will not respond to treatment.   In 2015, Mozambique achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger. Even so, the World Food Programme’s current country briefing notes: “The vast majority – 80 percent – of the population cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet, and the situation is made worse by inflation and a rise in food prices, which in October 2016 recorded a five-year high.”   The financial scandal was unearthed by investigative journalists in April 2016. The loans were negotiated with European private bank Credit Suisse and Russian bank VBT. Among the deals struck was the purchas[...]



Refugees pay the price of Mozambique power struggle

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 06:24:36 +0000

The losers in a power struggle between the Mozambican government and opposition RENAMO party are the refugees that have streamed across the border into Malawi, fleeing insecurity and allegations of human rights violations by the army. More than 11,500 civilians have left Mozambique since military operations began in October 2015 to disarm RENAMO militants, predominantly in the coal-rich central province of Tete, which borders southern Malawi. According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, as many as 250 refugees were crossing each day in early March. Most find shelter in the small Malawian village of Kapise, five kilometres across the border. Facilities in the overcrowded, makeshift camp are inadequate, with just 14 latrines and limited boreholes to supply water. The UNHCR had announced plans to open an older camp at Luwani, which hosted Mozambican refugees during the 1977-1992 civil war and was finally closed in 2007. But both the Malawian and the Mozambican governments appear to have opposed that move. Officials in Mozambique have sought to play down the escalating conflict with RENAMO, blaming the mass displacement as partly a response to drought. An inquiry into alleged human rights violations by the Mozambican army absolved the security forces of any wrongdoing, but refugees in Kapise said they had witnessed abuses by military personnel looking to weed out RENAMO sympathisers. Mumderanji Mesenjala told IRIN that he fled after seeing soldiers beat up his neighbour and set his house ablaze. “I believed that I would die with my family that day, so I instantly made a decision to flee the country,” he said. Read more Fleeing fighting in Mozambique to uncertain future in Malawi Gorongosa residents reminded of Mozambique’s bad times Portuguese migrants seek opportunities in Mozambique Another refugee, Verniz Jose Joao, told IRIN that since controversial polls in October 2014, there had been “an air of tension and conflict in many areas where RENAMO [unofficially] won more seats in the elections”. Old wounds re-opened Human Rights Watch has documented far worse crimes in a confrontation that pits old civil war rivals against each other and threatens to derail a country not long ago seen as one of Africa’s great economic success stories. “There is a low-intensity conflict under way,” Mozambique expert Paula Roque of Oxford University told IRIN. “There are deaths and human rights abuses in Tete and elsewhere, and there is potential for escalation.” The violence has taken the form of ambushes on the EN1 and EN7 highways in central Mozambique, which are increasing in frequency. A week of RENAMO attacks against civilian and military targets in Sofala, Manica and Zambezia resulted in three deaths with 23 people wounded, police reported on 15 March. New grievances RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama, whose rebellion more than three decades ago against the then-Marxist ruling FRELIMO party was backed by Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, claims the 2014 elections were stolen. He has demanded a constitutional amendment to allow him to appoint governors in six central and northern provinces he says should be under RENAMO control, and has threatened to seize them militarily by the end of March. According to the election results, FRELIMO retained control of all of the country’s 10 provincial assemblies. The polls were marred by irregularities, but according to veteran Mozambique watcher Joseph Hanlon, they would not have been sufficient to change the overall election verdict, which saw FRELIMO maintain its 40-year grip on power. Unable to win power through the ballot box, as has been the case in all five previous elections, Dhlakama has pushed hard for devolution as the next best option. New recruits Current military tensions date back to October 2013, when RENAMO renounced the 1992 peace agreement, triggering clashes with the army. A ceasefire in 2014 stopped short of a planned demobilisation and military integration programme for RENAMO fighters, with both sides blaming each other[...]



Southern Africa’s food crisis in numbers

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000

Southern Africa is facing the threat of extensive crop failures this year as a result of record low rainfall in a region in which 29 million people already don't have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food.  “With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming,” the World Food Programme has warned. “The region is ill prepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks, high food prices, and substantially increased numbers of food insecure people,” the UN agency said. Southern Africa is feeling the impact of an intense El Niño that began last year. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, continued below-average rainfall and high temperatures are likely to persist in 2016, with the food crisis lasting into 2017. The following are the worst-affected countries: South Africa The biggest victim of the drought. It’s the region’s main maize producer, but last year output fell 30 percent below the bumper 2014 season and it may have to import around 6 million tonnes. Planting of the 2016 cereal crop began later than normal due to delayed rains. Small-scale farmers have been hammered by the drought, with emergencies declared in five out of nine provinces, as well as areas of two other provinces. There have been reports of farmers committing suicide. Malawi The 2014/15 cereal harvest was 24 percent down on the five-year average. Currently, 2.8 million people are "food insecure" (they lack access to food that's sufficient to lead healthy and active lives) out of a population of 16 million as a result of flooding and drought last year. Average maize prices were at a record high in December 2015. The government’s $146-million Food Insecurity Response Plan is so far 48 percent funded. Zimbabwe The 2014/15 cereal harvest was 42 percent down on the five-year average. An estimated 1.5 million people are food insecure, with 600,000 in "crisis" - meaning they are forced to skip meals, there are high rates of malnutrition, or have sold their livestock to make ends meet. A new vulnerability assessment is under way and the figures are likely to be even worse. Zimbabwe’s $132-million drought response plan is 44 percent funded. Angola   A drought that scorched Namibia spread into Angola’s three southern provinces – Cunene, Huila, and Cuando Cubango. Whereas Namibia is on top of its crisis, Angola, even though it is Africa’s second largest oil producer, is not. In Cunene, 800,000 people – 72 percent of the population – have been hit by crop losses and livestock deaths, with child malnutrition rates beyond the emergency threshold of 15 percent. “The situation is worsened by insufficient resources, including human, logistical, critical nutritional and medical supplies, and funding,” according to UN sources. Nationwide 1.25 million are at risk.  Mozambique El Niño's climate impact splits the country in two – in the north there has been flooding, in the south drought. More than 176,000 people are in crisis in the provinces of Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, and Niassa, until at least the next harvest. A further 575,455 people are food insecure, especially in Zambézia, Maputo, and Niassa provinces. Around 50,300 people are receiving food assistance in Gaza and Sofala. Zambia Zambia has been an exporter of maize to the region, but last year’s production was 21 percent down on 2014. Zambia’s ample stocks enabled it to still export to neighbouring and needy Zimbabwe, but close to 800,000 Zambians are also at risk of food and livelihoods insecurity.   Photo: Data: SADC, WFP And worse may be to come   Lesotho Some 650,000 people – one third of the population – do not have enough food.  Some projections indicate the numbers affected could surpass 725,000. Water rationing is under way in several districts, i[...]



An unwanted guest: El Niño and Africa in 2016

Wed, 23 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000

El Niño is the largely unwanted Christmas gift – a warming of the tropical Pacific causing drought and floods that will peak at the end of this month, but will impact weather systems around the globe into 2016. This year’s El Niño has been steadily gaining strength since March. It’s likely to be one of the most extreme events of this nature yet seen, with the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, warning that “millions will be impacted”. El Niño’s links with drought in southern Africa and the Horn, and with heavy rains in East Africa, are well-established. Across the rest of the continent the climate connection is less clear. Other factors come into play, such as temperatures in the North Atlantic for West Africa’s weather, according to Richard Choularton, the World Food Programme’s chief of climate resilience for food. What makes El Niño particularly bad news in 2016 is that it will be a second tough year in a row for farmers and pastoralists in Southern Africa and the Horn – and to a lesser extent East Africa. Eighty percent of their populations are dependent on agriculture. Their ability to cope with adversity has been stretched. Now they will be facing potentially an even sterner test.   So what does that really mean for these vulnerable regions in the coming year? With the perils of weather forecasting acknowledged, here’s a snapshot. Southern Africa: More than 30 million people are already “food insecure” – lacking access to enough food to lead healthy lives as result of a poor harvest earlier this year. South Africa’s maize production has traditionally been the hedge against regional shortfalls. But this year drought was declared in five provinces and output dropped by 30 percent. The fear is that the region will experience another El Niño-induced poor harvest, “possibly a disastrous one”, according to OCHA. Emergency maize stocks are depleted, and maize prices are climbing. Governments hard hit by the global fall in commodity prices, on which their economies depend, will need to find the money to buy maize on the international market. South Africa alone is expecting to import 750,000 tonnes to meet its needs. Despite Southern Africa being a largely middle-income region, its rural populations historically have some of the world’s worst poverty indicators. Even in economic powerhouse South Africa, almost a quarter of all children under five are stunted. That level of deprivation limits people’s ability to bounce back after a shock.  See: Southern Africa’s food crisis – from bad to worse The worst-affected countries in 2016 will be Angola, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique. “Everyone is preparing for drought,” said Choularton. WFP, for example, is putting money and programmes in place in Zimbabwe, in anticipation of worse trouble to come, part of its new FoodSECuRE policy approach. Further north, in the Horn and East Africa, which have more complicated climate and agricultural systems, the El Niño picture is less clear. The Horn: Poor rains have hit parts of Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia – but international media coverage has tended to focus on Ethiopia. In part that’s because a lazy connection gets drawn with the 1984 famine, but also because the numbers in need are so large.  See: How bad is the drought in Ethiopia? With the failure of both the Belg rains and the usually reliable Kiremt summer rains, “the worst drought in Ethiopia for 50 years is happening right now,” Save the Children said in a statement. The hardest-hit regions are in the north and east of the country. The UN believes 15 million people will face food shortages in 2016, with the next harvest not expected until June. Ethiopia has a population of close to 100 million.  See: Ready or not – drought tests Ethiopia Nearly eight million people are already under the national welfare Productive Safety Net Programme*. The government has committed $192 [...]



Southern Africa's food crisis - from bad to worse

Fri, 04 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Close to 29 million people in southern Africa are already facing food shortages as a result of this season’s poor harvest, but worse could be on the way. “Serious concerns are mounting that Southern Africa will this coming season face another poor harvest, possibly a disastrous one,” the UN’s aid coordinating agency, OCHA, warned in a recent report.  A drought-inducing El Niño – perhaps the strongest ever recorded – is already underway. Floods are expected to hit the region early next year, and there is a 65 percent chance of a cyclone slamming into the island of Madagascar. This year, Southern Africa’s cereal harvest fell by almost a quarter, down to 34 million tonnes. Major food shortages are affecting Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Madagascar. In Lesotho and Namibia, whose populations are tiny, 30 percent of  rural people are classified as “food insecure,” which essentially means they lack access to food that’s sufficient to lead healthy, active lives. After the previous year’s good harvest, “The crisis has been to an extent mitigated by the region’s grain reserves, but they are now largely exhausted,” OCHA humanitarian officer Yolanda Cowan told IRIN. Their own stockpiles finished, many poor households are already having to buy their staple foods, so the current abnormally high maize prices – up between 15 and 40 percent – is causing real hardship.  Less cash in rural areas means markets start to close. “Once traders realize the crop is lost they will pack up and go,” taking with them the lines of credit they extend to poor farmers, said Daniel Sinnathamby, regional humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam. Governments will have to respond this coming year by importing commercial food from outside the region, but are facing tightening budgets. Many have economies dependent on commodity exports, and have felt the pinch of the global downturn in prices. Most countries in the region boast well integrated middle-income economies, and so in theory should not need humanitarian assistance year after year. Yet “Southern Africa suffers from chronic vulnerability. Very small events can send large numbers of people into humanitarian crisis,” said Sinnathamby. Wealth inequality is reflected in appalling rates of malnutrition-related child stunting. In Malawi and Zambia, stunting is above 47 percent – among the highest in the world. Even in economic powerhouse South Africa more than one in five children show stunting. Despite the key role agriculture plays in people’s livelihoods, government investment has been limited.  Farm plots are typically small, barely generating subsistence incomes. Farmers are dependent on rain-fed crops rather than irrigation; extension and development services are generally weak; and even in years of good rainfall, millions of people continue to require emergency aid. Resilience Southern Africa is expected to be hit hard by global warming, with extreme rainfall variability forecast. But the innovation and adaptation needed to contend with a changing climate is only slowly emerging. “I suspect governments across the region have not made the necessary infrastructural investments,” said World Food Programme spokesman David Orr. “There needs to be greater investment in all sorts of agricultural schemes, from water harvesting to conservation farming.” Building resilience – the ability of communities to cope with adversity - is increasingly seen as a key strategy. “What we have learnt is just responding to the immediate crisis is not effective,” said Maxwell Sibhensana, World Vision technical director. “Every time there is a crisis we are just alleviating the impacts. There is not enough investment in recovery, and bringing people back into robust livelihoods,” said Sinnathamby. There is a “regional resilience framework” prepared by humanitarian and development agencies, which emphasizes the need for climate-smart initiatives su[...]



Killing us softly

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

A recent public outcry in China, sparked by a damning documentary about air pollution, was based on well-founded fear: Of the 100 million people who viewed the film on the first day of its online release, 172,000 are likely to die each year from air pollution-related diseases, according to regional trends.*  Worldwide, pollution kills twice as many people each year as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,** but aid policy has consistently neglected it as a health risk, donors and experts say.  Air pollution alone killed seven million people in 2012, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures released last year, most of them in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the Asia Pacific region.***  In a self-critical report released late last month the World Bank acknowledged that it had treated air pollution as an afterthought, resulting in a dearth of analysis of the problem and spending on solutions.  “We now need to step up our game and adopt a more comprehensive approach to fixing air quality,” the authors wrote in Clean Air and Healthy Lungs. “If left unaddressed, these problems are expected to grow worse over time, as the world continues to urbanise at an unprecedented and challenging speed.” A second report released last month by several organisations – including the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, an international consortium of UN organisations, governments, development banks, NGOs and academics – also called for more funding towards reducing pollution.  “Rich countries, multilateral agencies and organisations have forgotten the crippling impacts of pollution and fail to make it a priority in their foreign assistance,” the authors wrote.  Housebound in China  A dense haze obstructs visibility more often than not across China’s northern Hua Bei plain and two of its major river deltas. Less than one percent of the 500 largest cities in China meet WHO’s air quality guidelines. Anger over air pollution is a hot topic among China’s increasingly outspoken citizenry.   “Half of the days in 2014, I had to confine my daughter to my home like a prisoner because the air quality in Beijing was so poor,” China’s well-known journalist Chai Jing said in Under the Dome, the independent documentary she released last month, which investigated the causes of China’s air pollution. The film was shared on the Chinese social media portal Weibo more than 580,000 times before officials ordered websites to delete it.  Beyond the silo Traditionally left to environmental experts to tackle, the fight against pollution is increasingly recognised as requiring attention from health and development specialists too.  “Air pollution is the top environmental health risk and among the top modifiable health risks in the world,” said Professor Michael Brauer, a public health expert at the University of British Columbia in Canada and a member of the scientific advisory panel for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a consortium of governments and the UN Environment Programme. “Air pollution has been under-funded and its health impacts under-appreciated.” Pollution – especially outdoor or “ambient” air pollution – is also a major drag on economic performance and limits the opportunities of the poor, according to Ilmi Granoff, an environmental policy expert at the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. It causes premature death, illness, lost earnings and medical costs – all of which take their toll on both individual and national productivity. “Donors need to get out of the siloed thinking of pollution as an environmental problem distinct from economic development and poverty reduction,” Granoff said.  Pollution cleanup is indeed underfunded, he added, but pollution prevention is even more poorly prioritised: “It’s underfunded in much of the developed world, in aid, and in developing count[...]



Zimbabwe on alert over cholera threat

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Children play on the dumpsite in the Budiriro suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, scrambling through the garbage and ignoring the clouds of flies and overpowering stench from the rotting, untreated waste. This was the epicenter of Zimbabwe’s last and worst cholera epidemic, which between 2008 and 2009 killed 4,300 people and infected over 100,000. Now, with the emergence of a cholera outbreak in neigbouring Mozambique, which has already infected 14 people in Zimbabwe’s border towns, the question is whether the authorities are ready and better able to cope should cholera spread to Harare. Joseph Mpofu lives in a compound of three homes just 10 meters from the dumpsite in Budiriro. “Our children are always going down with diarhoea and we have made numerous reports to Harare City to collect the waste, but they have never done so,” he told IRIN, waving away flies settling on nappies hung out to dry. “The last cholera outbreak started here in Budiriro and we are manufacturing ideal conditions for another outbreak to occur. If the cholera in Mozambique finds its way to Harare, it would spread rapidly,” said Mpofu. Welcome to Harare Given the extent of cross-border trade and travel in southern Africa, one of the likely entry points for the highly infectious cholera bacillus would be bus stations like the Mbare terminus, which welcomes people from across the region. Food vendors preparing snacks and meals in open-air makeshift stalls told IRIN they were taking extra precautions to keep their environment sanitary. “Our only concern is that sometimes the public toilets are not cleaned on time and regularly and they overflow with human waste, which could encourage the spread of cholera,” said vendor Tanatswa Machingura. Confirmed cholera cases in Zimbabwe have so far only occurred in Mudzi, Chipinge and Chiredzi - on the borders with Mozambique - and Beitbridge, the busy crossing point to South Africa. Harare City Health Director Dr Prosper Chonzi said the capital was on high alert as “it only takes a bus for the disease to get into Harare”.  What made controlling cholera so difficult six years ago was Zimbabwe’s dilapidated water and sewerage systems, the result of a long-running economic crisis that starved local authorities of investment in public infrastructure. Since then, a US$144 million loan from China has been used to rehabilitate the city’s waste water treatment plant, which means raw effluent is in theory no longer being discharged into Harare’s main water supply.  Photo: Foster Dongozi/IRIN School children picking through the Budiriro dumpsite But, as an editorial last week in the state-controlled Herald newspaper pointed out, this seems still to be a work in progress. “The city of Harare has come under fire for failing to collect refuse around the city and the provision of smelly and dirty-looking water. Burst sewerage and erratic water supplies for most high density suburbs of the city and Chitungwiza [a satellite town] are also a cause for worry. Adequate toilet facilities at public places like bus termini should also be provided without fail.” Really ready? Harare City spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told IRIN the situation had markedly improved since the last cholera outbreak. Then, pipes to some of Harare’s suburbs were completely dry as the city could only provide 200 million litres of water a day against a need of 800 million litres, forcing people to use unsafe sources of supply. Since the rehabilitation work, output has almost trebled to 550 million liters of water a day, he said. While prevention remains a concern, Chideme said he was confident Harare’s health system would be able to handle an initial cholera outbreak. “Each of our health centres, which include two hospitals, 46 clinics and polyclinics, have the capacity to deal with 20 cases in the event of an outbreak.” But Dr Ruth Labode, chairp[...]



Three words of advice for WHO Africa's new chief

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000

The World Health Organization says the number of new Ebola cases per week rose twice this month for the first time since December. This rise in incidence of new cases - if proven to be a trend - will be just one of the challenges facing WHO’s new regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, as she attempts to overcome the multitude of criticism launched against WHO in recent months for its failure to act earlier and more competently during West Africa’s ongoing Ebola outbreak. “This is a critical moment for the WHO,” said Michael Merson, director of Duke University’s Global Health Institute. “It’s a real crossroads as to whether or not they’ll be able to reform and become an effective and efficient organization, particularly at the regional level.” Moeti, who officially took office 1 February, has vowed to make fighting Ebola WHO’s “highest priority,” while supporting countries to develop strategies to build up their health care systems, and reduce maternal and child mortality, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases. Many international observers say they have high hopes for Moeti, a medical doctor who has more than 35 years of experience working in the national and global public health sector. But she has a tough road ahead – particularly as the number of Ebola cases continues to rise, nearly a year after the outbreak was first declared. Here’s some advice from a few experts as Moeti begins her five-year term: 1. Think Local Having competent and qualified staff on the ground, whose skills and expertise are matched to the needs of the country, is key to effectively implementing WHO policies and recommendations. “Everyone tends to discuss WHO at the global level and the regional level, but I don’t think this is where the problem lies,” said Fatou Francesca Mbow, an independent health consultant in West Africa. “It really lies in what the WHO is meant to be doing at country level. It is of no use to have very technical people sitting in Washington [D.C.] or Geneva, and then, where things are actually happening, [they become] politicians.” Mbow said that despite a wealth of technical documents being produced at headquarters, very often the staff from the field offices are appointed based on political motives. Country and field-level office meetings are often dominated by talk that, while politically correct, says “nothing of real meaning”. Staff reform at the local level will require both investing in employee development, including recruiting new and existing talent to the field offices, as well as making posts in “hardship” countries more attractive to the most qualified experts. “What often happens is that when people in-country are seen as being quite effective, they tend to get headhunted by the headquarters of the institutions that represent them,” said Sophie Harman, a senior lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London. “So we see a type of brain-drain among people working in these sectors.” She said that improving salaries and offering more benefits, as well as taking into account what these people have to offer, could go a long way in incentivising them to stay at their field-level posts. “Good documents are interesting,” Mbow said. “But unless you have people at country level who understand them, who participate in writing them, who are able to implement them, who are passionate and committed to doing so, they’re just going to be reports.” 2. Strengthen health systems There were many factors that contributed to the unprecedented spread of the Ebola outbreak, but inherently weak local health systems in the three most-affected countries meant that local clinics did not have the capacity, resources or expertise to handle even the smallest of caseloads. WHO must now work with local governments, partners[...]



Who celebrity advocates are really targeting. And it’s not you.

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000

This week was a fanfare for celebrity humanitarians: Forest Whitaker appealed for peace in South Sudan alongside UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos; Angelina Jolie opened an academic centre on sexual violence in conflict with British Member of Parliament William Hague; and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham launched an initiative for children.  In recent years, aid agencies have increasingly used celebrity advocates to raise awareness and money for their causes. There’s just one snag:  It doesn’t actually work. At least not as much or in the ways we think.  According to research by Dan Brockington, a professor at the University of Manchester, public responses to celebrity activism are surprisingly muted. His work is the first quantitative research on the subject.  “Using celebrities for broader outreach, for reaching mass publics and attracting media attention is absolutely not the silver bullet it appears to be,” he told IRIN on the sidelines of a 6-8 February conference at the University of Sussex, where he presented research recently published in the book Celebrity Advocacy and International Development.   Photo: A. McConnell/UNHCR Refugee Rockstar: UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets displaced Iraqis   In a survey he conducted with 2,000 British people, 95 percent of respondents recognized five or more of 12 charities listed to them, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children UK and Oxfam UK. But two-thirds of the respondents did not know a single “high-profile” advocate of any of the NGOs (In this case, music executive Simon Cowell and singers Victoria Beckham and Elton John respectively, among many others).  The realpolitik might not be that pleasant. But you'll achieve your goals.  Focus groups and interviews with more than 100 “celebrity liaison officers” and other media staff at NGOs further reinforced his findings.  What’s more, Brockington says, those who pay attention to celebrities do not necessarily know which causes they support.  “People who follow celebrities often do so because they are not political,” he said during the interview. “They are fun, light. You want to live their lives…[People] don’t engage with [celebrities] for the more worthy things.”   Celebrity stardom flat-lining  Despite the rise in the use of celebrity advocates (which, by the way, dates back to at least Victorian times), the mention of charities in broadsheet and tabloid articles about celebrities only increased ever so slightly between 1985 and 2010, according to a separate study by Brockington. “There has also been a decline in the proportion of newspaper articles mentioning development and humanitarian NGOs at all,” the study found.  The perception that celebrities engage the public in the first place may itself be overstated.  After a steady rise in coverage of celebrities in the British press over two decades, the percentage of articles mentioning the word celebrity (only a fraction of total articles about celebrities) stopped increasing around 2006 and is now hovering at about four percent of all articles studied, the research found, validating the findings of earlier studies on the same subject (The study looked at The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun).  The magazine industry’s own statistics show a tapering off of readership in recent years after steady growth.                 Photo: Northern & Shell Media Group Statistics from Northern & Shell Media Group show a steady rise in celebrity magazine readership until about 2006 Celebrities can be successful in engaging the public – Miley Cyrus made waves last year when she sent a homeless man to pick up her MTV Video Music Awards; Bob Geldof’s charity single o[...]



In pictures: Southern Africa floods

Tue, 20 Jan 2015 00:00:00 +0000

The number of people affected by severe flooding in southern Africa continues to rise, and more rain is predicted.

Malawi has reported 50 deaths and 153 missing, Mozambique 84 fatalities and Madagascar - which has been battered by Tropical Storm Chedza - 13. The overall number of people affected in these countries stands at 638,000 in Malawi (121,000 of whom have been displaced from their homes), 90,000 in Mozambique and 100,000 in Madagascar.

 Click here to view a slideshow of the flooding in southern Malawi.

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101028 (image) A flooded church in Bangula, Nsanje District, Southern Malawi News Environment and Disasters Southern Africa floods slideshow IRIN NAIROBI Madagascar Malawi Mozambique Southern Africa Africa