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Archive for August 25th, 2009

Raila-Ruto divide widenings further – The Kalenjins waking up from a political sleep?

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2009

By Citizen Correspondents, Nairobi

The divide between Agriculture minister William Ruto and Prime Minister Raila Odinga appeared to widen on Sunday, with the former hinting that Rift Valley MPs were ready to form a fresh alliance in the next election.

He brought together 23 MPs in his Eldoret backyard, including Ministers Samuel Poghisio, Hellen Sambili, Franklin Bett and assistant minister Linah Kilimo, and declared that the Kalenjin community will no longer demand rewards from Mr Odinga.

As Mr Ruto spoke in Uasin Gishu, Mr Odinga’s key allies, at a separate meeting in Bondo, described his move as a desperate attempt to scuttle the ODM or to make Mr Odinga kneel down or “lie low like an envelope”, a scheme, they said, was bound to fall flat on its face.

Ministers Otieno Kajwang’ and assistant ministers Oburu Oginga and Ayiecho Olweny dismissed Mr Ruto as a leader who had no capacity to destroy ODM and stall Mr Odingas political career.

The PM, they said, had overcome more challenging battles, describing Mr Rutos manoeuvres as a “passing cloud.”

In Uasin Gishu, it was clear that Mr Ruto was seeking a different route for the political future of the community that hugely voted for Mr Odinga during the 2007 elections.

“The Kalenjin did not enter into any agreement with the Prime Minister to be rewarded for supporting him for the presidency in the last elections,” Mr Ruto said during interdenominational prayers at Kesses in Eldoret South.

The MPs invited President Kibaki to tour the region without necessarily stating that he should be accompanied by the PM who some of the MPs accused of undermining them.

“President Kibaki is welcome in this region because he is focused and observes restraint as opposed to other leaders who are coming about to politick at the expense of engaging in development issues,” he said.

The occasion could mark a turning point in the political relationship between the ODM party leader and one of the deputy party leaders, which for long has been peppered with statements loaded with meaning.

What started as the clamour for their share of spoils after the formation of the Grand Coalition Government has been oiled by the PMs strong position on the fate of the key suspects behind the post-election violence and his determination to evict Mau forest settlers.

Mr Ruto has been firmly opposed to the tribunal and the evictions, and even led a delegation of MPs to Harambee House to meet President Kibaki over the evictions that are being coordinated by Mr Odinga.

Twice, the PM has toured the Rift Valley without the company of the MPs and declared that he was ready to deal directly with the voters.

On Sunday, the MPs resolved to support one of their own for the presidency come the 2012 General Election.

Mrs Kilimo fell short of asking Mr Ruto to run for the presidency in 2012, but declared that he should lead them in the new political direction.

“We are determined to take over the countrys leadership and we want Ruto to help bring such change,” said Mrs Kilimo.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, a sharp critic of the PM and a close ally of Mr Ruto, said that although the Kalenjin community supported Mr Odinga in the last poll, they were getting a raw deal from his leadership.

The meeting also raced to the defence of retired President Daniel arap Moi and asked the PM to stop pointing fingers at him. “The PM should respect other leaders, including retired president Moi.”

The PM had asked Mr Moi to keep off the Mau issue and vowed to deal directly with the locals in handling the matter and other development issues affecting the country.

The MPs called for the speeding up of constitution-making, saying the document was critical in streamlining the countrys governance.

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ISRAEL-OPT: Travel restrictions in West Bank eased for Ramadan

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2009

Photo: Kobi Wolf/IRIN
Israeli soldiers search a Palestinian’s car at the Hawera checkpoint outside the town of Nablus in the West Bank

TEL AVIV, – Israel has eased some of its travel restrictions for Palestinians in the West Bank during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) spokespersons unit.

Two West Bank crossings will now stay open till midnight instead of 7pm: Jalama, north of Jenin, and Beit Mishpat near Ramallah. All other checkpoints are set to operate as usual.

Israels Arab citizens will be allowed to enter Bethlehem via the Rachel crossing to visit their families in the West Bank, and some Palestinian families who have relatives in Israel will be given permission to cross into Israel for a week, according to IDF.

Only Palestinian men over 50 and women over 45 will be allowed to enter Jerusalems Temple Mount for prayers at al-Aqsa mosque, IDF said.

According to an IDF spokesperson, the Israeli authorities have briefed all their forces on the new measures, and have also instructed IDF soldiers in the West Bank to refrain from eating and drinking in public as a mark of respect.

Photo: Kobi Wolf/IRIN
Israeli soldiers inspect Palestinians’ documents at Hawera checkpoint outside Nablus

Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for the Israeli B’tselem human rights NGO, said there are currently 39 crossings/checkpoints operating between Israel and the West Bank and about 60 more in the West Bank, some manned 24/7, others randomly. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairss (OCHAs) West Bank Access and Movement Update June 2009, there are 68 checkpoints in the West Bank.

While B’tselem recognizes a certain easing of the checks being carried out at checkpoints inside the West Bank, it says this is only inside the main West Bank area itself, and mainly for vehicles.

According to OCHAs Humanitarian Monitor July 2009, there were no major changes in Palestinian movement and access in July; the easing reported over the past few months continues, while the number of closure obstacles – checkpoints, roadblocks, metal gates, earth mounds, walls, trenches and other barriers – in and around the West Bank and Gaza remains constant, with a total of 614 staffed and unstaffed obstacles in July, compared to 613 in June.

Aid workers have long complained that the existence of such obstacles impedes the delivery of humanitarian aid.


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SRI LANKA: Warning over Sphere standards in IDP camps as monsoon looms

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2009

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
More than 200,000 people live in Menik Farm

COLOMBO, – Sphere standards at internally displaced persons (IDO) camps in northern Sri Lanka are being undermined due to overcrowding, say aid workers.

The Sphere Project, a collaboration of international NGOs and the Red Cross Movement to improve the quality of disaster response, outlines best practices in food aid, nutrition, health, water and sanitation and emergency shelter provision.

We are missing Sphere standards by a long way, particularly in the WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] cluster, David White, Oxfams country director in Colombo, told IRIN, citing instances where some people were going without water for washing for up to three days.

Were not even close, said another international aid worker. With the monsoon rains, its going to get worse, he warned.

Close to 300,000 people now languish in 30 government camps in Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna and Trincomalee districts, after fleeing fighting between government forces and the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for more than two decades.

Many of the camps – which were hastily erected in the final days of the war after thousands fled south from former LTTE-controlled areas – suffer from severe overcrowding.

Most are located in and around the town of Vavuniya the epicentre of one of the island nations worst levels of displacement ever.

Many of the camps now exceed their planned capacity, confirmed one international aid worker in Vavuniya.

Of the 246,000 IDPs in Vavuniya, more than 200,000 now stay in Menik Farm – a sprawling 809ha site about 50km outside the town, comprised of six separate zones and easily the most overcrowded.

This despite the fact that a large percentage of them actually have families in the area they could stay with.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
An example of washing water some residents have had to use


Decongestion is now taking on an even greater sense of urgency.

The issue has been recognized by the government already in late May during the UN Secretary-Generals visit, as reflected in the joint statement made by President Rajapakse and [Ban Ki-moon], and work is ongoing to resettle people as well as to permit vulnerable people to leave, Neil Buhne, the UN resident representative in Colombo, said.

Concerns about security are recognized by everyone, but from all my discussions with everyone involved with the camps from government to UN to NGOs, everyone also recognizes that the sooner people can get back to their homes or with host families, the better.”

UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] and its shelter partners are supporting the governments decongestion efforts to ensure that the conditions in the emergency shelter sites reach international standards, said Elizabeth Tan, officer-in-charge for UNHCR Sri Lanka, which is working with the government to prepare the site as best as possible to withstand the upcoming monsoon season.

More than three months since the conflict ended, Zone two of Menik Farm continues to hold close to 55,000 – almost double its planned capacity.

If those zones had the amount of people they were built for, we would be a lot closer to Sphere standards, Oxfams White said.

In fact, in some parts of Menik Farm, a single latrine caters to up to 80 people [Sphere standards call for 20], while some tents designed for five were accommodating up to 14.

Yet according to Buhne, how close or how far Sphere standards could be met depended on the sector, as well as the location within the camps.

Some of newly established small areas are close to or even meet some standards, while in the larger, longer-established sites there is more work to be done, he said.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Upcoming monsoon rains are a serious source of concern

Camp conditions were gradually stabilizing until mid-August, he said, citing government efforts and those of international agencies since the last influx in late May.

“Schools [and] health clinics had been or were being established; access to water and sanitation had improved and most people now had the calorie intake they needed, he said.

Even so, significant challenges persist, highlighted and accentuated by the recent rains, he said.

Last weeks rains were a warning for us. We have to act and act soon, said an aid worker.

Set to arrive within a matter of weeks, the monsoon will sorely test the ability of the authorities and the aid community to cope.

The international community is watching. We cant pretend we didnt know it was coming, she said, explaining that even if you took 50,000 people out of the camps tomorrow, once the monsoon arrives the camps would no longer be viable.

“The clock is now ticking,” she said.


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BURKINA FASO: Hunger stings worse in the city

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2009

Photo: Phuong Tran/ IRIN
Baby treated for malnutrition at Ouahigouya regional hospital in northwestern Burkina Faso

OUAHIGOUYA, – A growing number of urban families in northwestern Burkina Faso refuse to hospitalize their children diagnosed as severely malnourished because they fear being stigmatized, according to hospital officials in a regional nutrition recovery centre.

Ouahigouya regional hospital takes on the most complicated cases of malnutrition from throughout the region. The director of its nutrition centre, Etienne Zida, told IRIN city children slip through the malnutrition diagnostic system.

We will diagnose a child as severely malnourished in need of hospitalization. If that family is from here [Ouahigouya], we are likely not to see them again, said Zida. Mostly from intellectual families, they feel shame and failure if their child is hospitalized because of malnutrition rather than malaria. So they simply do not do it.

The nutrition centre director said the impact of the stigma is likely masking what he sees as a growing problem of urban hunger. Of the [urban] children we are able to treat for malnutrition, there are others we are not reaching.

Zida said cases of malnourished urban patients in the paediatric ward decreased after NGOs boosted nutrition services in the city about six years ago; the new services reduced the number of urban patients who sought care. But, even given the chilling effect of stigma, he said, during the first half of 2009 twice as many children from Ouahigouya city were in the nutrition recovery centre than from surrounding villages, 24 as compared to 11 rural children.

The director said the higher number of city children in the regional hospitals nutrition ward is due in part to villagers increased ability to seek care for non-complicated malnutrition closer to their homes. But he said the imbalance is also due to growing malnutrition in cities.


The director of nutrition services at Burkina Fasos Health Ministry, Sylvestre Tapsoba, told IRIN malnutrition in cities has always existed and is not significantly changing. There may be the perception it is getting worse because the health ministry has strengthened the treatment of malnutrition in rural areas, which has led to a reduction of rural referrals in regional health centres.

He said rural-to-urban migration plus the health and hygiene conditions of crowded urban life have long contributed to urban malnutrition. Malnutrition in cities is not surprising nor is it a reversal of earlier trends.

The rate of global acute malnutrition when under-five children do not meet international height or weight standards in both urban and rural areas in Burkina Faso is 12 percent, according to the most recent government survey, which is still undergoing verification.

Slightly more urban families reported in the same survey eating only one meal per day 7 percent versus 5.7 percent in rural areas.


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