Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 3
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. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti. Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 3,700 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGOs and service associations.
It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it has been included as an international organization in the web site http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/
New international labour convention for seafarers' ID documents comes into force
Geneva, 10 February - The international Convention that creates the first global biometric identification system for issuing secure identity documents to the 1.2 million seafarers in the world seas came into force as of 9 February 2005, the International Labour Office (ILO) said today. The Seafarers' Identity Documents Convention, 2003 (No. 185) adopted by the Government, Employer and Worker delegates to the International Labour Conference in June 2003, has been ratified by France, Jordan and Nigeria. Two countries must ratify the Convention before it can come into force. (…)
In March 2004 the Governing Body of the ILO approved standards for converting two fingerprints into a "biometric template" to be stored in an internationally standardized 2-D barcode which would be printed on the Seafarers' Identity Document (SID). One basic requisite for the SID's biometric identification system is "global interoperability", meaning that the fingerprint information issued in one country can be read correctly by equipment used in another. (…)
According to information received by the ILO more than 50 countries have submitted the Convention for consideration by their national parliaments. Many, including India, Philippines and Indonesia, which have large numbers of seafarers, are making plans for implementation while considering the ratification of the Convention. (…)
UNODC and Kazakhstan agree on new anti-drug projects
Vienna, 3 February - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government of Kazakhstan signed five new regional drug demand reduction and drug control projects in Almaty last week. (…) UNODC will provide technical assistance to Kazakhstan in the areas of drug intelligence analysis, controlled deliveries, precursor chemical controls, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNODC will also provide policy advice to the Kazakh, and other Central Asian governments. The value of the projects amounts to US$9 million for the entire Central Asian region. The UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia is also designing a new project to establish a regional drug treatment training center (ARTICA) in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan.
UNODC is also partnering with the World Bank office in Almaty as a regional advisor for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. A UNODC advisor will assist governments in the region to strengthen legislation in these areas and establish effective enforcement tools against money-laundering. (…)
UNICEF relief operation to assist 50,000 displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Bunia, 7 February - UNICEF DRC, working together with its partners, has begun a new humanitarian assistance operation in the district of Ituri in Eastern DRC that will reach out to some 10,000 families in the areas most affected by recent outbreaks of violence perpetrated against civilian population by armed factions throughout the months of January. (…)
In collaboration with some of its partner organisations like CESVI, OXFAM and German Agro Action and within the coordinated UN response framework, UNICEF is currently undertaking a major relief operation to assist 50,000 internally displaced persons who are currently accessible. The interventions cover water and sanitation, shelter and cooking materials and high protein biscuits for vulnerable children. Planning is underway for the organisation of a measles vaccination campaign and emergency education programme for displaced children.
UNICEF DRC obtained financial and material assistance to the tune of US$ 4,200,000 for its Rapid Response Fund (RRF) and can now respond within 48 hours to any acute humanitarian crisis working through partner organizations. This facility and other donor’s contributions have enabled UNICEF to put in place 80 tonnes of high protein energy biscuits, 28,000 family emergency kits (catering for 150,000 displaces persons) and various water equipment, allowing for an immediate response to any major internal displacement of populations. The Rapid Response Fund is being supported by DFID and the Norwegian government.
Caritas at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre
Porto Alegre, 30 January - The outstanding proposals arising from the seminar and workshop on people trafficking, organised by Caritas at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil), were: the need to set up networks to determine available resources for immigrants; to define an information procedure for groups at risk that includes the three phases of migration (before, during and after); to inform legal associations and voluntary organisations about the rights that migrants have; and to urge governments to sign the various conventions regarding the rights of migrants and their families, none of which has been ratified by any EU member country to date. Around 400 people took part in the three sessions of the seminar-workshop. (…)
Other issues dealt with at the Forum included: work with children and adolescents to avoid the risk of abuse; education regarding social building and integration of those excluded from processes; the situation of women; problems relating to agricolture and the environment; current economic systems and possible alternatives; organic crops and solidarity-based economics; means of communication; the Millennium Development Goals, etc.
Denis Viénot, President of Caritas Europa, deemed Caritas’ presence at the Forum to have been very positive, with almost 500 delegates attending. Caritas seminars and workshops also benefited from the presence of Msgr Nelson Viola, the Ecclesiastical Advisor of Caritas Internationalis.
Number of countries contributing to UNFPA reaches new high in 2004
United Nations, New York, 26 January - A total of 166 countries contributed to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in 2004 – a record high in the Fund’s 35-year history. The top six donors were the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Contributions to UNFPA regular resources in 2004 were $326 million (provisional), the highest total ever, passing for the first time the 1996 high of $300 million.
“This remarkable level of support from governments demonstrates their commitment to reproductive health and rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. “These priorities were agreed upon at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and these investments are absolutely essential to save lives and reduce poverty in line with the Millennium Development Goals.”
At the Cairo Conference, 179 governments and civil society organizations committed to a 20-year action plan to ensure universal access to reproductive health information and services, including family planning, and to uphold fundamental human rights, including reproductive rights. Last year’s anniversary of the Cairo Conference generated increased political and financial commitment. (…) The number of UNFPA donors has been steadily increasing over the last few years, from 69 in 1999, to 149 in 2003, to the new high of 166 in 2004. In addition, more than 40 countries pledged multi-year funding in 2004 – another record for UNFPA. (…)
Ethos Water Company joins with CARE for water project in Congo
Santa Monica, California, February 9 - Ethos Water today announced a partnership with CARE to bring clean water to a war-torn community in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethos Water will contribute $10,000 to CARE for the construction of safe water and sanitation infrastructure and support services in the rural village of Kampene in the Maniema region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The village’s previous water system was destroyed during the ongoing civil war. The CARE project will impact the lives and health of more than 3,000 residents. (…)
Ethos and its customers are already making an impact around the world, helping to fund humanitarian water projects in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Honduras and India. In these countries, Ethos collaborates with well-established international organizations such as WaterAid and WaterPartners International, helping to bring clean water to towns and villages in need of drinking water and sanitation systems.
Ethos is the premium bottled water that uses its profits to help children around the world get clean water. Founded in 2003 by beverage industry veteran Peter Thum and former White House aide Jonathan Greenblatt, Ethos is currently helping to fund clean water projects in five countries with plans to expand its humanitarian efforts in 2005. www.ethoswater.com
IFAD to help poor farmers obtain financial services in Bangladesh
Rome, 7 February – About 210,000 poor farming families, many headed by women, will benefit from better access to loans, savings and other banking services through a US$ 29.7 million development project in northern Bangladesh. Small and marginal farmers will also learn improved agricultural techniques to increase farm production. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the microfinance apex institution, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) will work together to assist poor farmer families in 14 districts where poverty is particularly severe, but where there is good agricultural potential.
The project will be largely financed by a US$20.1 million loan from IFAD to the Government of Bangladesh. The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters in Rome by Anwarul Bar Chowdhury, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Italy and IFAD’s President, Lennart Båge.
To ensure that microfinance and related services reach those in need, IFAD has formed a partnership with PKSF, an apex institution that channels funds to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for microfinance services. Through this network of NGO partners, PKSF is providing loans to more than five million clients, most of them women .
For this project, PKSF will work with approximately 25 NGO partners to create 11,500 new savings and credit groups. These groups will also receive training in improved agricultural technology and crop varieties, together with support for improved access to local markets. (…)
Sports footwear sector outpaces the retail and apparel sectors in meeting code of conduct obligations, says new ILO study
Geneva, 4 February - The sports footwear industry, often criticized for alleged violations of fundamental labour standards, has made greater progress in implementing worker-friendly codes of conduct than the apparel and retail sectors, according to a just published ilo study.
The study, implementing codes of conduct: how businesses manage social performance in global supply chains, says brand recognition and intense consumer scrutiny have led the sports footwear companies analysed to develop more sophisticated approaches to code implementation. it attributes the success of the sports footwear industry to effectively applying financial and human resources to compliance efforts.
The study is based on interviews with hundreds of managers, activists, government officials, factory workers and worker representatives and visits to over 90 enterprises and suppliers in the US, Europe, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Turkey and Honduras. (...)
Rural poor in southern highlands of Jordan to benefit from IFAD project
Rome, 2 February - A US$41.8 million project will help improve the lives of more than 130,000 rural poor people in the southern highlands of Jordan.
The Agricultural Resource Management Project – Phase II is largely funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with a loan of US$11.4 million, and a grant of about US$400,000. The project will be co-financed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund, which will provide a loan of US$10.3 million, and by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which will make a grant of US$6.5 million. The project financing agreement was signed today by the President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, and the Ambassador of Jordan to Italy, Ramez Goussous, at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome.
The first phase of the Agricultural Resource Management Project targeted small-scale farmers, landless men and women and other disadvantaged households in highland districts of the governorates of Karak and Tafila. (…) The second phase of the project will build on the progress and experience gained from the first. Among a package of measures, it will finance soil and water conservation, and water resource development. Jordan is one of the world’s driest countries, with the lowest per capita availability of renewable water resources. The project will also fund agricultural development in the area, support the building of roads and promote rural financial services. (…)
USDA backs Counterpart's food security program in Vietnam
USDA is contributing food commodities and cash resources worth more than $4 million allowing Counterpart to develop food aid and nutrition programs in Vietnam.
Hanoi, Vietnam – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing food commodities and cash resources worth more than four million US dollars for Counterpart International to implement a three-year food security program in the central provinces of Vietnam, announced John Wilson, Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
Under its Food For Progress (FFPr) scheme, USDA will provide 12,500 metric tons of soybean meal and 7,600 metric tons of wheat to Counterpart International, an American non-governmental organization undertaking long-term development programming in Vietnam. The vessel 'Cynthia Fagan' arrived recently with the commodities that have been bartered or sold to support Counterpart's development programs in the central region.
The goal is to improve the food security of vulnerable populations while restoring biodiversity in Vietnam's threatened environments. Linked projects cover agricultural development, Counterpart's signature analog forestry project "Forest Gardens" and enterprise development. (…)
Counterpart International has been operating in Vietnam since 1996 and has cross-sectoral programs here, ranging from Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, Environment and Conservation, to Healthcare and Nutrition.
Afghanistan: Emergency distribution to combat Kabul's bitter weather
11 February - Afghanistan is currently experiencing its coldest winter in years, with icy conditions, heavy snow, and reports of people dying from cold in the tented squatter camps scattered around the capital, Kabul. Following a request from the Afghan Ministry of Health and an assessment of the needs, Italian Cooperation, working in conjunction with the Italian Red Cross and the ICRC, distributed 45 tonnes of wood and over 400 blankets on 1 February to families living in a makeshift camp at Chaman-i-Babrak on the outskirts of Kabul. A similar distribution was carried out to 60 families living in another tented camp, Shahi Shahid, the following day. Nearly 200 families – about half the camp's residents – benefited from the aid provided in Chaman-i-Babrak. While it certainly did not cover all the needs, it was a start. A further distribution is planned.
Many of the families are returnees from Pakistan and have been living in Chaman-i-Babrak, in abysmal conditions, for months and even years. The place lacks all amenities, and the ragged shelters are made from mud and plastic sheeting for the most part. (…)
Private sector to adopt islands in the Maldives
Male, Maldives, 8 February -- Big businesses are readying to adopt small islands in the Maldives through a pioneering effort aimed at helping people affected by the tsunami to rebuild their homes. The “Adopt An Island” initiative was officially launched in the Maldives today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at precisely 9:30 am, the exact time the gigantic tsunami devastated one-third of the Maldives' inhabited islands, just over a month ago.
The new initiative invites private donors to “Adopt An Island” and thereby directly help one or more among the worst affected communities to rebuild or repair their houses.
In the Maldives, the tsunami forced thousands of people from their homes and, in some cases, their communities.Thirteen islands had to be completely abandoned as all the buildings and infrastructure were smashed and fresh water sources contaminated by the sea. (…)
The “Adopt An Island” initiative provides a new avenue for private donors to help some of the worst hit communities in the Maldives. (…) Adoptions would cover the cost of purchasing and delivering essential construction materials like cement, steel, timber and tin. Island rebuilding teams would be established and paid through the programme, generating much needed income opportunities for many islanders. The most expensive adoption (US$4.4 million) would enable more than a thousand people to rebuild and move back into their homes. At the other end of the scale, $95,000 would help 58 families mend their dwellings. (…)
Roman Catholic priests respond to Counterpart's tsunami relief drive
The Marist Society in the USA recently donated $10,000 to help finance Counterpart International's relief efforts in tsunami-affected regions of south Asia.
Washington, D.C. ,February 8 – Counterpart International's tsunami relief efforts in Asia have just received a welcome donation of US$10,000 from a Roman Catholic missionary group - the Marist Society in the USA. Father Stan Hosie, Chairman of Counterpart International, who is himself a member of the Marists, applauded the Marists for their contribution to the 40 year-old development organization. The Marists are better known as the Society of Mary, a congregation of Roman Catholic priests founded in Lyons, France, in 1816 .
With 40 years of development experience in over 50 countries, Counterpart International is one of the world's most experienced organizations in civil society development. Counterpart's approach relies on the local people to define their needs, and trains and uses local people to execute the projects in a way which becomes self-sustaining Counterpart, which continues to assemble millions worth of medical supplies and badly needed pharmaceuticals for airlifting to the survivors in the devastated areas of south Asia, has sent US$ 3.7 million worth of urgently needed drugs and supplies with the support of its partners and contributors. (…)
UNFPA-trained volunteers lend social support to grieving Sri Lankan women
Hambantota, Sri Lanka, 7 February - Sitting in a tent in the stifling heat, Latha Wijesiri, a volunteer health worker, talks quietly with four women about their immediate emotional and physical needs. One of the women, the youngest, lost her husband to the tsunami which ravaged Sri Lanka’s southeast coast a month ago. The rest have lost relatives and friends. All have lost their homes and livelihoods. The entire waterfront section of the city of Hambantota was swept away by three massive waves. In the aftermath, 4,500 people perished in this district and thousands were left homeless. Some 500 traumatized survivors, living in tents on the rubble of their fishing community, are now trying to rebuild their lives. (...) Wijesiri is a member of Sardovaya, one of the country’s largest NGOs. “We lost 800 of our members to the tsunami,” she sighs. “I feel it is my duty to do as much as I can to help the women of this district to recover and rebuild.” (...)
A $610,000 grant from the German Government will be used to address sexual and gender-based violence in Sri Lanka. The grant will also be used to assist victims by providing services, including long-term psychological support. (...)
Sri Lankan fisher folk receive first donation
A consignment of boat repair kits inaugurates implementation of FAO's recovery programme for Sri Lanka following the tsunami
3 February, Colombo -- The first of a US$380 000 consignment of boat repair kits to help restore the livelihoods of thousands of Sri Lankan fishermen was handed over to the country's fisheries minister Chandrasena Wijesinghe today. The donation, funded jointly by FAO and the German technical cooperation agency GTZ, represents the beginning of the implementation of FAO's US$20 million initial response to the tsunami that ravaged more than three quarters of the country's fisheries industry.
A number of donor governments and agencies such as Japan, Norway, Belgium, UK, Italy, EU, ECHO and the German government via GTZ have channelled their funding assistance through FAO for the emergency rehabilitation of the fisheries sector.
The repair kits will go to boatyards set up around the country by the Sri Lankan government to repair those vessels salvaged by the surviving fishermen. More than 7 500 Sri Lankan fishermen were killed by the tsunami and thousands of boats destroyed. (…)
WFP to receive proceeds from IRB Tsunami Aid Match, March 5
Rome, 3 February - The International Rugby Board will donate proceeds from the IRB Rugby Aid Match, 'Helping to Rebuild After the Tsunami' to its humanitarian partner WFP.
The match, which will pitch a Northern Hemisphere XV against a Southern Hemisphere XV, will take place at Twickenham on 5th March.
James Morris, WFP Executive Director said, "This is a truly wonderful initiative that comes at a critical time for families whose lives have been devastated by this tragic crisis."
"This crisis is far from over - there is so much work still to be done. We are very grateful to the international rugby community for their generosity and solidarity with the millions of people who still need help," added Mr Morris.
Dr Syd Millar, IRB Chairman said, "The IRB is delighted that the international rugby community has come together to support this very worthwhile cause. This is highlighted by major Unions agreeing to release players for the match." (…)
ADRA provides food, medicine to flood survivors in Guyana
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, 3 February — From January 21-30, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency responded with potable water, food, and medicine to survivors of flooding that occurred in Guyana throughout January.
Approximately 650 food hampers were distributed to flood survivors. (…) ADRA also provided medicines, including anti-bacterials, anti-diarrheals, and disinfectants. Medical teams accompanied the relief teams to various communities and provided medical service to the residents. ADRA Guyana’s relief efforts were concentrated on the Lower East Coast, Sophia (Greater Georgetown), and Canal No. 2 Region 3 on the West Bank of Demerara. The project, valued at $10,000, was funded by ADRA International, ADRA Inter-America, ADRA Caribbean Union, ADRA Guyana, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guyana. (…)
Somalia: ICRC distributes food to 10,000 nomadic families
27 January - Between 11 and 20 January the ICRC distributed over 2,000 tonnes of food to some 10,000 families in central Somalia and Puntland. These supplies will enable people to survive until the next harvest, in April. The ICRC decided to bring in food after its assessment revealed widespread malnutrition. Children are particularly affected, suffering from a range of illnesses brought on by acute undernourishment.
Recurrent droughts have had a devastating effect on the people in these areas, many of whom are nomads. They have lost livestock due to the gradual destruction of grazing land, and their means of survival and their traditional coping mechanisms have been exhausted, creating a critical situation. (…)
The ICRC has been in Somalia since 1982. Working in close cooperation with the Somali Red Crescent Society it helps support those in need, providing regular emergency aid, operating medical programmes, and running over 300 water, health, agricultural and veterinary projects.
Strengthening the NPT and World Security
2005 Review Conference of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty
2 February - The 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will meet 2-27 May 2005 at the United Nations in New York, to hammer out priorities to confront the spread of nuclear weapons.
The Treaty, which marks its 35th anniversary this year, is seen to be at a turning point. IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei says the system "clearly needs reinforcement."
"It is clear that recent events have placed the NPT and the regime supporting it under unprecedented stress, exposing some of its inherent limitations and pointing to areas that need to be adjusted," he said.
Dr. ElBaradei has proposed seven steps to strengthen the NPT regime and with it, world security. "Some of the needed fixes can be made in May, but only if governments are ready to act," he said. The May 2005 Review Conference provides a forum for the 188 countries party to the Treaty, to examine its operation and direction for the next five years. (…)
4th International Kashmir Peace Conference, United Nations, New York, 24 February
“Peace Initiative in South Asia: Exploring Possible Options for Kashmir”
Speakers will address the following themes: (10:00 a.m.) “Kashmir: Time for Creative Approaches”; (11: 45 a.m.) “India-Pakistan dialogue: Exploring Possible Options for Kashmir”;
(3.00 p.m.) “Kashmir: The Role of the International Community”; (4:30 p.m.) “CBM’s: Help or Hindrance for Resolving Kashmir Conflict”. To register:
Brenz Band appointed Unesco artist for peace
31 January - Brenz Band, a German group of handicapped musicians, will be appointed a UNESCO artist for peace for 2005-2006 by director-general Koïchiro Matsuura on February 3, at a ceremony to be held at UNESCO headquarters. Brenz Band is being honored “in recognition of its fervent involvement in the promotion of peace through its musical activities and its commitment to the ideals and goals of the organization.” (...)
Defining itself as a “messenger of tolerance and peace”, the BRENZ BAND is a member of Paix 21. This foundation brings together three national associations in Switzerland, Germany and France (in the process of being established). Its aim is to “promote and establish peace in the world, through all forms of non-violent dialogue, on the basis of respect for differences and the universal declaration of human rights.” (...)
Training of mine detection dogs in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Geneva, 19 January - The GICHD has published the very first study describing the training of mine detection dogs (MDD) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. “The training of dogs to detect buried landmines is a complex process, often using different methods, and accompanied by an equally varied range of opinions and training techniques from one organisation to the other. Until now, detailed documentation on Mine Detection Dogs training has not been available to the general mine action community” says Ian Mansfield, Operations Director at the GICHD.
Since 1999, the GICHD has conducted applied research projects on various aspects of dogs, such as international mine action standards for MDD and training methodology. The report describes the MDD training programme used by Norwegian People’s Aid in its Global Training Centre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (…) The study has been requested by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), but should be of interest to other UN agencies and programmes such as UNDP and UNOPS, as well as to non-governmental organisations, national mine action programmes and commercial companies, training and using MDD in demining programmes.
The study was made possible thanks to a grant from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfDI) and the kind support of Norwegian People’s Aid.
Kindergartens help care for abandoned babies as Russian AIDS epidemic grows
Kaliningrad, Russia / New York, 9 February - HIV/AIDS is a growing problem among young people in Russia. Fuelled by intravenous drug use, around 80 per cent of all those living with the virus are under 30, with women accounting for one in three new infections. The effects of the crisis on children are starkly illustrated at orphanages and shelters across the country. At one kindergarten in Kaliningrad, the majority of the 23 babies being cared for were abandoned at birth by HIV-positive mothers who also injected drugs. In many cases the grandparents assume responsibility for the children, and the kindergarten, with support from UNICEF, offers additional care and assistance. (...) With more than three million injecting drug users, Russia is one of the worst-affected countries in Eastern Europe. As the Russian AIDS epidemic grows, it is possible that more babies will become abandoned and will need the sort of care offered by similar UNICEF-backed projects. Education – particularly among women at risk of infection – is another priority for UNICEF in the battle against the spread of HIV.
Efforts to reduce mercury emissions recognised
7 February - The European Commission's proposed environmental management strategy for the toxic metal mercury published on January 31, 2005 clearly sets out the need for a co-ordinated global approach to reducing mercury emissions from all sources.
It recognises voluntary actions by the chlorine industry to reduce manufacturing emissions and phase out mercury-based plants, which account for almost 50% of European chlorine capacity. The switch to alternative technologies will cost more than Euro 3,000 million.
Euro Chlor, which represents European chlor-alkali producers, has accepted the Commission's invitation to collaborate on finding a solution to permanent storage of mercury as plants are decommissioned. For further information, download Euro Chlor press statement.
New vaccine store boost immunization in Afghanistan
Kabul, 6 February - A new vaccine storage facility will open in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad on Tuesday 8 February, improving immunization services for at least 500,000 children in surrounding provinces. The new storage centre, which has been established by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health with the support of UNICEF, will be able to hold 700,000 vials of various vaccines at any given time. This capacity is sufficient to meet both immediate and longer term vaccine needs for 4 four provinces (…)
Safe storage of vaccine is essential in the battle against preventable childhood diseases. Many vaccines lose their potency if their temperature is not kept low enough, and as a result supplies of vaccines have previously had to be transported into the eastern provinces for every campaign, or to respond to emergency disease outbreaks, from Kabul. This is both costly and inefficient. The new storage centre, which has been supported through funding from Japan and the United States of America, will greatly enhance the ability of local health departments to manage vaccination activities. Immunization efforts are implemented by 246 trained vaccinators through 123 fixed centres, covering 43 districts of the region, every year. (…) Japan has contributed a total of US$ 34,250 towards the establishment of the Jalalabad centre, along with a contribution of US$ 96,175 from the United States.
The opening of the Jalalabad centre follows the establishment of a similar facility in Kandahar, serving the southern region, which was opened in January. The country’s first vaccine storage facility was opened in Kabul in March 2004.
South Asia slashes polio cases by nearly half
Authorities committed to 2005 target to end paralysing disease
Geneva, 4 February - The three countries on the Asian continent that still have polio are on target to end the disease this year, their health authorities said today. Last year, polio cases in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan were slashed by 45 per cent. Similar momentum this year should put an end to the transmission of polio in this particularly crowded corner of the world, which has proven a challenge to global eradication efforts.
Meeting at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva, the health ministers and senior officials hammered out a plan for 2005 that involves massive and repeated polio immunization campaigns in the few remaining affected districts of these countries. The emphasis will be on reaching children in communities traditionally under-served by health services.
Similar action last year paid off in the shrinking geographic footprint of the poliovirus and in falling numbers of affected children. Total cases in the region have fallen from 336 in 2003 to 186 in 2004 (reported as of 1 February 2005), while surveillance of the disease in the key districts is twice as sensitive. Vast areas of each country reported no polio last year.
Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai, India's Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf all lent their personal support to the 2004 immunization campaigns, during which 210 million children were given 1.5 billion doses of vaccine. (…)
Rotary provides gift of sight in Philippines
More than 150 children and adults to receive free eye surgery
Evanston, Ill. USA, 4 February - More than 150 needy adults and children will receive donated corrective eye surgeries in a mission supported by Rotary clubs of the Philippines and the United States. A group led by ophthalmologists will undertake the surgeries at the Municipal Hospital of La Trinidad from 25 February to 7 March.
The group's goal is to perform 100 to 150 cataract operations for adults free of charge. In addition, a pediatric ophthalmologist will operate on 20 to 25 children with strabismus, known as crossed eyes. They will be working closely with the Philippine doctors, and medical personnel in accomplishing this mission."There is a great deal of interest in this program in the Philippines," said Dr. Albert Alley, program coordinator. (…)
They are planning to operate for five days, utilizing three operating rooms, with three operations going simultaneously. The American surgeons and the Philippine surgeons will be working side-by-side performing approximately 30 to 35 operations per day. The group has a grant from the Rotary Foundation, and also receives contributions from the Rotary Club of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. This project is in partnership with the Rotary Club of La Trinidad in the Philippines. (…) "An interesting sidelight of this mission is that Dr. Benny Santos from Malolos, Philippines and his son, both ophthalmologists, will be joining us," said Alley. Dr. Santos is a Past Director of Rotary International, the association of 33,000 Rotary clubs worldwide.
Rotary has organized more than fifty similar eye surgery missions in twenty countries around the world, and performed thousands of eye operations. (…)
IAEA confronts Europe´s cancer scourge
3 February - With the death toll from cancer claiming 1.7 million Europeans each year, Health Ministers and experts of leading oncology centers from 27 countries across the continent met at IAEA headquarters in Vienna this week to work together to combat the disease.
The IAEA has teamed up with European countries involved in its Technical Cooperation programme, The World Health Organization, professional societies and NGOs to improve cancer prevention, detection and treatment. Over the next three years the IAEA will roll out close to $24 million in funding for cancer projects on an expected cost-sharing basis with the governments involved. The projects range from improving nutrition to upgrading radiotherapy equipment and training staff to ensure cancer patients are treated safely.
Ten radiotherapy "Centres of Competence" are currently being established in Europe with IAEA support within the scope of national and regional Technical Cooperation projects. Each facility will be capable of treating several hundred patients per year at internationally accepted standards. Each centre will serve as a national model for improving radiotherapy in other institutions in the country. (…)
MSF fights meningitis among Darfur refugees in eastern Chad
The current outbreak is caused by the relatively rare "W135" strain.
Abeche, 28 January - The international medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is launching a meningitis vaccination campaign in eastern Chad, following a recent outbreak among refugees from Sudan's Darfur region. The campaign is aimed at protecting thousands of people in the area from the highly infectious disease, which is particularly threatening in the overcrowded camps.
MSF is working alongside local health authorities and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Over a period of two weeks, MSF is planning to vaccinate about 70,000 Sudanese refugees and local residents in Bredjing and Farchana camps, their respective surrounding areas and the border town of Adré. (…) The first cases of meningitis were discovered in Bredjing and Treguine refugee camps at the beginning of January. More than a year after people fled the war-torn region of Darfur, living conditions in these camps are still difficult. (…)
Gates Foundation funds new polio vaccine to accelerate eradication efforts
Monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine destined for Egypt, bringing faster child immunity against predominant polio strain
27 January, Geneva/New York -- The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF announced today that they have received grants totalling US$ 10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and introduce a powerful new polio vaccine – a critical part of the strategy to end poliovirus transmission worldwide by the end of 2005. The new vaccine, monovalent oral polio vaccine type-1 (mOPV1), will be more efficient at boosting immunity against poliovirus strain "type 1" than today’s trivalent vaccine, which works against all three polio strains. Epidemiologists believe the new vaccine could help to bring a swift end to polio through mass immunization campaigns across areas where virus types 2 and 3 have already been eliminated.
The Gates Foundation funds will help WHO and UNICEF together with a qualified vaccine manufacturer to develop, licence and introduce mOPV1 by May 2005. The vaccine will be used initially in Egypt, which has successfully eliminated poliovirus types 2 and 3, and could soon be made available to other areas where only type-1 poliovirus remains.
The mOPV1 will be produced and licensed under the oversight of the drugs regulatory agencies of France and Egypt. The Egyptian government will train health workers in the use of the vaccine and conduct post-marketing surveillance. WHO will be responsible for overall coordination of the project, with UNICEF procuring and delivering the vaccine to the government of Egypt. Of the total grant amount, US$ 3 937 500 will be disbursed by the WHO and US$ 6 152 500 by UNICEF. (…)
7th ILO European Regional Meeting: 14-18 February 2005, Budapest, Hungary
Geneva, 8 February - Worker, employer and government representatives from 50 European and central Asian members of the international labour organization (ILO), including some 30 ministers, gather in Budapest, Hungary on 15-18 February to address the challenges of economic transformation and globalization across the region.
The 7th European regional meeting of the ILO comes at a time when governments in the region are seeking to reduce unemployment and poverty while grappling with social problems that continue to plague most countries despite the region’s role as a key player in worldwide economic integration, says a report prepared for the meeting. (...)
Four eminent guests will honour the meeting with their participation on a high-level panel with worker and employer representatives: Mr. Ferenc Gyurcsány, prime minister of Hungary; Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and holder of the European Union (EU) Presidency; Mr. Danial Akhmetov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan; and dr. Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta will discuss the question "Will social dialogue survive globalization?"
Launch of UN-backed public transport campaign
New international TV campaign promotes public transport as sustainable travel alternative
Paris, 8 February - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) have joined forces to promote the environmental and life-style benefits of public transport in a new TV campaign. An animated 30 second commercial available in English, French, German and Spanish and produced by McCann Erickson is scheduled to run across a growing list of international stations (BBC World, CNN International, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, National Geographic and Discovery Channel), starting with EuroNews from 10 February. With the theme "The world is your home. Look after it", this public transport Ad coincides with the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol on 16 February 2005.
Total greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are growing faster than any other sector, and it is estimated to be responsible for 30 % of CO2 emissions in Europe. In Europe, approximately 50% of transport trips in urban area are less than 5km. The new Ad campaign, the first of its kind between UITP and UNEP, aims to raise awareness of some of the advantages of using public transport, especially the environmental benefits.
Agreement between Lithuania and the Russian Federation keeps Curonian Spit off List of World Heritage in Danger
1 February - The Curonian Spit, an elongated sand-dune peninsula straddling the border of Lithuania and the Russian Federation, will not be inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision follows an agreement between the two countries to undertake an environmental assessment of the impact of oil exploration and production in the Baltic Sea, 22 kilometres from the World Heritage site. The Curonian Spit is an oustanding example of a landscape of sand dunes, that is under constant threat from natural forces, such as wind and tide. Inhabited since pre-historic times, its survival has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat erosion, notably through reforestation and stabilisation projets. Jointly nominated by Lithuania and the Russian Federation, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000.
In 2003, the World Heritage Committee expressed its concern over potential oil pollution and damage to the Spit’s fragile ecological system from a project by a Russian company, which set up an oil platform in the Baltic Sea , 22 kilometres from the World Heritage site. (…)
In addition to a Round Table convened by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in November 2003, Lithuania and the Russian Federation held several bilateral talks to discuss how to comply with the World Heritage Committee’s decision. On January 28 they announced their agreement for a post-project environmental assessment. (…)
UNESCO Director-General announces interim tsunami alert system for the Indian Ocean
29 January - UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) are in the process of developing an interim tsunami alert system in the Indian Ocean which will cover the region while a longer-term fully-fledged system is put in place. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, announced this new development in a speech delivered by IOC Executive-Secretary Patricio Bernal today to the Ministerial Meeting on Regional Cooperation on Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements underway in Phuket (Thailand).
One proposal under consideration for the interim system could be operational almost immediately, and would involve the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the IOC Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) providing national authorities in the Indian Ocean region with information and warnings arising from their monitoring activities. UNESCO is also working with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Thailand and the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre in Japan to accelerate the translation and adaptation of public awareness materials developed for and widely used in the Pacific region.
At the same time, efforts are continuing to establish a “longer-term fully-fledged system,” Mr Matsuura said. “Through a joint project with the UN-ISDR […], which has received financial support from Japan, the European Union and Sweden, we are planning the installation of six tsunami enabled sea-level stations in the eastern Indian Ocean and the upgrading of 15 more in the whole basin.” (…)
Your guide to the UNECE Water Convention now available in six languages
The guide explains how the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes helps countries to curb water pollution, restore and conserve water-related ecosystems, prevent conflicts over scarce resources, and ensure that international rivers are well managed so that future generations, too, will be able to extract clean water from them. Although originally negotiated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Convention was recently amended to enable other UN Member States to sign up to it and benefit from the experience acquired in UNECE. To raise awareness about the Convention around the globe, this guide was translated into all the official languages of the United Nations with the help of the Environment Ministries of Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
First bio-diversity park of its kind launched in Rawalpindi
Pioneering public-private partnership gives poor access to bio-diversity
Bangkok (United Nations Information Services) -- The first bio-diversity park of its kind in the world was officially opened today by representatives of UNESCAP, the Government of Pakistan and the private sector in Morgah, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (…) “In Asia and Pacific, conservation of bio-diversity has assumed renewed importance after the recent Tsunami which destroyed considerable parts of the region’s reserves of bio-diversity such as forests, fish stocks, coral reefs and mangrove swamps,” UNESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su told the gathering. (…)
The Morgah Bio-diversity Park Project is the brainchild of the Bangkok-based UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). It brings together participants from the private sector, national and local governments, and the local community. A part of UNESCAP's Pro-Poor Public Private Partnership for poverty reduction, it is a follow up of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002.(...) Chief Executive Officer, Attock Refinery Limited, said the Morgah Bio-diversity Park is a living example that such diverse partners can work together efficiently.(...) The project was made possible by the generous financial support of the Royal Government of the Netherlands.
Gaza students receive boost to support their commitment to education
Gaza City, 8 February - About 10,000 children in impoverished areas in the Gaza Strip today received a boost in the form of educational supplies to support their commitment to education.
“There are many children in schools affected by the conflict or in marginalized areas where basic educational supplies are really needed,” says the UNICEF Special Representative in occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Dan Rohrmann. “The children are very committed to pursuing education and we would like to ensure that the commitment is supported through the provision of these basic materials.” (…)
The distribution today also included supplies for some 800 children given through the psychosocial emergency team in Khan Younis, an area seriously affected by the crisis most recently. In addition, educational supplies were given for some 10,000 children to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) for use in emergency responses throughout Gaza.
UNICEF’s emergency action receives support from many donors - Arab Gulf Fund (Agfund), Austria, Belgium, Canada, European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Additionally, a Tunisian non-governmental organization ‘Children First’ and several UNICEF National Committees - including the French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and United Kingdom. UNICEF’s emergency actions in oPt would not take place at this scale if it were not for their voluntary support.
Girls celebrated for determination to stay in school
Maharashtra, India, 8 February - Communities in Maharashtra, in the western and central parts of India, are coming together to give special recognition to girls who manage to stay in school against all odds. Last November, UNICEF and the local television station ‘Doordarshan Sahaydri’ organized a ceremony to showcase both the struggles and successes of girls who want to go to school. Nine girls, all from remote districts were selected to receive an award. The event was so successful that there are plans now to repeat it annually as part of an ongoing campaign to change social attitudes by celebrating girls who have transformed their dreams of staying in school into reality.(...) The event aimed to increase awareness about the importance of girls’ education and the critical role of the community in supporting girls who want to go to school. Speaking at the event, the Director of the Doorsdarshan Sahaydri station, Mukesh Sharma, said, “Girls are a divine source of power in India. They are the foundation of our society and it is our duty to educate them.”(...)
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors help raise $40,000 for ‘Africa Unite’
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 8 February - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Danny Glover and Angélique Kidjo helped raise $40,000 at a benefit concert for ‘Africa Unite’. Kidjo, who's from Benin in West Africa, performed and Glover, the world-renowned actor, hosted the UNICEF event on 4 February to help raise money for the construction of the Bob Marley Youth Development Centre in Addis Ababa. Kidjo also performed at a concert in the Ethiopian capital in celebration of Bob Marley’s 60th birthday. Both events were part of ‘Africa Unite,’ a partnership between prominent activist entertainers and organisations working on behalf of the world’s children, including UNICEF. (...) Youth participants from Burundi, Cameroon, Djibouti, the Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania , Ethiopia, and Uganda set forth ten ‘Demandments’ urging their countries’ leaders to implement programmes that address youth issues and most importantly to provide free, quality education. They were joined by their peers from Jamaica. Over 200 young people contributed to the ideas. ‘Africa Unite’ comes in advance of the fifth Africa Development Forum, scheduled for June 2005, which will focus on youth.
Community-based schools bring hope to Afghan girls
by Phuong Nguyen
Bagrami, Afghanistan, 8 February - Eight-year old Zakira is a typical girl from Hussain Khel village in Bagrami district, north of Kabul. She and her five siblings have never enjoyed a day of schooling as there were no schools around their village. Access to schools is the most important factor affecting school enrolment rate in Afghanistan, particularly for girls. Parents have cited this, along with lack of transportation and security, as major barriers to sending their children to school. Faced with this problem, education authorities and UNICEF have adopted a simple philosophy - if children are unable to get to the school, the school must be brought to them. To help children like Zakira, UNICEF and the Afghan Ministry of Education founded community-based schools at the end of 2004. 50,000 children between the ages of 7 and 12 in communities where no schools currently exist are being educated.(...)
The religious leader, or mullah, plays a key role in Afghan society . Working closely with the local Department of Education, UNICEF encourages such figureheads, along with village elders and other notable personalities, to mobilize communities to establish non-formal schools in their village.(...) In 2005, UNICEF plans to increase the number of girls attending community-based schools to 500,000, helping to ensure that girls’ rights to a basic education are fulfilled. (...)
EC and UNICEF join hands to support education in Somalia
Nairobi, 31 January – Education prospects for Somali children are to benefit from a European Commission grant of 4.5 million euros, UNICEF Somalia Representative, Jesper Morch, said today following the signing of an agreement between the two bodies. UNICEF will use the funds to promote pupil enrolment and to ensure quality teaching and learning under initiatives spanning a two year period from 2005. Part of the funds will be used in a major education enrolment campaign through UNICEF Somalia’s Every Child Counts Initiative. Community education committees which manage schools in most of Somalia will also be targeted under specific interventions to ensure they are better able to manage schools under their supervision.
Currently only about 19.9% per cent of Somali children are in school. According to the 2003/2004 Survey of Primary Schools in Somalia, 285,574 children were enrolled in primary schools. This was a 5.7% increase from the previous year. Of those enrolled only 35% are girls. As per the latest survey there were 9,088 teachers of whom only 1,210 (13%) were female with one teacher having about 31 students per class in average. (…)
5th Annual EU-UNU Forum will discuss NGO participation in the democratic process
28 January - Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have grown in number and influence, and play an important role in mediating state-citizen relations domestically and in shaping the agenda of world affairs. Such a robust and independent civil society is an essential pillar of democratic states, and gives flesh and meaning to the concept of "We the Peoples of the United Nations".
Over the past two decades, citizens' movements and NGOs in democratic societies worldwide have been seeking better representation in the political process. Japanese NGOs, however, are generally small and understaffed in comparison with their European counterparts, and face significant obstacles in developing and attracting increased support.
On Thursday, 3 February, United Nations University and the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan will co-organize the fifth annual European Union-United Nations University (EU-UNU) Tokyo Global Forum. In recognition of 2005 as the "EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges", the theme of this forum will be "Bridging the Gap: Involving Citizens' Movements and NGOs in the Democratic Process." Participants, including political leaders, academics, UN officials, and NGO representatives, will exchange views on how to optimize the role that civil society plays in supporting the democratic system of government. (…)
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