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Nairobi - the centre of East Africa's thriving arts scene

BBC Africa - 4 hours 28 min ago
Artists from across East Africa have converged on Kenya's capital, creating a vibrant scene.
Categories: Africa

The women fighting infertility stigma in Nigeria

BBC Africa - 4 hours 38 min ago
Three Nigerian women confront the prejudice they have faced on their fertility journeys.
Categories: Africa

South Africa 27-9 British and Irish Lions: Springboks level series in fiery encounter

BBC Africa - Sat, 07/31/2021 - 21:32
The British and Irish Lions' series with South Africa will go to a decider after the Springboks win a fiery second Test 27-9 at Cape Town Stadium.
Categories: Africa

Tokyo Olympics: Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou misses medal again

BBC Africa - Sat, 07/31/2021 - 15:07
Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou finishes fourth in the women's 100m final at the Tokyo Olympics as Ivory Coast and Egypt are knocked out of the men's football.
Categories: Africa

Nigerian sprinter Okagbare fails drugs test

BBC Africa - Sat, 07/31/2021 - 02:46
Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare is out of the Tokyo Olympics after being suspended for failing a drugs test.
Categories: Africa

Nigeria's kidnap crisis: 'I saw my two-year-old carried by a man with a gun'

BBC Africa - Sat, 07/31/2021 - 01:17
Parents of schoolchildren abducted in Nigeria describe their trauma, and dilemma over the ransom demands.
Categories: Africa

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta criticises 'vaccine nationalism'

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 18:28
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says vaccine nationalism is why he wants his country to move towards vaccine production.
Categories: Africa

When Branded as a Born Criminal: The Plight of India’s De-Notified Tribes

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 17:21

A girl from the Nat community performing – Credit: Department for Social Justice

By Mariya Salim
NEW DELHI, India, Jul 30 2021 (IPS)

Branded as being born ‘criminal’ 150 years ago under British colonial rule, De-Notified Tribes (DNTs) continue to bear the brunt of the various laws that stigmatised them since 1871.

Dakxin Chhara, the award-winning filmmaker and DNT activist, shared how the DNT community in India continues living an abysmal existence because of a centuries-old criminality stigma. Chhara calls his community an “invisible population” owing to their absence from government records, welfare schemes and a complete lack of political will to address their marginalisation.

“Even within a village in India, one can see the clear demarcation of localities based on caste, religion etc. One of the most marginalised, Dalits (former untouchables) also have an area where they stay, but for DNTs, there is no space within this structure,” Chhara said in an exclusive interview with IPS. “They are not considered worthy of being part of the village, and most end up living in jungles, moving from one place to another, isolated and stigmatised.”

In 1871, nearly 150 tribes were notified to be criminals by the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ passed by the British, meaning, just being born into one of these tribes made one a criminal. The absurdity of the rationale behind this discriminatory law, introduced in 1871 in India, a society largely based on caste and caste-based discrimination, can be seen in the British official’s introduction to the bill. He said: “People from time immemorial have been pursuing the caste system defined job-positions: weaving, carpentry and such were hereditary jobs. So, there must have been hereditary criminals also who pursued their forefathers’ profession.”

Academics say the creation of these criminal tribes was a “colonial stereotype”. It was to justify the British to discipline or control a section of the population who did not fit into the colonial power’s moral order they were trying to enforce on rural society. Among the worst victims were communities like the DNTs, who did not have a sedentary lifestyle. This made it more difficult to demand their subservience.

The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, was repealed on August 31, 1952, resulting in the former criminal tribes ‘de-notified’ of this discriminatory tag. However, this was only on paper.

As in most groups, the women from these communities bear many layers of marginalisation. Sakila Khatoon from the north Indian state of Bihar belongs to the Nat community. Married off at a very early age, Sakila pursued her education and worked within the development sector on issues concerning her community. Most women she works with, however, have not had that opportunity, she told IPS.

Women from the Nat community face prejudice and stereotypes because of their involvement in sex work, and those who wish to explore other avenues of livelihood are discouraged and not treated with dignity. Sex workers from the community not only face stigmatisation but also are targets of police excesses. Khatoon shared how children of these women are often discouraged from pursuing higher education and are recipients of undignified comments from people who know that their parents are sex workers.

“Encouraging and supporting women from our communities to pursue higher education is the key to their upliftment,” Khatoon says.

Vijay (name changed) from the ‘Pardhi’ community in the state of Madhya Pradesh shared how harassment by police led to many people belonging to his community commit suicide and how the authorities continue to ostracise them. Youth are arbitrarily arrested on mere suspicion because they are seen as habitual offenders.

Over the years, there haven’t been any genuine attempts to address the plight of the DNT communities, and commissions aimed at improving their condition have failed.

Shiney Vashisht, a PhD research scholar at the Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi, who worked as a researcher at the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic tribes, confirms this.

“The National Commissions established and re-established over the years, have done nothing close to substantial for the DNTs except for half-heartedly recommending welfare steps, that are a mere compilation of suggestions from previous commission reports, based on population projections of decades-old data,” Vashisht says.

Based on her engagement with leaders from the community and field research, she argues that these communities deserve a designated commission, having a constitutional status on the lines of National Commissions for Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The commission should generate a database from a national survey of DNTs. The inquiries should have a strong mandate to recommend DNT specific welfare schemes.

Chhara adds that one of the demands of the DNT community is separate reservations. He gives the example of the state of Maharashtra, where within the OBC quota, there is a separate reservation for DNTs and says that a model similar to this should be applicable throughout the country.

Chhara remembers how as children, his sister eventually gave up going to school after the humiliation of being falsely called a thief in front of the entire class and teacher when a few marble balls went missing.

Years later, little has changed. Chhara had to remove his children from their school after the principal told him that because the school’s trustees belonged to the upper caste, the school had clear instructions of not admitting any children from communities that Chhara came from.

“It is not hard to guess that when something like this can happen to a man like me who has won national and international awards, what would the fate and plight of others belonging to our communities be.”

 

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Categories: Africa

Tokyo Olympics 2020: 'I'm Nigerian and Ghanaian, but I compete for Ghana'

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 16:23
Triple jumper Nadia Eke talks dance, jollof and wellbeing as she prepares to compete at Tokyo 2020.
Categories: Africa

British and Irish Lions: Siya Kolisi 'didn't feel respected at all' in first Test

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 16:04
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says he "didn't feel respected at all" by the referee in the opening loss to the British and Irish Lions, backing claims made by Rassie Erasmus.
Categories: Africa

Civil Society Leading Covid-19 Mask Campaign in South Asia – Podcast

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 15:40

Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jul 30 2021 (IPS)

Footage of flames engulfing bodies at makeshift funeral pyres and stories of people dying in cars as drivers desperately raced from hospital to hospital seeking a bed. These scenes marked the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India just months ago.

Nepal was similarly walloped: staff turned away people at intensive care units and patients attached to oxygen cylinders were being treated in parking lots. Other South Asian countries were less affected but overall Covid-19 has officially killed 450,000 people in the region since 2020.

 

 

With vaccines expected to arrive painfully slowly in coming months—India for example has fully vaccinated just 6% of its population, Nepal 4% and Pakistan 2%—mask wearing needs to be the priority, says the guest on today’s episode of Strive.

Maha Rehman is Policy Director at the Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Pakistan. She is also a leader of the NORM mask-wearing intervention taking place in four countries in the region, and beyond. She describes NORM’s early success in Bangladesh and how finding a way to embed the programme in local communities in each of these very different countries will be key.

If you enjoyed this first episode of Strive, please help spread the word by rating or reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. You can also subscribe, follow or favourite Strive on any podcast app.

Stay up-to-date with us between episodes on Twitter and Facebook. If you have something to say to me directly email me at mlogan@ipsnews.net.

Resources

 

Categories: Africa

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum on the importance of keeping girls in school

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 15:22
Niger President Mohamed Bazoum says that his country must work hard to keep girls in school.
Categories: Africa

Tokyo Olympics: SA's Schoenmaker and Ehiopia's Selemon Barega both win gold on day seven

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 14:30
Ethiopia's Selemon Barega wins the first athletics gold of the Tokyo Olympics while in the pool there is a gold and a world record for South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker.
Categories: Africa

Muslim Women in India’s Workforce: Where Are They?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 12:09

A platform or support network to champion women with entrepreneurial ambitions and facilitate the exchange of ideas, information, and capital needs to be set up. Credit: Unsplash

By External Source
Jul 30 2021 (IPS)

Muslims are the largest minority community in India, and yet, they are highly underrepresented both in public and private institutions. According to a study conducted by the Economic Times Intelligence Group in 2015, Muslims constituted approximately 2.7 percent of mid to senior executives in the private sector. As of April 2018, only 1.33 percent of officers in the central government, holding the rank of joint secretary and above, were found to be Muslims. 

The lack of women leaders is even starker, and Indian Muslim women are practically invisible in the country’s workforce. There are approximately 70 million educated Muslim women in the country. Given that India’s female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is falling, bringing educated Muslim women into the workforce could, according to one study, account for approximately USD 770 billion of the country’s GDP. Unfortunately, Indian Muslim women face the double disadvantage of being female and Muslim.

Indian Muslim women are practically invisible in the country’s workforce. There are approximately 70 million educated Muslim women in the country.: bringing educated Muslim women into the workforce could, according to one study, account for approximately USD 770 billion of the country’s GDP
Any conversation around Indian Muslim women in India needs to take into account the larger, external ecosystem as well as certain internal factors. External factors include systemic issues, such as the slew of legislations passed by the government, that are leading to further marginalisation of the community as a whole.

Internal to the Muslim community are factors that are in the immediate environment of its women. These include lack of education, social norms, and more, that keep women out of the public space and away from leadership roles in the workforce. Additionally, narratives around Muslims in India tend to focus on poverty, illiteracy, and conviction rates.

And, reportage on Muslim women in India is inextricably linked to either the triple talaaq law or Kashmir. This further enforces certain stereotypes and prejudices that act as roadblocks for the community and leads to discrimination.

Muslim women have always been caught between political considerations and personal marginalisation. Internal factors, too, require systemic changes and are limited until external factors are corrected. However, certain shifts in existing structures can help create space for young Indian Muslim women.

 

What will it take to change this?

1. Increasing enrollment in educational institutions

A report from the National Statistical Office reveals the extremely poor literacy rate among Muslims and the severity of their academic marginalisation in India. It points out that Muslims have the highest proportion of youth (ages 3-35 years) who have never enrolled in formal education.

The report also states that the Gross Attendance Ratio (people attending a level of education as a proportion of the population of the group) of Muslims is the lowest—100 percent in primary education—among various social and religious groups in India, and drops to a mere 14 percent in above-higher secondary courses. One step in the right direction would be to expand the scope of the Right to Education Act of 2009—which ensures compulsory primary education—to include secondary and higher education as well.

While the overall literacy rates for Muslims are abysmal, the report reveals a visible gap between male and female percentages as well. According to the report, the male literacy rate in India is 81 percent whereas the female literacy rate is 69 percent. An unpublished study1 draws parallels between Muslim and Hindu women, stating that women from both communities tend to have lower levels of enrollment as compared to men in Indian society because of various economic and cultural factors.

However, Muslim women also face discrimination in schooling because of their religious affiliation and are less likely to enrol in school compared to Muslim men. Policy changes for the community to encourage Muslims, especially women, to continue their studies and eventually seek employment, therefore, require rigorous and sustained efforts.

2. Ensuring equal opportunities in a professional space

Levelling the playing field for women professionals is key. It becomes essential, therefore, for organisations to follow the Equal Opportunities policy. The Indian Constitution mandates the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, and mandates equal opportunity in matters of public employment. In India, companies like Nestlé India and DELL, have committed themselves to create a work environment free of discrimination and harassment for their employees.

3. Building a support network of like-minded women

A platform or an informal, inclusive support network to champion women with entrepreneurial ambitions and facilitate the exchange of ideas, information, capital, and counsel needs to be set up. This should include local women-only networking programmes at a village, panchayat, and city-level to spur entrepreneurial engagement and participation. In addition to this, private and public partnerships that are government-led should help provide direct access to technical and business counselling.

4. Celebrating female entrepreneurs

Celebrating women role models through cross-media campaigns by national and state governments can help eliminate stereotypes, build community, and celebrate the successes of Indian Muslim women. This can also be translated to the private sector through a sectoral campaign that brings female professionals and entrepreneurs into the mainstream. This would help young Indian Muslim women identify potential mentors and empower them to continue on their journey, from education to employment.

In order to implement this broad framework, women leaders in the public and private sectors will need to come together to change the current situation. Recognising the need to create a formal network for Indian Muslim women is what led us to establish Led By Foundation—a leadership incubator for Indian Muslim women, to help them be gainfully and meaningfully employed, while also providing them with an ecosystem of support and recognition.

Through our work, we’ve interacted with numerous women who have the ambition, aptitude and aspiration to succeed. However, they lack the avenues—platforms to learn, share and encourage, access—the network, agency, and role models who have paved the path to success.

While we understand that the journey to changing this status quo may be slow and arduous, it is certainly not impossible. In our end state, racial equity—equal representation, economic, social, and political empowerment—will be achieved, and Muslim women will have multiple seats in boardrooms, in mid-level executive positions, in educational institutions, and more.

 

Deepanjali Lahiri is an experienced project management professional with more than 13 years of experience across IT, retail, and FMCG. With a degree in hotel management, she has spearheaded large-scale business projects to establish strategic directions for companies in the growth and acceleration stages. She is passionate about working with organisations and individuals to create a seat at the table for those who need a voice of support and to be a champion of change.

Dr Ruha Shadab graduated from Harvard Kennedy School as a Harvard Public Service Fellow. She has worked as a doctor in low-income neighbourhoods in Delhi, as well as with the Government of India, on systemic issues of healthcare. She established Led By Foundation, a social enterprise that provides professional training and mentorship to Muslim women college students, to inspire the next generation of female change-makers. She believes that for a community to be heard, it first needs to speak up.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

Categories: Africa

What Public Health Officials Can Learn from a New Long COVID Survey

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 10:39

Fifty percent of vaccine-hesitant Americans believe the message that “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent COVID-19 and its potential long-term complications”. Credit: UNICEF/Nahom Tesfaye

By Ifeanyi Nsofor
ABUJA, Jul 30 2021 (IPS)

new survey on public awareness of long COVID by ‘Resolve to Save Lives” showed that among the 40% of Americans who were not vaccinated, seeing testimonials of those who suffer from long COVID inspired nearly two-thirds to consider the vaccine. A representative sample of nearly 2,000 Americans 18 and older took the survey between May 21 and June 10, 2021.

While most people who recover from COVID-19 get better within a few weeks, some people have health problems for a long time. Even people who were initially asymptomatic can start exhibiting them. Examples of the symptoms include difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, difficulty breathing, cough, joint or muscle pain, fatigue, loss of smell, lightheadedness, and depression or anxiety.

Trying to avoid long COVID is a good reason to try to not catch COVID-19. This is especially true with the emergence and spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. Long COVID devastates lives, occupations, and incomes

Even though some people may not take precautions or get vaccinated because they think COVID symptoms would be mild if they contract it, long COVID shows that even people with mild or asymptomatic cases can suffer long-term. Trying to avoid long COVID, then, is a good reason to try to not catch COVID-19. This is especially true with the emergence and spread of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Long COVID devastates lives, occupations, and incomes. For instance, Paul Garner, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Co-ordinating Editor of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group has documented his long COVID experience for the British Medical Journal.

After being diagnosed with COVID-19, receiving treatment and recovering, he had bouts of long COVID symptoms. His symptoms included acutely painful calf, upset stomach, tinnitus, pins and needles, aching all over, breathlessness, dizziness, arthritis in the hands.

A breakdown of the recent survey result shows that learning about these kinds of stories can motivate unvaccinated Americans. In the long COVID survey, 64% of Americans became more concerned about contracting COVID-19 from watching the testimonials.

Thirty-nine percent of those who were unvaccinated, including 31% who were vaccine hesitant, were motivated to consider getting the vaccine. The testimonials were most effective among 18 to 29-year-olds, Hispanics and urbanites.

Fifty percent of vaccine-hesitant Americans believe the message that “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent COVID-19 and its potential long-term complications”.

As a public health physician and COVID-19 vaccine advocate, I found the survey findings promising. They provide the evidence base to increase vaccine uptake and counter misinformation. What can public health officials do with this information? Here are four steps.

First, engage willing long COVID sufferers and survivors as vaccine advocates. A misleading aspect of this pandemic is that about 80% of those infected do not have any symptoms. This gives the false impression that COVID-19 is not as infectious, harmful or as fatal as it actually is.

Moreover, even those who are asymptomatic can still develop long COVID and that fact needs to be better publicized. The long COVID survey has shown the power of testimonies by sufferers. Governments, national public health institutes, civil society organizations, community-based organizations should leverage this.

This should begin by identifying long COVID sufferers willing to share their testimonies. COVID:Aid, the UK-based long COVID Charity set up to support and give a voice to individuals affected by Covid-19 across the UK, is a great organization to work with. Partnering with COVID:Aid will help identify sufferers and support them to share their stories.

Second, use findings of this survey to create targeted advocacy messaging for all demographics. Such messaging must be aspirational. It should not be designed to make the target groups feel unworthy. Rather, the messaging should be to make them aspire to be vaccinated. It should make the unvaccinated know the importance of being vaccinated and ending the pandemic. Health advocates must seize this opportunity to end the pandemic.

Third, prioritize social media as the medium for communicating the testimonials and targeted advocacy messaging. Vaccine hesitancy is quite common among the youths who use social media since they do not think they will suffer much if they contract it. Using social media in this way should involve working closely with social media firms and involving them in designing the messaging.

Already Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are involved in countering COVID-19-related misinformation and disinformation. Their involvement should include sharing videos of long COVID sufferers talking about their symptoms, how they cope and the benefits of being vaccinated.

Fourth, and related, use influencers to deliver long COVID social media testimonials. Globally, there are billions of social media users ruled by influencers. There are examples of social media influencers countering misinformation.

In Nigeria, the FactsMatterNG used Nollywood celebrity Actor Kate Henshaw (2.3 million Instagram followers). In Indonesia, social media influencers were among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine. The Indonesian government took this route in world’s largest Muslim country due to the belief that influencers will post their experience online and help convey that vaccines are safe, effective, and allowed under Islamic law.

Celebrity TV star, Raffi Ahmad (54 million Instagram followers) shared his video of being vaccinated and it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times. In the U.S., American pop star Olivia Rodrigo (14.4 million Instagram followers) is supporting the plan by President Biden’s Administration to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

In a White House video, Olivia and Dr. Fauci read tweets and answered questions by young people on COVID-19 vaccination.  The first tweet they read was, “If Olivia Rodrigo tells you to get vaccinated, you get vaccinated“. This tweet shows the power of social media influencers.

Long COVID will be around for a long time. The survey shows that hearing testimonials from sufferers and survivors can help reduce vaccine hesitancy, so we must capitalize on that and work to reduce the likelihood of more people suffering from long COVID.

 

Dr. Ifeanyi McWilliams Nsofor is a graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University. Ifeanyi is the Director Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch.

Categories: Africa

Are UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the Doldrums Due to the Corona Virus?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 09:00

A Somali resident sells meat at a market in Hudur, where food shortages continue to cause suffering. Meanwhile, between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020 – some 161 million more than for 2019 – the UN Secretary-General said July 12; “new, tragic data”, which indicates the world is “tremendously off track” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Jan Servaes and Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u
BRUSSELS, Belgium / JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jul 30 2021 (IPS)

A short answer to this question is yes, but it is obvious and predictable failure was visible for some time. This debate started before 2015, the year in which the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) were adopted as successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000. The 8 MDGs were expanded to 17 massive goals and 169 targets.

Using projections from international organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD and the WHO, the British Overseas Development Institute (ODI) already quantified in 2015 how much the world would need to accelerate current trends to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The targets were given a ‘grade’, based on the expected progress. An ‘A’ rating meant that current progress is sufficient to meet the target, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’ numbers need to go up a notch. An “F” number indicates that the world is going in the wrong direction.

None of the 17 SDGs was rated A. Only three SDGs, — SDG1 (no poverty), SDG8 (economic growth and decent jobs) and SDG15 (biodiversity) — were rated B. SDG 3 (health for all), 4 (quality education), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), 17 (partnerships for the goals), 2 (no hunger), 6 (water and sanitation), 7 (energy), 5 (gender) and 9 (industrialization) all received an average C grade. SDGs 10 (inequality), 11 (cities), 12 (waste), 13 (climate change) and 14 (oceans) were all unsatisfactory.

In other words, only 3 of the 17 SDGs were on track to achieve a reasonably acceptable outcome by 2030. This score was developed in 2015, long before COVID-19 hit.

With the devastating effect of COVID-19 on nearly every sector of the global economy, it is clear that achieving the SDGs by 2030 is virtually impossible. Moreover, addressing development goals by nation states is more difficult than was recognized by the authors of the 2030 Agenda for Development.

For example, a study by Lin and Monga (2017) concluded that between 1950 and 2008, only 28 countries managed to reduce their gap with the United States by 10 percent or more. That is a period of 58 years, while the 2030 agenda must be realized within 15 years. Of the 28 countries listed by Lin and Monga, only 12 were non-European or non-oil economies.

According to Lin and Monga, the challenge of renewing developing countries’ economies is inseparable from some of the intellectual and policy errors imposed by the Washington consensus in the 1970s to 1990s, the years described as the lost decade for developing countries.

Banerjee and Duflo (2019), who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on poverty alleviation, in fact emphasized how economists designing development policies are out of touch with the realities of ordinary people.

In a more recent analysis, published in the authoritative World Development, Moyer and Hedden (2020) also question how feasible the SDGs are under the current circumstances. They highlight difficulties for some SDG indicators (access to safe sanitation, high school completion, and underweight children) that will not be resolved without a significant shift in domestic and international aid policies and prioritization.

In addition, Moyer and Hedden cite 28 particularly vulnerable countries that are not expected to meet any of the nine human development targets. These most vulnerable countries should be able to count on international aid and therefore financial support.

In our view, the realization of the 2030 agenda can only be achieved on the basis of three factors.

The first is financing. The critical question that is posed in various forums about the SDGs invariably ends with the question: who is going to fund it? Where will the money come from? How can low- and middle-income countries generate sufficient resources to finance the 2030 development agenda.

Although each country has its own priorities, paying the bills for the SDGs remains a delicate matter. The Asia-Europe Foundation calculated (2020: 6) that “the total investment costs to achieve the SDGs by 2030 are between USD 5 and USD 7 trillion per year at the global level and between a total of USD 3.3 and USD 4.5 trillion per year in developing countries.

This implies an average investment need of USD 2.5 trillion per year in developing countries. To better understand the real financial needs of the SDGs, these countries should prepare their own estimates, at least for their priority objectives”.

A significant effort must be made through the private sector and philanthropists. While governments and ordinary people have been hit hard by the health and economic impact of COVID-19, in a way it has been good news for billionaires, many of whom have seen their wealth grow astronomically.

A report from the Washington-based Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) shows that US billionaires have seen their wealth grow by $1 trillion between March and November 2020. Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased 61 percent between March and November 2020, from $113 billion to $182.4 billion.

The report added that just three years ago, there was not a single multi-billionaire, that is, a person with a net worth of more than $100 billion. Since November 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now at least 5 multi-billionaires; namely Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bernard Arnault, president of Louis Vuitton; Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Elon Musk of Tesla (Huffington Post 2020).

These billionaires, along with the more than 2,000 billionaires from around the world, are wealthy enough to help make substantial progress in some of the SDGs.

The second important factor that can help achieve the SDGs is political will. Many countries have drawn up ambitious national development plans that look great on paper. How many of those plans end up being realized?

When one sees that the fortunes of a country have been successfully changed through the effective implementation of national plans, one cannot separate such achievements from the strong political will of the leaders. The example of China speaks for itself.

The crucial question to be asked is whether that political will is there. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, responded to a mid-term review of the Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2020): “It is inevitable that one crucial ingredient is still missing. Political will. Without political will, neither the public opinion, nor the stakeholders take sufficient action”. This is where the challenge to achieve the SDGs lies, i.e. a real political will.

The third factor is the need for robust communication for development and social change, so that political will can be conveyed to all stakeholders. Leaders who inspire change do so with the communication tools available in their time.

While the digital age disrupts social systems and drives transformation at a scale and pace unparalleled in history, the SDGs remain quite silent on the subject. Indeed, today digital technologies determine what we read and consume, how we vote and how we interact with each other and the world around us.

Many risks and uncertainties are emerging, including threats to individual rights, social justice and democracy, all amplified by ‘the digital divide’ – the differential speed of internet penetration and access to digital technologies around the world.

None of the SDGs can be achieved unless people are able to communicate their dreams, concerns and needs – locally, nationally, regionally, globally. We therefore propose to supplement the list with SDG 18: Communication for all.

Communications for social change in the era of COVID-19 must also consider the challenge of misinformation when initiating communication strategies. Therefore, the communication strategies of the World Bank, UNICEF or WHO are not comprehensive enough.

First, they failed to take into account the challenges of infodemics and fake news in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The second shortcoming is that the strategies contain little scientific communication to make the public aware of how health professionals make decisions and advise the public about its safety. Disinformation is a critical factor that exacerbates the challenges that communication for development and social change must address.

For all these reasons, the UN and the rest of the international community need to be realistic and review the 2030 Agenda for Development by shifting the timeline from 2030 to 2050.

Some regional organizations, such as the African Union, have already set the date for achieving their development goals to 2063 (https://au.int/en/agenda2063/sdgs).

The SDGs should be prioritized with SDG1 on the eradication of extreme poverty as the main objective for the next 10 years. Eradicating extreme poverty is likely to have implications for other SDGs, in particular SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Efforts to eradicate extreme poverty should not be based on slogans, but should be supported by governments, funding agencies, donors and philanthropists are seen as the best chance to save humanity. The intellectual errors and policies imposed on low- and middle-income countries, which plunge them further into the abyss of underdevelopment, must be avoided.

Serious thought should be accorded to the post COVID19 world due to the impact of the lockdown on the global economy. Some governments, multinational institutions and private sector are hastening to institutionalize remote work before the pandemic ends.

As an interim major, working from home has contributed significantly in reducing the impact of the pandemic, but what is the impact of working from home on the future of work in a post-COVID-19 World?

Will the closure of offices, firms and other businesses for remote work accelerate or reduce the chances of achieving the SDGs? Is there sufficient data to back the policy decisions on a permanent remote work culture? How does this affect the employability of low and unskilled workers?

These are questions that policy makers must think through. The SDGs are meant to promote social inclusion and reduce inequality, not to save money and increase profitability.

Setting the timeline for the achievement of the SDGs to 2050 will allow sufficient time to re-evaluate progress made so far, complete missing objectives, such as SDG 18 on communication for all, and bridge the lost ground of the SDGs.

It will also give the global community ample time to strategize on how to deal with the potential rise of right-wing, populist and nationalist governments such as Bolsonaro, Duterte or Trump’s, which may impose limits on the SDGs through their disdain for multilateralism. And plans must also be made in advance to mitigate the next disasters that could impair the achievement of the SDGs.

Jan Servaes was UNESCO-Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He taught ‘international communication’ and ‘communication for sustainable social change’ in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, the US, Netherlands and Thailand, in addition to short-term projects at about 120 universities in 55 countries.

Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u is an international development expert and former journalist with the BBC World Service, London. He was the Managing Editor of Africa Policy Journal at Harvard Kennedy School, USA and one-time Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics at Northumbria University, UK; he has taught Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

This text is based on Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u & Jan Servaes (eds.).
The Palgrave Handbook of International Communication and Sustainable Development, Palgrave MacMillan, 2021, ISBN 978-3-030-69769-3, https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030697693

 


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Categories: Africa

Africa's week in pictures: 23-29 July 2021

BBC Africa - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 01:10
A selection of the week's best photos from across the continent and beyond.
Categories: Africa

DR Congo, Ituri. Fleeing War, Weaving Life in IDP Camps of Bunia

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 19:43

The man reading is a displaced man in the IDP camp ISP in Bunia. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, Jul 29 2021 (IPS)

He moves aside the curtain, thin as gauze, and then bends over. The darkness dazzles for a few seconds when one enters the house—actually, a den made of earth where air and light filter through the narrow entrance. Jean de Dieu Amani Paye holds her tiny baby, wrapped in an elegant fabric, in his arms. He was a teacher of French and Latin and had a small business. He also cultivated the land: cassava, corn, sorghum, and beans.

Now he is a leader of the ISP camp on the outskirts of Bunia, the capital of the province of Ituri, where internally displaced people take shelter. His struggle is not only to survive but to also help those who have nothing left except a memory of horror. His struggle is against “grudges.”

“There are always grudges that remain in people’s hearts because they see the living conditions we lead here,” he explains. “If we think about what has happened since we arrived, it throws us into regret.” He escaped, having to leave behind everything, like almost two million other people in what is one of the worst and most forgotten humanitarian crises on the planet. He left his village due to the conflict in the region’s countryside, at the extreme north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the border with Uganda, where the green of the forest blends with the ocher and red of the land.

Bile Luchobe and the men and women who have reached the camps of Bunia from the territories of Djugu and Irumu explain what feeds the rancor. “They go around with the heads of those who kill and mutilate their bellies, then leave the bodies there, among the trees. The houses are burning down. It is impossible to remain in these conditions, so I fled,” she says. “They kill a person and eat his heart. It’s impossible to stay in a place like that.”

Since May of this year, the Congolese government has decreed a state of siege in an attempt to control a conflict that returns in waves like a damnation—from 1998 to 2003, and then until 2007. In 2017, there were less than 500,000 displaced people; now they number 1.7 million in a region slightly smaller than Ireland. The peak came in June 2020, when the brutality of the armed groups emptied the villages. Civilians are targets; terror and rape are weapons of war. A war too often described–in a manner akin to throwing alcohol on a fire–as simply the result of an ancestral hatred.

Bile fears that what happened in Djugu might happen here. “For women, whether you run away or not, these bandits will catch you, they will rape you. Even if there are ten people, they will all pass over you,” she says. She experiences panic attacks because in this patch of land, which should host four thousand people but lodges more than twelve thousand, the gunshots at night offer a reminder that war is not far.

Jean de Dieu Amani Paye. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

The ISP – where Jean de Dieu, secretary of the camp’s steering committee, lives – was set up through the efforts of displaced people on the properties of Bunia’s Institut Supérieur Pédagogique and the Catholic diocese. They have built small shelters with reeds and mud on the slope of a hill, so close to each other that it’s hard to walk between them. There are also large common areas, a hangar crowded with too many souls. The ISP is not the only IDPs camp in Bunia. Kigonze is home to a growing number of persons. It has been established in 2019 by humanitarian organizations to receive those who lived on other sites now closed and to decongest the overcrowded ISP. It can be reached along a junky dirt road that cuts through cultivated land. There are no mud houses at Kigonze; instead, there are tarapulins, silvery and dazzling under the African sun.

Jean de Dieu comes from a small town near Walendu Bindi. He fled with his family, whose older members carried the children on their backs, on a Saturday afternoon in February 2018. They had not even a sweet potato to eat. The family knew that the militiamen had set fire to the houses in a nearby village and that the violence would eventually reach them. They fled all night, until the morning. “We waited for a truce. We wanted to return, at least to get some water. We learned that bandits had returned, had taken the goats, burned houses, and taken away the many things left.” He talks with his legs curled up and his back leaning against the intensely yellow wall of the room where his household members sleep and eat. “We still live here, despite the living conditions.”

Those who flee want to get to Bunia, which is safer than the rural centers. IDPs sites, although potential targets, are patrolled by police and soldiers from the United Nations peacekeeping mission. However, a hiss is enough to generate panic. “If you hear the shots of the bullets 7 km from where you are, why can’t they get here? It is close to us,” Jean de Dieu says.

“The camp is open, there is no fence. It can be crossed; people pass from left to right. We don’t really know who they are. The assailants have already entered the city,” François Mwanza Lwanga adds with concern. He is among the leaders of the ISP camp, too. He is the president of the committee. He fled with his family and his very young baby—only two weeks old—from Sanduku, almost a hundred kilometers from Bunia. Reaching the city took them three days on foot. It was February 2018.

Bile Luchobe. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

Elena Mbusi is sitting with Bile in front of her small house, a mirror nestled in the mud wall. She wears a blue dress with white motifs and puff sleeves. A beautifully knotted brown scarf adorns her head. A small crowd of youth throngs beside them. “I was not afraid, but this war is killing our children. This is the biggest loss,” she says. Elena arrived at the ISP on February 12, 2018, from Bahema Baguli and she is part of the team that organizes the life at the camp, too. Like Bile, hygienist. “We are here but we are really afraid. Several people send us messages saying that the fighting will reach us in the city, at the camp. But may they have mercy on us!”

The two women stand and slowly walk through the narrow alleys, up to a widening at the top of the hill where the wind blows and the smoke rises from the braziers on which food is cooked. Children play silently and the cassava dries in the sun on an immense cream-colored sheet. The hangar where Bile lives is not far away. It is a common house made of mud and wooden boards through which a very clear light filters through. A wall is covered with sacks and cloths that seem to gather all the colors of Africa. Children wash themselves in plastic basins while their mothers knead cassava flour to make foufou, a kind of soft grit or porridge. Bile, who lives at the ISP with her seven grandchildren and many other relatives, is frightened by the night crackle of firearms. “I’m afraid of almost everything. I am traumatized and to hear that what happened to Djugu is happening here… When I remember what happened in my village, I have panic attacks,” she says.

Only minor traumas can be relieved at the camps. When the conditions are too serious, patients are referred to the local hospital, while a Congolese non-governmental organization, Sofepadi, takes care of women victims of sexual exploitation, as Josèphine Atibaguwe, a nurse at the Kigonze camp, explains.

Fear paralyzes. Those who live in the camp know that. Outside, insecurity does not cease. There’s nothing to do but wait and hope that food aid, never enough, won’t be lacking. Leaving the camp is a risk that very few take. Children, on the other hand, beg in the city center, becoming easy prey for being recruited into armed groups. The sites where displaced people live mark the boundary between the city and the countryside, but the countryside is inaccessible. “Before, we would have gone to the fields near [Bunia] as day laborers, but those who have the courage to cross the Shali bridge never come back. If you go far, they can kill you for nothing,” explains Rachel Turache, a mother of five who lives in Kigonze and comes from Liseyi. She represents those who live in the bloc, 1 sector B.

“This life is too difficult,” Francois says. “We seem to be people without responsibility because we no longer depend on ourselves but on NGOs. We are unemployed and do not work. Our intelligence continues to decline. Children’s behavior is also changing.” The clothes hanging from the ceiling of his house, the pots in a corner next to a small stove where food is cooked by burning dark spheres of charcoal that dry in the sun, made of coal and water by women and children: Francois tells how hard it is. For his wife, it would be a problem if she could not find the pagne, a large piece of fabric women use to grid their hips. Those who are married wear it, a visible form of dignity and respect.

“It is not the life lived in the village. We ate well there,” recalls François. The children grew up well, while now, childhood malnutrition is rampant. In Kigonze, there is a feeding session every Wednesday for the most severe cases of acute malnutrition. Children are fed pre-prepared food made of peanuts, milk, and other ingredients. It’s cold at night, in Kigonze, and too hot during the day. Mosquitoes bring diseases. At the medical center, Josephine wears a pure white gown and distributes drugs: “The cases we record are mainly malaria, diarrhea, and, in children, malnutrition,” she explains. No Covid cases until now, but only fever and cough, and no plague, which has returned in Aru.

Charcoal balls. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

The houses of Kigonze are in parallel rows and overlook avenues where a little activity flows: a few motorbikes, small shops that sell everything, women crushing cassava leaves In a mortar, cassava is ground by noisy millstones. The longed-for life is that of rural Africa: lush, blessed yet tortured, where food is at war with minerals, where gold, agriculture, and livestock struggle to share the same land. Bile, who was a primary school teacher, farmed the land after work, as Rachel used to do.

“We try to live despite everything; certainly, this is not the life we led in our villages,” explains Rachel, her hands resting on a yellow pagne, a splash of color in the monotony of Kigonze’s light-colored shelters. The rhinestones on her blouse sparkle as she recounts what the war has destroyed, the mornings when she woke up early to look after the cattle before going to the fields, and the evenings spent sustaining the family income with a small business. “My greatest passion was feeding my cattle,” adds Michel Kiza Barongo, who sits next to Rachel in a pink plastic chair under a canopy. He comes from Fataki and was a village chief. Now, he is the chief of the bloc 15, sector B.

Accepting dependence on others, to lose what has been painstakingly built, is hard. Some try to go back, those who do not want to leave their homes, even if a truce does not necessarily mean peace. A few have managed to move back to their former lives. When Jean de Dieu’s village was attacked, not everyone reached Bunia immediately; some returned for the space of a season. “They also cultivated the fields, but as harvest time approached, [the violence] erupted again,” says Jean de Dieu. “As leaders and representatives, we are reassuring people by telling them that what happens today will pass, that they can stay in this situation because if they leave, they will continue to face other dangerous situations.”

Kigonze has a steering committee, like the ISP: displaced people who help other displaced people, together with local and international organizations, UNHCR, WFP, Caritas, and IOM. There is who is in charge of health, of women, spare time and children, or surveillance. At the ISP, there are thirty-eight avenues, streets, or “blocs,” each with its own leader.

They try to convince those who live in the camp to stay and break the spiral that leads to never-ending displacement, but they also try to tackle the hardest task: helping people bear the weight of suffering and not getting swallowed by another spiral, the one leading from rancor to violence. “What we are doing here is raising awareness to relieve their tension. We give advice so that displaced persons do not participate in demonstrations here and there in the city and so that they know how to deal with stress because everyone here has their own story,” Francois explains. There are stories like that of Bernadette Ngaji, a sixty-three-year-old from Largukwa, who witnessed violence and looting. She sits on the ground, on the threshold of her house in the Kigonze camp. The brown pagne decorated in purple and beige lies like a blanket on her outstretched legs, which she struggles to bend. Three bullets created a long scar on her left leg, which she must use as a pivot to get up. The right leg is marked by burns that look like faded petals. “In my village, I was a hard worker. I had my own shop; I was selling fuel and I had three vehicles and everything has been burned… I’m here as a disabled victim of the war,” she says. Bernadette does not leave the camp because outside it would be worse. She will flee only if war reaches her there. Elena stays, too. “I can’t go back there, not in this insecurity. If there is a return of peace, of course, I will go back.”

In the darkness of the displaced lives, dazzling as when entering the cramped houses, one clings to Michel’s concise words: “It was the mutual help between the populations that struck me more.” Solidarity within a conflict whose reasons no one, from the ISP to Kigonze, can explain. Trying to understand them means unraveling a tangle of threads that from Bunia—the capital besieged by the desperation of those seeking refuge and sustained by the courage of those who struggle to weave the web of peace with those same threads—leads to rural villages and, then, much farther.

Nagaji Bernadette. Credit: Elena L. Pasquini

This feature was first published by Degrees of Latitude
Akilimali Saleh Chomachoma as producer and Sahwili interpreter

 


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Categories: Africa

Alarming Crisis of Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in DRC

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 17:28

Elena Pasquini filming somewhere in the AKIgonze IDPs camp in the outskirts of Bunia in Ituri. Credit: Elena Pasquini

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Jul 29 2021 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most hostile and dangerous regions for journalists. A complex conflict, deeply rooted in the country’s past, allows very little freedom, both movement and the press.

“There are multiple actors involved, and as a journalist, we have the duty of admitting this complexity,” says Elena Pasquini, founder and editor in chief of Degrees of Latitude, in an interview with IPS. “Be aware of the difficulties when it comes to understanding the issues, and be careful of every single word we use to portray this conflict.”

Pasquini, who reported from the DRC earlier this year, says the risk of reporting from such a conflict zone is not just physical, not just a question of safety, but also highlights the responsibility journalists have in their work and how they cover a story.

“For a journalist and a foreigner, it’s really important to understand when a situation is potentially risky and identify the threats at an early stage. I was worried while travelling along roads that I knew were home to armed groups. I was scared each time I was stopped at a checkpoint and while interacting with the police or even walking in areas where kidnappings occur frequently,” Pasquini says. “It’s important to learn from the local colleagues and adapt our behaviour according to the local environments.”

Elena Pasquini travelling with the UN peacekeeping mission, somewhere in Irumu territory, Ituri. Credit: Elena Pasquini

According to Journalists in Danger (JED), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) partner organisation in the DRC, at least 115 press freedom violations were logged in 2020. This report by RSF tells of how several journalists had been detained in response to complaints by provincial governors. A former minister sued one of RSF’s correspondents. Armed groups prevalent in the east of the country have attacked, threatened, or forced journalists into hiding. One journalist was killed.

“A journalist who has gone missing, his family members were informed by an armed group that he had been executed three days after abducting him,” the report says. “Journalists with many online followers have been the victims of smear campaigns.”

Women are often victims of abuse and violence, and in the DRC, rape is a weapon of war, says Pasquini. Crowded areas in the DRC are often chaotic and hotspots for fights, protests, and gatherings, which can turn deadly.

While covering a protest against an alleged extrajudicial execution, Pasquini had no choice but to trust the instinct of her local driver, who asked her to immediately stop filming, roll up the car windows and not make eye contact with anyone outside.

“At that point, I didn’t think about the weapons or the machetes the people surrounding our car could have had. I don’t know if I would have been a target or not, but I simply followed my driver’s instructions and got out safely. It’s truly the fixers, producers and the drivers who make the difference and can save your life in such situations,” Pasquini says.

Earlier in February this year, the Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, was killed. According to this report, the United Nations convoy he was travelling in came under fire near Goma, killing him, an Italian military police officer and a Congolese driver.

Pasquini was amongst the few international journalists present in the DRC at the time and had travelled along the same route and with the same convoy just a few days before the attack on the Italian Ambassador.

“That road connects Goma to Uganda, and it’s as dangerous as any area would be in a conflict zone. It is very difficult to have an idea of what really happened, but from my experience, I can say kidnapping to get ransom is very common on that side.”

“I hope the investigation will lead to the discovery of who is behind the attack of the Ambassador, it is hard, and impunity is common. Every day such crimes are committed, and it is very rare that someone is convicted for those crimes, or even just identified,” says Pasquini.

Over the years, multiple conflicts which escalated in the eastern part of the DRC forced almost 6000 people to flee their homes, making this crisis “the largest number of new displacements due to conflict in the world”.

“DR Congo is one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. A lethal combination of spiralling violence, record hunger levels and total neglect has ignited a mega-crisis that warrants a mega-response. But instead, millions of families on the brink of the abyss seem to be forgotten by the outside world and are left shut off from any support lifeline,” the Secretary-General of Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said in a statement.

A residential area in Goma, North Kivu. Volcano Nyragongo seen in the background. Credit: Elena Pasquini

Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that there are 5.5 million internally displaced people in the country. Nearly 930,000 people from Congo were registered as refugees and asylum seekers in at least 20 countries worldwide. Numerous armed groups and, in some cases, government security forces attack civilians, killing and wounding many.

“Several thousand fighters from various armed groups surrendered throughout the year, but many have returned to armed groups as the authorities failed to take them through an effective Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program. In many instances, armed assailants were also responsible for sexual violence against women and girls, HRW said.

In May, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi proclaimed a “state of siege” in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province to counter growing attacks and fights against armed groups.

Despite efforts by the government, violence and insecurity continue to threaten the safety of journalists in this region. JED & RSF have called out the DRC’s government to prioritise two major reforms to keep its promise to improve press freedom and create mechanisms designed to ensure rapid response to violations and follow up at the highest level. It also asked the government to establish a communication channel with press freedom groups and step up its protection for journalists, and combat impunity.

“The lack of legislation that can protect freedom of the press remains a challenge in the DRC. The level of violence is very high, so you have to put in place a lot of safety measures and do what you can to protect yourself,” says Pasquini.

“We need to keep the spotlight on the DRC and keep the attention on what’s happening in that country. Due to the ongoing conflict, it is already very dangerous to travel, to go to those places where stories are happening. It’s also very tough to verify information,” Pasquini says. “There are multiple threats from various armed groups, various checkpoints all over the region, institutional threats of defamation, they all make it very tough to tell the story, and that’s why we need to tell those stories even more.”

 


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Categories: Africa

Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: Fighting escalates despite ceasefire

BBC Africa - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 14:55
Forces in Amhara are battling rebels on three fronts along the border with Tigray, officials say.
Categories: Africa

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