Good News Agency – Year XII, n° 199



Weekly – Year XII, number 199 – 16th March 2012

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.           

Good News Agency carries positive and constructive news from all over the world relating to voluntary work, the work of the United Nations, non governmental organizations and institutions engaged in improving the quality of life – news that doesn’t “burn out” in the space of a day. It is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists in 54 countries and to 3,000 NGOs and 1,600 high schools, colleges and universities.

It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, an educational charity associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) presented to the UN General Assembly, Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing a major role in the field of Information via Internet*.




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

UN S-G on International Women's Day, 8 March


International legislation



Philippines: more protection for victims of international armed conflicts

Manila, March 6 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the ratification by the Philippines of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, applicable in international armed conflict. The Senate of the Philippines, after consideration by the committee on foreign relations chaired by Senator Loren Legarda, today passed Additional Protocol I on third and final reading.

The Philippines has signed and ratified more treaties relating to international humanitarian law than any other country in South-East Asia. Additional Protocol I imposes constraints, for humanitarian reasons, on the way in which military operations may be conducted in international armed conflicts. Its ratification will result in greater protection for Filipino military personnel deployed abroad in peace-keeping or other military operations undertaken in connection with an international armed conflict. Armed forces medical units and medical transportation will also be entitled to enhanced protection.

As guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC reminds parties to the conflict of their obligations under this branch of law, and participates in the development of the law. The ICRC has been visiting detainees and assisting people in need, many of them displaced throughout the decades of internal armed conflicts in the Philippines. 


Landmine ban campaign revs up

Tess O’Brien

6 March - On March 1st a global campaign was launched to put an end within our lifetime to the relentless destruction caused by landmines. Around the world, people are joining together in solidarity to take a stand, to step forward and to ‘Lend a Leg for a mine free world’, all through the simple gesture of rolling up their pants leg. 

Launched on the 13th anniversary of the adoption of the International Mine Ban Treaty and running until International Mines Awareness Day on April 4th, ‘Lend Your Leg’ is a month long call to action – for civil society, governments and partners – to work diligently together to a make a mine free world a reality.

Since the Mine Ban Treaty became law 13 years ago, 80 per cent of the world’s countries have banned landmines, millions of mines have been removed from the ground and billions of dollars have been invested into land release, survivor assistance and mine risk education.


Ban welcomes political deal reached at Somali constitutional conference

19 February – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the political agreement reached by Somalis at a national constitutional conference, saying the accord “sets out clear steps for ending the transition and putting in place a constitutional order” in the war-scarred, impoverished country.

The TFIs are in the process of implementing a roadmap devised in September last year. That roadmap spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in August. Mr. Ban said in today's statement that he particularly welcomed the commitment to include a minimum of 30 per cent women in the Independent Electoral Commission, the Constituent Assembly and the new Federal Parliament.



Human rights



Millennium Development Goal drinking water target met

Sanitation target still lagging far behind

 New York/Geneva, 6 March – The world has met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of the MDG 2015 deadline, according to a report issued today by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells.

The report,, by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, says at the end of 2010 89 per cent of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources. This is one per cent more than the 88 per cent MDG target. The report estimates that by 2015 92 per cent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water.

The report highlights, however, that the world is still far from meeting the MDG target for sanitation, and is unlikely to do so by 2015. Only 63 per cent of the world now have improved sanitation access, a figure projected to increase only to 67 per cent by 2015, well below the 75 per cent aim in the MDGs. Currently 2.5 billion people still lack improved sanitation.

 UNICEF and WHO also cautioned that since the measurement of water quality is not possible globally, progress towards the MDG target of safe drinking water is measured through gathering data on the use of improved drinking water sources. Significant work must be done to ensure that improved sources of water are and remain safe.


Rio+20: social media countdown to UN Sustainable Development Forum kicks off

New York, March - The 100-day countdown to the United Nations conference on sustainable development that will be held in Brazil in June kicked off today with a call to governments, businesses and civil society to make sustainability a core issue for the future.

During the past months, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has consistently highlighted sustainable development as a priority issue for the UN, arguing that the upcoming conference, known as <> Rio+20, will help pave the way for a new social contract for the 21st century and chart a development path that leads to greater social justice.

In celebrating the 100-day mark, expected participants of the Rio+20 forum, including global stakeholders and UN system partners, will take to social media and share messages of support and highlight the more important issues and objectives of the summit, slated to take place in Rio de Janeiro from 20 to 22 June.

More than 100 heads of State, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, CEOs, and civil society leaders will come together at Rio+20 to shape and adopt new policies and measures to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.



Economy and development



N.Y. housing charity opens for-profit mortgage arm

March 9 – A prominent nonprofit group that has worked for decades to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income New Yorkers has opened a commercial banking office to help some buyers secure home loans, The Wall Street Journal writes. The Housing Partnership, founded three decade ago by the wealthy banker David Rockefeller, is branching out to write loans and expand credit availability, particularly for would-be residents of subsidized housing.

Dan Martin, the partnership’s president, said the move is the “next logical step” for the organization as federal funding declines for building new affordable homes. The group plans to provide about 200 loans in its first year.

The mortgage operation occupies space at the partnership’s Manhattan headquarters, but to meet Internal Revenue Service rules on maintaining a clear division between nonprofit and commercial activities it is separated from the charity’s offices by glass walls and a locked door.  


FAO and IFAD’s publication on rural institutions to  help small producers reduce poverty

March 1, Rome – FAO’s Director General and IFAD’s President agree on the fact that strong rural organizations like producer groups and cooperatives are crucial to hunger reduction because they allow small producers to play a greater role  in national and international markets: from this thinking a new publication, “Good Practices in building innovative rural institutions to increase food security”, that presents 35 cases of successful institutional innovations. The case studies describe services and resources that these new models of public-private engagement can offer to small –scale producers: managing natural resources, providing seeds and equipment, enabling access to markets and improving communication. The case studies also demonstrate the importance of including youth in small producer organizations and show how rural organizations can help women farmers to overcome the social and economic constraints.


Japan makes a 114 million dollars contribution to help WFP fight hunger in 21 countries

February 28, Yokohama – The government of Japan has given WFP a $114 million contribution to provide urgently food and nutritional assistance to millions of refugees, internally displaced people, malnourished children and pregnant women in 21 countries and support logistic operations in two of them. In Particular Japan’s donation will support: WFP’s regional emergency response in Sahel, reaching more than 8 million hungry people; the Horn of Africa by providing vital rations such as cereals, pulses and maize; the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which provides critical air transport and cargo services, in Afghanistan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other countries that will benefit from the donation are: Tajikistan, Yemen, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan. This year Japan’s contribution reached $115 million, making it the second largest donor to WFP.


IFAD, the Saudi Fund for Development and the Arab Bank for Economic Development of Africa come together to start a successful collaboration

February 24, Rome – The three important organizations came together to determine ways of enhancing their collaboration to support smallholder farmers in the rural areas of fragile states. As a first step toward a strengthened collaboration, the SFD announced an allocation up to US$12 million in grant resources to co-fund IFAD-supported projects in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. The grant funding will go toward creating economic opportunities and increasing incomes of rural communities. Participants in the high-level meeting emphasized the need for additional resources and long-term investments in agriculture to meet the growing demand for food and agreed to hold regular consultations as a means of identifying joint projects, and to share knowledge and expertise. Thus far, the SFD co-financed three IFAD-supported projects for a total amount of $50.4 million in Morocco, Mauritania and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Saudi Arabia has provided more than $400 million to combat hunger and poverty in developing countries. 


Important meeting between Bill Gates and FAO’s Director General to improve information, productivity and market access for small farmers

February 23, Rome - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had an important discussion on improving agricultural data systems and boosting support to smallholder farmers. In particular they talked about the ways to improve FAO's data collection systems and to develop a public, multi-agency scorecard to better measure the progress of hunger reduction: possible areas of cooperation include improving agricultural statistics, the use of communication and information technologies to benefit agriculture. Gates addressed the need to make sure the benefits of the digital revolution and scientific innovations reach poor farmers worldwide and said that the world had the opportunity and the obligation to imagine a different future..


CARE launches agricultural program to improve food security, empower women farmers in South Asia and Africa

Atlanta, GA, USA, February 23 - CARE, the global fighting poverty organization, announced today the start of its new Pathways program. Pathways will enable 150,000 women smallholder farmers and their families over five years in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania improve food security and long-term resiliency by implementing and scaling a model which will improve their access to land, water, markets, agricultural training and services. The Pathways model is centered on the proven success of CARE's Village Savings and Loans Associations, and will work with community-based savings and producer organizations to build their capacities and skills to "ready" them for additional sustainable agricultural activities, practices and markets.

CARE's Pathways initiative is supported by a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which joins additional funders such as AusAID and the Aga Khan Foundation.

Applying CARE's integrated approach to food security, market engagement and women's empowerment, Pathways will reach women who farm fewer than five acres of land and who are not typically served by other development programs.

Pathways will go well beyond urgent, yet short-term solutions for women smallholder farmers. The model ensures that elements such as strengthening sustainable community-based organizations, empowering women to build agricultural-based businesses, providing essential skills like financial literacy and improved and sustainable agricultural practices, and building self-sustaining relationships between women, their households members, service providers and markets, will ensure the program benefits these women and their communities beyond the five-year life of the program. Pathways will also evaluate the model's effectiveness and share lessons broadly 


“Hunger Games” movie cast launch a video public service announcement and a new website to raise awareness about world hunger

February 23, Los Angeles – The stars of the much-anticipated film “ The Hunger Games”, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth have filmed a video spot urging their fans to help end hunger. Nancy Roman, Director of Communications of WFP, explains the utility of the project: “This partnership will help us spread the word that hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem (…). We are deeply grateful for the support of Suzanne Collins [writer of the highly successful book series that inspired the film], who writes as though she understands hunger in the world”. The cast of the movie and Lionsgate™, that produced it, also created a new website where users can watch the public service announcement, participate  to a Hunger quiz and make donations.


Brazil will fund a FAO and WFP food purchasing programme that helps 5 African countries

February 21, Rome – The Government of Brazil signed a 2.375 million dollar agreement with FAO and WFP for funding a new food purchase programme that will help vulnerable populations in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal. Brazil will  also share expertise drawn from its own national Food Purchase Programme (PAA): a programme that buys products from smallholders and delivers them to risk categories. FAO will receive $1.55 million for providing seeds, fertilizer and boosting the capacity of farmers while WFP will receive 800,000 dollars for purchasing and delivering food to schools and vulnerable groups. The Programme will bring new impetus to purchases from local farmers because this will strengthen local food markets and prevent future food crisis: the traditional emphasis on aid and assistance is replaced with an effort to secure the conditions required to ensure that population at risk of food insecurity has access to quality food.






CSX and Dignity U Wear work to deliver self-esteem to thousands of children this month

Jacksonville, Fla., USA, March 9 - CSX Corporation, in partnership with Dignity U Wear, today announced that they will provide $110,000 worth of clothing to thousands of school children of all ages in 11 cities as part of its company-wide “Delivering Dignity” campaign.

Clothing, funded with money raised over the holiday season by CSX employees in each of its 10 divisions, will be delivered through local charities.

Dignity U Wear is a national organization based in Jacksonville, that has distributed more than 6.6 million pieces of clothing valued at more than $125 million to more than 500,000 individuals in all 50 states. CSX Corporation has partnered with the organization for more than three years through its intermodal move program, including a 2009 delivery of 64 loads of clothing worth $128,000 donated by Men’s Wearhouse. 


One year after the great east Japan earthquake - Sompo Japan continues support for disaster areas

Tokyo, March 8 - Nearly a year has passed since a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. 15,848 people were killed and 3,305 are still listed as missing. Japanese society still needs long term support for its recovery (the Japanese government estimates that the cost of material damage could reach as much as $300 billion). Soon after the earthquake, Sompo Japan started offering assistance for disaster areas by collecting donations and offering material and human support, as well as support for agricultural producers, and launching a support site for automobile repair shops in the area.

To continue this support, the NKSJ Group organized NKSJ Volunteer Days from October through December 2011 and encouraged all Group employees to participate in the activities. Around 60 activities were held across Japan, and more than 10,000 employees participated. This project received Honorable Mention at the Third Make a CHANGE Day Awards.Sompo Japan and its parent company NKSJ plan to continue their assistance for the disaster areas.

Sompo Japan is a major Japanese insurer, with 120 years of history. It has been taking a proactive approach to various sustainability issues through its core business.


HelpAge wins US$1.5 million Hilton Prize

Announced on International Women's Day

The award is the world's largest humanitarian prize, and is presented each year to an organisation that has delivered extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering.

Steven M. Hilton, CEO and president of the Hilton Foundation said: : "The world is ageing. By 2015, over 890 million people will be over 60. HelpAge is showing us that it is important to recognise and support older people so they can continue contributing to society." The Prize was announced on 8 March to recognise the crucial role rural older women play in their communities and it will be presented at the Global Philanthropy Forum on 16 April in Washington, DC.

Five organizations in Canada, Colombia, Kenya, India and the United Kingdom set up HelpAge International in 1983 to provide a strong network to support older people worldwide. Today, this global network encompasses 94 HelpAge Affiliates operating in 70 countries, and more than 3,000 independent partner groups and older people’s organizations.


Canada - One For One Company TOMS launches Italian-made eyewear collection

by Karen Bliss,

8 March – TOMS Shoes, the One for One company that for the past eight years has been donating one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells, is now doing a similar thing with its brand new Italian-made eyewear collection. Available beginning March 15 at and select retailers across Canada (Holt Renfrew, Little Burgundy, Over The Rainbow and Stance), the line is priced between $140-$150. Continuing its One for One concept, when one person buys TOMS eyewear, one person is helped. TOMS will help give sight to people in need through medical treatment, prescription eyeglasses and sight-saving surgery, administered by its first sight giving partner, Seva Foundation.

Started in 1978 by World Health Organization's Dr. Larry Brilliant (now the president of Skoll Global Threats Fund), Seva is an international non-profit that fights blindness and poverty.

Working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Seva-supported programs and partners have helped nearly 3 million blind people to see again through affordable cataract surgeries. The organization has reduced the cost of restoring eyesight to just $50. (...) 


UN support for volunteerism

February 24 – The United Nations released its resolution on the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers 2011 this month. The resolution emphasizes the contribution of volunteering to sustainable development, human development, and peace. It also acknowledges the importance of NGOs to the promotion of volunteerism - and in that respect recognizes that strengthening the dialogue and interaction among governments, the UN and civil society contributes to the expansion of volunteerism.

The resolution also invites governments to integrate volunteering more fully into policy programs and initiatives; and calls on governments and relevant UN bodies and organizations to continue to support and promote volunteerism. Volunteers are also encouraged to take part in UN and other relevant international conferences. - - Go here to read the full resolution.


Philippines: following deadly quake, ADRA provides relief in the midst of chaos

February 21 – Silver Spring, Md., USA - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is distributing emergency rations of food to families in the Philippines rocked by a deadly 6.9 magnitude earthquake. The quake struck moments before noon on February 6, and triggered devastating landslides, causing the deaths of 52 individuals. 

The seven-day intervention assisted 720 families with approximately 26 lbs. of rice and 18 lbs. of various food items, per family, in four different towns. ADRA is closely collaborating with local government officials and continues to provide trucks to transport goods.

"Access to the affected areas was a huge challenge because the bridges were impassable", shared one officer from ADRA Philippines in the affected area. "ADRA workers and volunteers were able to reach the affected areas and distributed the goods until the middle of the night. It was so dark because electrical posts were down and ADRA's emergency response officers had to use flashlights".



Peace and security



DR Congo: UN peacekeeping mission receives tactical helicopters from Ukraine

7 March – The United Nations peacekeeping chief today expressed his gratitude to Ukraine for providing tactical helicopters for the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), saying the contribution will enhance the force’s capacity to protect civilians.

Ukraine’s contribution will help improve the mission’s ability to protect the civilian population in areas where they are threatened by the activities of foreign and national armed groups,” he said.

Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, was referring to Kiev’s contribution of four Mi-24 attack helicopters to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO). “As such, this critical contribution can make a difference in the lives of people in the affected communities,” he said, adding that he cannot “overstate the importance of Ukraine’s contribution.”

He noted that MONUSCO is one of the UN’s most challenging peacekeeping missions, and that the recent shortage of military helicopters had made its work more difficult. 


Afghanistan: 100,000 euros from UEFA for landmine victims

Geneva, March 7 – The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) will present a cheque for 100,000 euros tonight to Xavi Hernández, who was named the first-choice striker of the users' Team of the Year 2011. The Spanish footballer will donate the funds to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to support the organization's physical rehabilitation programme for landmine victims in Afghanistan.

UEFA began its partnership with the ICRC in 1997 with support for its anti-landmine campaign. All monies donated go to the Score for the Red Cross campaign supporting the ICRC rehabilitation project providing landmine victims in Afghanistan with artificial limbs, physiotherapy and vocational training.

The ICRC's limb-fitting and rehabilitation programme has helped more than 106,000 mine victims and other disabled people since it was established in 1988. Apart from supporting their physical rehabilitation, the ICRC also helps disabled people play an active role in society by financing education, vocational training, employment and small-business activities.


CISR conducts peer-support workshop in Vietnam for people with disabilities

On 6, 7 and 8 March, CISR’s Director Ken Rutherford and CISR’s Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist Cameron Macauley conducted a workshop in Dong Hoi, Vietnam with 41 participants, all of whom are persons with disabilities. The workshop focused on how to provide peer support for people with disabilities in Vietnam, many of whom face discrimination, rejection and social marginalization in addition to unemployment and low education levels.

The workshop was conducted in partnership with the Association for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities (AEPD), a Vietnamese NGO established by Survivor Corps more than 10 years ago. Founded principally to help survivors of injuries caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance, AEPD now assists people with a variety of disabilities, particularly those affected by Agent Orange, which causes birth defects and tumors and has left more than 100,000 Vietnamese severely disabled.

Peer-support techniques discussed in the workshop included basic counseling skills, how to deal with depression and isolation, and practical considerations such as how to deal with barriers to mobility and lack of employment opportunities. Time was devoted to the formation and management of community-support groups for people with disabilities and to the international rights of people with disabilities, which are protected by Vietnam’s National Disability Law, passed in June of 2010. 


DPR Korea: UN nuclear agency calls US announcement ‘important step’

29 February – The United Nations atomic watchdog has called today’s announcement by the United States about the results of its talks with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) over the latter country’s nuclear programme “an important step forward.”

DPRK has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities and nuclear weapons tests and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify compliance with these measures, while the US is providing the Asian country with supplies of food aid, according to media reports.


Third phase of underwater UXO clearance of Lake Ohrid

24 February -  The 3rd Phase of Underwater UXO Clearance of Lake Ohrid (locations: Ohrid Harbor and Peshtani) has started on 22 February 2012 and is financed by United States Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), through ITF. The 3rd phase will last for 28 operational days and is implemented by specialized diving teams for underwater demining and EOD specialists from Republic of Macedonia Protection and Rescue Directorate and supervised by P.E.D. Sava d.o.o. The continuation of the project draws to a large extent from experience gained during first two clearance phases in 2010 and 2011 when more than 15 tons of dangereous UXO were removed and destroyed together with approximately 3.4 tons of other metal pieces (garbage). 

The absence of fear of UXO at the shores of Lake Ohrid will significantly contribute to safety and development of tourist potential of the local community at Lake Ohrid as well as of the Republic of Macedonia.   


MAG is clearing a key trade route in northern Chad that has been inaccessible for more than 20 years due to landmines.

22 February - The Wadi Chirke area, between the towns of Fada and Kiké, is littered with anti-personnel and anti-tank mines laid by occupation forces during the war with Libya in the 1980s.

Seven people have been reported killed and six injured by mines in the Fada area alone within the last decade. The contamination has blocked usage of the road, and this has stifled trade and development in the region as vehicles have been forced to take detours of hundreds of kilometres.

Several different mine action organisations have worked in the area over the last 10 years, beginning clearance and marking the dangerous areas, but the vastness of Wadi Chirke means that large amounts of contamination still remain.

MAG began work here in November and, following careful assessment of the whole site, now has three teams carrying out manual clearance on different sections of the minefield.

Deep sand in many parts means that deminers have to go over each square metre of land multiple times, with scorpions, snakes, sandstorms and temperatures of over 40ºc in peak season to contend. It is difficult, but hugely valuable, work. 






International Women’s Day - Celebrating the female vaccinator

On 8 March, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, let us take some time to think of these remarkable women and the work they are doing to ensure that children everywhere are safe from the threat of polio.

Out there in two continents right now, there is a dedicated, yet largely unacknowledged army of women devoted to ensuring that polio is eradicated. Dressed in uniforms of fluttering burkhas in vivid sky blue or sober black, jewel tone saris or vibrant African prints, these women walk from door to door, talking to families, giving vaccine – all to protect children against polio.

In many countries, a vaccination team cannot function without a female vaccinator. In conservative areas, where male vaccinators can not enter the house, having a woman on the team can mean the difference between a closed door or a welcoming invitation into the home. In northern Pakistan, Afghanistan or northern India, the sight of burkha-clad women tramping through the alleys with their clipboards, vaccinating children, conducting social mobilization with mothers and recording coverage is a heartening signal of how these women and their communities value the health of their children.

Able to speak woman to woman, mother to mother or grandmother to mother, female vaccinators can hold a great degree of sway. By showing that they are willing to have their own children vaccinated against polio, vaccinators who are mothers demonstrate to wary parents that they have the children’s best interests at heart. And in parts of Nigeria, where the wise words of older women are greatly respected, the inclusion of senior women in vaccination teams is having a positive effect on the number of parents who want their children to be vaccinated.

The role that women vaccinators and social mobilizers play in polio eradication is not only of benefit for parents and caregivers. For the women themselves, the programme has offered a unique opportunity to have a respected voice as health providers in their community, and to find professional fulfillment through something beyond their role as wife and mother.

In India alone, it is estimated that a staggering 80-85% of the 2.3 million vaccinators involved during each round of National Immunization Days are female workers - this includes Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, Accredited Social Health Activists (known as ASHAs), front-line workers of the social welfare department (Anganwadi workers) and volunteers. In addition, nearly 70% of the 155,000 supervisors that oversee the work of these vaccinators are female. In the once traditional polio reservoirs of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, more than 92% of the 128,000 vaccination teams have at least one female vaccinator as a team-member, while UNICEF's 8000-strong Social Mobilization Network, which goes door to door spreading messages about polio and routine immunization, exclusive breast-feeding, nutrition, handwashing and diarrhea treatment, is almost exclusively made up of women.  


India is no longer polio endemic

By Dan Nixon 

8 March, Rotary International News -  The World Health Organization has officially removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries. Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's minister of Health and Family Welfare, made the announcement at the Polio Summit 2012 in New Delhi on 25 February. Azad said that he had been informed of WHO’s action by its director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan.

"It is a matter of satisfaction that we have completed one year without any single new case of polio being reported from anywhere in the country," said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the summit, which was organized by the government of India and Rotary International. "This gives us hope that we can finally eradicate polio not only from India but from the face of the entire mother earth. The success of our efforts shows that teamwork pays."

India's last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal State on 13 January 2011. Before polio eradication can be certified in India, it must go two more years without another case of the disease. Polio remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. (...)

Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee, calls India's achievement "a significant step towards a polio-free world – an example as to what can be accomplished no matter what problems need to be overcome. Rotarians of India are and should be proud of the key efforts they have made at all levels, without which the world would not be marking this milestone."

Deepak Kapur, chair of the India PolioPlus Committee, also credits the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for its commitment to ending polio. To date, the Indian government has spent more than US$1.2 billion on domestic polio eradication activities. "We are fortunate that our government is our biggest advocate in this effort," Kapur says. 


Boeing and Uzbekistan Airways partner with non-profits to deliver medical supplies to Tashkent

Everett, Wash., March 8, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Boeing BA -1.19%  and Uzbekistan Airways have partnered with Project Hope to transport a consignment of medical supplies destined for hospitals in Tashkent on a newly delivered 767-300ER (Extended Range).

The 6,950-pound (approximately 3,150-kilogram) shipment is made up of 162 boxes of medicines and medical supplies and comes as part of Boeing's Humanitarian Delivery Flights program.

On a previous delivery flight in February, Boeing and Uzbekistan Airways partnered with the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association and the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan to transport a consignment of scholarly books for the Tashkent-based International Library. The 4,720-pound (approximately 2140-kilogram) shipment included 118 boxes of scholarly books covering various fields such as literature, linguistics, languages, history, demography, ecology and public health.

"Uzbekistan Airways is constantly looking at ways to contribute to the development and benefit of the community and we are happy to be working with Boeing and Project Hope to transport medical supplies to Tashkent," said Valeriy Tian, director-general, Uzbekistan Airways. "I would like to thank our partners at Boeing and Project Hope for driving this initiative for the betterment of our community in Uzbekistan."


Afghanistan: MSF opens maternity hospital in Khost

Kabul, 5 March – The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has opened a new maternity hospital in eastern Khost Province in Afghanistan, which will provide pregnant women in the region with desperately needed high-quality healthcare.

Khost is one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces, where national and international military forces have engaged in intense fighting with armed opposition groups in recent years. The conflict has affected the ability for women to access adequate maternal healthcare. “The new hospital will be able to help hundreds of women every month make safe deliveries and care for their newborn children by offering specialised care,” said Hilde Cortier, medical director of the new MSF facility.

The 56-bed maternity will be the first specialised center of its kind in the region. The maternity has a delivery room that offers obstetric care for normal and complicated deliveries and an operating theatre for emergency obstetric surgery. Ill pregnant women will be hospitalised in the wards, to which women will also be admitted after giving birth or undergoing surgery. There is a neo-natal ward for newborns requiring specialised care.

MSF’s international and Afghan staff will work together in the hospital. Only female doctors will tend to the patients. All healthcare services and medicines will be free of charge.

As in all MSF hospitals in Afghanistan, a strict no-weapons policy will be enforced to ensure patient safety and security.


Volunteer surgeons provide care and education in Liberia

Posted By Dr. Akpofure Peter Ekeh

March 2 – An 11-person Project HOPE volunteer surgical team is in Liberia training local surgeons, conducting surgery at Phebe Hospital, and instructing 100 medical professionals from across West Africa. Dr. Akpofure Peter Ekeh, Associate Professor of Surgery at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio provided this first-hand account from his experience. (…)

There are only two active surgeons in the entire nation of Liberia with its population of four million, and we performed surgical cases that no one else was available to do, including five thyroidectomies in two days. While some of the cases were very complicated, we were fortunate to have the expertise of two seasoned endocrine surgeons on our volunteer team.

In addition to the surgeries, we were also able to supply the hospital with needed equipment and supplies specifically requested by hospital staff, including soda lime for anesthesia machines. By hospital staff accounts, this was one of the best gifts they had received in a long time.

We also provided teaching for the doctors on site. There is great interest from the local health professionals for more educational missions like this one, which provide care for patients and education for local health professionals at the same time. 

The only downside is that we wished we had more time.


Global grant project educates, supports new mothers with HIV

By Dan Nixon 

1 March, Rotary International News – Fifty doctors, nurses, and home-based health care workers in Liberia are using techniques gained from a Rotarian-sponsored workshop to help prevent transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children. The techniques are being used to educate pregnant women about HIV and AIDS, treat mothers and their newborn babies with medication, and inform the public about HIV prevention.

With funding from a Rotary Foundation global grant, a vocational training team of two Rotarians and six other health care professionals from District 5170 (California, USA) conducted the weeklong workshop in Monrovia, which ended on 3 February. Workshop participants received resource books, information on diagnosing and treating HIV, and other materials as well. 

Members of the local Rotary Club of Sinkor, Montserrado County, are now helping distribute nutritional supplements to malnourished HIV-infected women and children and are providing transportation for them to public health clinics. (...) 


Physicians for Peace improves burn care in the Philippines

27 February - Burn care experts from a medical school and hospital in Norfolk, Va., are coming together to teach healthcare providers in the Philippines how to provide better care to their patients. From Feb. 29 to March 5, a team of four healthcare providers from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Eastern Virginia Medical School will be in Manila, working alongside a team of professionals at Philippine General Hospital (PGH). Sentara Norfolk General is the Level I trauma center for Hampton Roads (Va.) and operates the region's only burn/trauma unit, making the expert team uniquely suited for the training mission.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 4,000 and 5,000 people die from burn-related injuries in the Philippines every year; two-thirds of these victims are under the age of 10. PGH maintains one of only four burn units in the country. The hospital is an important partner for Physicians for Peace and the group’s efforts to reach more patients with better care.

The training mission represents a significant step forward in the collaboration among Physicians for Peace, PGH, Sentara Norfolk General and EVMS.  


Colombia: doctors dispatched to forgotten villages

by Tommy Ramm

February 3  As a long and trying 2011 came to a close – a year in which floods that had ravaged Colombia produced a string of health and socioeconomic problems – a teacher in the northeastern Ayapel district of Córdoba broadcast some much welcome news: a brigade of health workers was arriving for the first time in 15 years. ACT Alliance, working on the ground through its member organisation Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, sent health brigades to 50 villages across Córdoba between August and December last year. On one of many day trips made by the health brigades, two doctors, two nurses and a psychologist set up an improvised clinic in a hut in the village of Los Nidos. (...)

In an intense day that ran well into the night, the small group of ACT health workers in Los Nidos treated more than 300 patients. (...)ACT health brigade coordinator Stella Flórez said they saw more than twice the number of patients expected that day alone. This high demand for medical care was seen time and again throughout their visits to 50 villages in the area. ACT’s goal was to treat 1,600 children ages seven and under, as well as pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.(...)



Energy and safety



Water access must reach rural and marginalized areas in Europe – UN report

New York, March 13 - A UN report <> launched today spotlights the need to address unequal water access in Europe, stressing that certain populations such as rural communities and marginalized groups are still not getting this vital resource.

The <>report, which was produced by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), provides guidance on how to address water access disparities, and showcases successful policies that have been implemented by governments, water operators and civil society.

“No one left behind: Good practices to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation” notes that access to improved water and sanitation solutions in rural areas in the pan-European region is 10 per cent lower than for urban areas, and suggests putting investment programmes in place to help reduce this gap.

In addition, the report underscores that social inclusion policies are needed to be able to provide water access to marginalized and vulnerable groups such as the homeless, disabled, sick, or those living in unsanitary housing, who are often unable to get access to safe drinking water.


New approach aims to slash cost of solar cells

By Bill Scanlon, NREL

7 March, Washington, D.C. - Solar-powered electricity prices could soon approach those of power from coal or natural gas thanks to collaborative research with solar start-up Ampulse Corporation at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Silicon wafers account for almost half the cost of today's solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, so reducing or eliminating wafer costs is essential to bringing prices down.

Current crystalline silicon technology, while high in energy conversion efficiency, involves processes that are complex, wasteful, and energy intensive. First, half the refined silicon is lost as dust in the wafer-sawing process, driving module costs higher. A typical 2-meter boule of silicon loses as many as 6,000 potential wafers during sawing. Second, the wafers produced are much thicker than necessary. To efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, they need only one-tenth the typical thickness.

NREL, DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Ampulse have teamed on an approach to eliminate this waste and dramatically lower the cost of the finished solar panels. The aim is to create a less expensive alternative to wafer-based crystalline silicon solar cells.

By using a chemical vapor deposition process to grow the silicon on inexpensive foil, Ampulse is able to make the solar cells just thick enough to convert most of the solar energy into electricity. 



Environment and wildlife



Cameroon sends military to secure site of elephant slaughter

March 2, Yaoundé, Cameroon - A military offensive against elephant poachers in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park was authorized Wednesday at a high level strategy meeting between Cameroon’s defence minister and forestry and wildlife minister, a source tells WWF. The military operation was launched that night, and WWF’s sources confirmed Thursday that over 100 government soldiers have entered the park to secure Cameroon’s national territory, local people and elephant population.

The action was taken in response to the killing of hundreds of elephants in the Northern Cameroon park over the past eight weeks. Given the area’s remote location and the level of insecurity, details on the severity of the slaughter have been difficult to ascertain.

The Cameroon government has been under pressure from the European Union, civil society and environmental groups, and other members of the international and diplomatic community, who have urged the minister of forestry and wildlife and the minister of defence to take immediate action to stop the massacre of elephants and secure Cameroon’s borders.


Kirsty Bertarelli’s Green anthem now supporting WWF through iTunes release

February 29, Gland, Switzerland – Global conservation organization WWF has welcomed the release of an acoustic version of Kirsty Bertarelli's song “Green”, the proceeds of which are destined to support WWF conservation projects around the world.

Kirsty Bertarelli was inspired to produce an acoustic version of Green after she performed live at WWF's 50th anniversary Panda Ball last year. The lyrics of “Green” talk about the destruction of the environment and were influenced by Kirsty's experience of the issue, as well as of how much the next generation care about being the custodians of our planet.

Net proceeds from iTunes downloads of the acoustic version of Green will be donated to WWF.


Canada, Mexico and the United States announce grants to address North American environmental challenges

Montreal, 16 February - The Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), composed of the ministers of environment of the three countries, today awarded more than $1.3 million in grants under the CEC’s North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) program. The grants will support communities in their efforts to address environmental problems at the local level across North America.

Eighteen projects were chosen from 500 proposals received as part of a new initiative announced 22 June 2011, at the CEC Council’s meeting held in Montreal. The 18 projects were selected based on their significance for addressing community and North American environmental issues, their technical or scientific approaches, their emphasis on promoting partnerships, and their plan to produce clear and tangible results. The projects represent a broad base of hands-on groups and organizations, representing tribal nations, indigenous peoples, community organizations, environmental groups, and academic institutions. 



Religion and spirituality



Dialogue in Nigeria ~ Muslims & Christians creating their future

A new 2012 film about African courage and communication excellence is available cost-free

Since January, the DVDs have been requested from 36 nations, including 12 in Africa

"Nigeria, on the west coast of central Africa, is the most populous nation on the continent. The country is about half Muslim, half Christian, with a minority practicing even earlier traditions. (...) Her greatest challenges are rooted largely in human disconnection. The resultant ignorance and thus fear of each other perpetuates citizen's inability to embrace one another, cooperate, and share resources and wealth. (...)"

This hopeful documentary gives voices and faces to 200 courageous Muslims and Christians – diverse young women and men – who unite successfully in Jos, central Nigeria. Refusing to be enemies, they are together during days and evenings of the 2010 International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication. They are tense yet excited to finally cross lines of religion, economics, tribe, and gender to transcend the status quo and discover empathy for each other's personal life experiences.

Face to face and in small circles, they begin with ice-breakers and continue in depth to discover one another's equal humanity – fear, grief, needs, hopes, and concrete plans for a shared future. These determined young Nigerians illustrate how others worldwide can successfully connect and communicate to create authentic community. Order Your DVD provided and air-mailed without charge  as a project of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo County

To request the cost-free DVD, send your: (1) intended use and (2) full contact information: Name - Organization - Address - Phone - E-mail to


Syrian religious leaders unite to reject violence and call for national reconciliation

Larnaca, Cyprus, February 23 – More than 20 senior Muslim and Christian leaders from various denominations in Syria were joined by other leaders and concerned persons at this meeting convened by the Religions for Peace (RfP) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Council. The meeting built upon the RfP MENA Council Marrakesh Declaration (16-17 November 2011), in which more than 70 religious leaders from the region committed to stand in solidarity with all vulnerable communities in MENA, to advocate for full religious freedoms across the region and to call on all religious believers to become a united force to help ensure that governments honor the full rights, protect and serve all of their citizens without exception.

At this historic meeting focusing on Syria, the participants strongly rejected violence and the misuse of religions. They called on Syria to embrace all its citizens, with no distinction or discrimination. They reiterated the urgent need to preserve the country’s ethnic, religious and denomination diversity. The leaders pledged to counter all forms of religious incitement, and work together to disseminate messages of moderation, tolerance and rejection of hatred. They firmly committed to support the values of justice, freedom, dignity and equality and promote these as the basis of citizenship for every Syrian citizen. 



Culture and education



EDC selected to improve school effectiveness in Zambia

Waltham, MA, USA, March 7 – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has selected Education Development Center (EDC) to help improve educational opportunities in Zambia by working with the Ministry of Education to institutionalize support for community schools throughout the country. The five-year, $30 million Orphaned and Vulnerable Children – Education Support Initiative (OVC-ESI) will enhance learning opportunities, increase school effectiveness, and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on children’s education in Zambia. The initiative will also contribute to the ministry’s efforts to meet national goals and also the 2015 Education for All and Millennium Development Goals.

Run by local organizations, Zambian community schools have overcrowded classrooms and few resources. Community school students have low levels of achievement when compared to students from government schools. Teachers are often unpaid volunteers who lack teaching credentials or formal training. The new initiative will train teachers, assist head teachers to better support colleagues and plan for school improvement, increase student access to textbooks and other learning resources, and help communities advocate more effectively for children in the greatest need.  


Thunderbird and IFRC launch online program for social sector leaders

2 March, Glendale, Ariz., USA - Thunderbird School of Global Management has partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to develop a new online program for leaders at all levels in the social and voluntary sector. The eight-week course, to launch May 7, 2012, combines Thunderbird’s top-ranked international management expertise with the IFRC’s practical knowledge of the social sector.

The new online Certificate in Social and Voluntary Sector Leadership will examine how leaders can develop a framework for ethical decision-making, build a goal-orientated personal action plan, enhance their global mindset and explore international trends in the social and voluntary sector. Participants in the program should be individuals currently working in the social and voluntary sector hoping to build their leadership skills as well as those who are seeking to move into the humanitarian sector. (…) 


Somali teens offered chance to complete education

February 27 – As the young refugee children of Somalia's famine begin to regain their strength under the watchful care of international relief organisations, many are heading back to class in one of the several elementary schools existing in the refugee camp of Bokolomanyo and other nearby camps in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia.

For their older brothers and sisters, the nearest high school is more than 60 miles away, leaving displaced refugee families desperate to find an accessible and safe place for their adolescent sons and daughters to complete their education. Responding to their needs and a desire to help, ACT Alliance members International Orthodox Christian Charities and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission are constructing the first high school in Bokolomanyo for teen refugees.

Access to a school and regular class attendance will be the first step in restoring some normalcy to the turbulent lives of these children. The first phase of construction will include four classrooms, an administrative office, storage rooms and living quarters for the school staff. Classrooms will be equipped with desks, blackboards, and teaching materials, and a new water and sanitation facility will provide the children and faculty with clean, running water. 



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UN Secretary-General's Message:


International Women's Day, 8 March


Gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide.  There are more women Heads of State or Government than ever, and the highest proportion of women serving as Government ministers.  Women are exercising ever greater influence in business.  More girls are going to school, and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential.


Despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s rural areas. Rural women and girls — to whom this year’s International Women’s Day is devoted — make up one quarter of the global population, yet routinely figure at the bottom of every economic, social and political indicator, from income and education to health to participation in decision-making.


Numbering almost half a billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, rural women are a major part of the agricultural labour force. They perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas.  Yet rural women continue to be held back in fulfilling their potential.  If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise by 4 per cent, strengthening food and nutrition security and relieving as many as 150 million people from hunger.  Rural women, if given the chance, could also help end the hidden development tragedy of stunting, which affects almost 200 million children worldwide.


Discriminatory laws and practices affect not just women but entire communities and nations.  Countries where women lack land ownership rights or access to credit have significantly more malnourished children.  It makes no sense that women farmers receive only 5 per cent of agricultural extension services.  Investing in rural women is a smart investment in a nation’s development.


The plight of the world’s rural women and girls mirrors that of women and girls throughout society — from the persistence of the glass ceiling to pervasive violence at home, at work and in conflict; from the prioritization of sons for education to the hundreds of thousands of women who die each year in the act of giving life for want of basic obstetric care.  Even those countries with the best records still maintain disparity in what women and men are paid for the same work, and see continuing under-representation of women in political and business decision-making. 


On this International Women’s Day, I urge Governments, civil society and the private sector to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women — as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.  The energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most valuable untapped natural resource. 


UNRIC - United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe



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Next issue: 5 April 2012.


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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. Past issues are available at . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph.D. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti, Arianna Cavallo, Azzurra Cianchetta, Isabella Strippoli. Webmaster: Simone Frassanito. Media coverage: Maurizio Palazzoni  


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations in 54 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Caribbean Islands, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Oceania, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 3,000 NGOs, 1,600 high schools, colleges and universities, as well as 22,000 Rotarians in the world.


It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered educational charity chartered in Italy in 1979 The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing. It is based in Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy.

The Association is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.


*In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) presented to the UN General Assembly (, Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing a major role in the field of Information.  In section A - International Organizations, the Report says:

"Participatory Communication and Free Flow of Information and Knowledge has been advanced largely through use of the Internet by civil society corresponding to para 6 in the 1999 Programme of Action calling for the promotion of a culture of peace through sharing of information among actors in the global movement for a culture of peace (p.7). Diffusion and exchange of culture of peace information via the Internet has become the major instrument for several international organizations, notably the Culture of Peace News Network, the Good News Agency and the Education for Peace Globalnet (p.12).