DRCInternational NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced on July 11 that it was sending four cargo planes of emergency relief goods to Bunia, the main town of the volatile Ituri District in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The plans will carry a total of 50 mt of relief goods, including emergency food (high-energy biscuits, therapeutic powder milk and "plumpy nuts", an enriched food supplement), rolls of plastic sheeting for shelters and material to set up a therapeutic feeding centre for up to 500 severely malnourished children.
On July 4, MSF had warned of a lack of essential supplies to help thousands of displaced people returning to Bunia.
In a statement issued in Bunia, MSF said it had set up a medical screening post for families returning to the town at one point of entry, where first aid was being provided and patients requiring urgent care were referred to the MSF hospital.
MSF workers said the returnees were exhausted, many ill and wounded, while many children were suffering from severe malnutrition. (Source: IRIN)
MozambiqueAfrican leaders meeting in Mozambique this week for the second African Union (AU) summit said the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) was a priority for the continent, and a new regional effort which would demand greater financial support from the international community was needed.
Sixty million Africans have been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told delegates during the Global Forum on Health and Development.
Up to 1,000 adults and children die of AIDS each day in some of the worst affected countries in Africa. A significant number of the deaths are among young people, who provide the bulk of the labour force.
"Only if AIDS is rapidly brought under control will social and economic development be able to flourish," said Piot. "This can become a reality if African leaders make it their business to invest in both AIDS prevention and care and treatment."
AIDS activists also said although prevention programmes still needed to be scaled up, African leaders should take advantage of treating those living with HV/AIDS, especially stopping mother to child transmission of the virus. In sub-Saharan Africa some 58 per cent of those infected by the HIV virus are women.
"The price at which antiretrovirals are available to developing countries has dropped significantly, but the technical facilities and sustainable financing are still a major barrier," Piot said. "African governments must seize the opportunity to expand access to HIV care and treatment in their countries."
The forum was the first-ever international videoconference on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria to be held at a summit like this. It brought together African heads of state, UN officials, AIDS experts and academics from around the world.
Earlier in the week, the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO, Dr Ebramim Malick Samba told journalists that HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB "are partly caused by poverty, and survive because of poverty." He added that during the summit he would "remind heads of state of the Abuja Declaration of 2001."
Under the Abuja declaration, African leaders promised that the fight against HIV/AIDS would be at the forefront of development plans in their respective countries, and a target of allocating at least 15 percent of the annual budget to the improvement of the health sector would be set. (Source: IRIN)
NigeriaHuman Rights Watch (HRW) has asked US President George Bush to "strongly condemn" Nigerian police brutality during his stop in the country on July 11. It also urged Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to make a commitment not to shield Liberian President Charles Taylor from justice.
Bush was expected in Nigeria late on July 11 on the last leg of a five-nation African tour that took him to Senegal, South African, Botswana and Uganda.
HRW said that over the past two weeks several Nigerians had been shot dead by the police and others severely beaten. These incidents, HRW said, formed part of a broader pattern of increased harassment and intimidation of critics by the Nigerian government.
"Bush is coming to Nigeria at a critical moment. He can't ignore this violence," the executive director of HRW's Africa division Peter Takirambudde said. "The improvements in civil liberties since the advent of civilian rule in Nigeria are now being reversed."
Concerning Obasanjo's recent offer to grant President Taylor "safe haven" in his country, HRW said that despite his championing the notions of human rights and justice in international fora, he appeared ready to allow the Liberian president to evade justice.
HRW urged the Nigerian government to issue clear instructions to the police to allow peaceful protests and to refrain from using excessive force against people who are not engaging in violence. "It should also release those arrested in connection with the protest at the US embassy unless there are grounds for charging them with a recognisable criminal offence."
On July 3 about 30 people were arrested in Abuja after delivering a petition to the US embassy protesting President Bush's visit to Nigeria on the grounds that it conferred legitimacy on Obasanjo's government. Five days later they remained in detention without charge in an undisclosed location, HRW said.
In a related development, President Obasanjo asked the country's Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun to probe the allegations of gross human rights abuses by the police during the recent workers' strike that led to the death of at least nine people. (Source: IRIN).
RwandaThe Rwandan National Electoral Commission announced on July 10 that it needed US $4.6 million to conduct the nation's first post-genocide presidential and parliamentary elections.
This announcement follows an earlier statement by the Kigali government, in which it said that presidential elections would be held on August 25 and parliamentary polls on September 29. The government said political campaigns could begin on August 1.
The electoral body reported that it had opened a public account seeking financial support from Rwandan citizens. So far, the account has received about $400,000 from major Rwandan companies and prominent businessmen.
The president of the electoral commission, Chrysologue Karangwa, said that presidential aspirants must submit their nomination papers between 14 and 18 July. The final list of candidates is due to be issued on July 19.
Rwanda's polls, in which four candidates will vie for the presidency, will mark an end to the nine-year-old transitional government of national unity. The elections are widely expected to be a two-man race between incumbent President Paul Kagame and the country's first post-genocide premier, Faustin Twagiramungu.
The electoral commission also said that it had begun updating voter registration rosters and carrying out civic education to inform the population on voting procedures. (Source: IRIN)
RwandaRwanda's HIV/AIDS Control Commission has embarked on a campaign to integrate HIV/AIDS control programmes in the private and public sectors. "We hope to achieve a high level of involvement," Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the executive secretary of the National AIDS Control Commission, said on July 10.
The campaign calls for meeting medical expenses for employees infected with the virus as well as promoting awareness within the two sectors. Binagwaho told a two-day conference in the capital, Kigali, that the commission wanted the public and private firms to integrate HIV/AIDS-related programmes into the planning of their activities. The commission, she said, was also seeking strategies to fight HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
Rwanda has one of the highest HIV infection rates in central Africa, with 11.3 percent of its 8.1 million people infected. The most affected age bracket is the 15-35 year group.
Rwandan beer and soft drink company, BRALIRWA, is one of the few private companies that have a medical policy for employees infected with HIV/AIDS. Employees are provided with anti-retroviral drugs - a benefit which is also extended to close family members. (Source: IRIN)