Archive for the ‘humanitarian’ Category

Many Nations Sign Cluster Bomb Ban; U.S. and Russia Refrain

December 3, 2008

The United States and Russia were absent Wednesday as representatives from countries from around the world gathered to sign a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs.

CNN
Some 111 countries were due to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions at an all-day signing ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

But four of the biggest cluster bomb makers — Russia, China, Israel and the United States, which claims the devices are a vital part of its defense strategy, stayed away.

Cluster Munition Coalition activists behind the agreement expressed disappointment at the absence of the big four, but insisted it wouldn’t undermine the treaty as it passes into international law.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing that those countries aren’t here, but at the same time, the strong message that this treaty sends will make it very clear to those countries that these are unacceptable weapons and inappropriate in future conflicts,” CMC Co-Chair Richard Moyes told CNN from Oslo.

French troops examine cluster bombs collected after the Lebanon conflict of 2006.

Above: French troops examine cluster bombs collected after the Lebanon conflict of 2006.

“The treaty and the stigma that it builds will make it practically and politically much more difficult for them to use these weapons again in the future,” Moyes added about the absent countries.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/12/03/cluster.
bomb.ban/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Advertisements

Zimbabwe: Riot Police Charge into Doctors and Nurses Protesting Health System

December 3, 2008

Humanity seems turned upside down when riot police attack doctors and nurses during a cholera outbreak…But this is Zimbabwe today….

****

Riot police charged into a group of doctors and nurses protesting Zimbabwe‘s deepening economic and health crisis, eyewitnesses said Wednesday as deaths rose sharply from a cholera epidemic blamed on collapsing infrastructure.

The witnesses said officers in downtown Harare ran into a march of doctors and nurses — some in uniform — who fled the police charge. A few blocks away, police stopped teachers trying to join the same protest and at least six people were taken away in police trucks, according to the witnesses, who declined to give their names for fear of official retribution.

The unions are joining a mass movement to press the government to respond to the worsening crises.

Men in the blue uniforms of paramilitary police armed with rifles were seen positioned atop several high-rise bank headquarters Wednesday.

On Monday, soldiers went on a rampage after they were unable to withdraw wages from banks, which have been short of cash as a result of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown.

Zimbabwe’s state newspaper said quoted defense minister Sydney Sekeramayi as saying that rogue elements in the country were trying to incite violence against the government.

He said the coincidence of Monday’s incident and the call for protests by unions and civil rights organizations “raises a lot of questions” and that any unlawful demonstrations would not be tolerated.

The United Nations said that deaths from the cholera epidemic had risen to 565, with 12,546 people infected. The government had been reporting 473 cholera deaths since August, and a total of 11,700 people infected as of Monday.

The nationwide outbreak of the waterborne disease is blamed on collapsing water treatment plants and broken sewage pipes.

Zimbabwe has been paralyzed since disputed elections in March. President Robert Mugabe and the opposition are wrangling over a power-sharing deal.

The country is suffering from the world’s highest inflation and Zimbabweans face daily shortages of food and other basic goods. Many hospitals and clinics have been forced to shut their doors because of a lack of drugs and medicines.

On Wednesday, water supplies were restored to parts of Harare after authorities turned off the taps for three days after saying they had run out of purifying chemicals.

Zimbabwe’s government is cooperating with aid agencies to try to stem the spread of cholera but has stopped short of declaring the epidemic a national emergency.

The European Commission said it was providing more than $12 million for drugs and clean water while the International Red Cross was also releasing more funds to deal with the epidemic.

“Cholera is a disease of destitution that used to be almost unknown in Zimbabwe,” Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid said.

Refugee, Immigrant, U.S. Senator To Retire

December 2, 2008

This man is one of our true favorites at Peace and Freedom. A former refugee, immigrant and a true man of strength and character, he has seved his nation and mankind in coutless ways.  Vietnamese immigrants and those locked in Communist jails were among those he stood up for…. He is truly “the embodiment of the American Dream.” 

****

S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who has struggled to boost his approval ratings because of close ties to President George W. Bush, announced Tuesday he will not seek a second term in 2010.

His seat was widely seen as vulnerable in two years, but Martinez, a Republican, rejected suggestions he faced difficult re-election prospects in a state won last month by Democrat Barack Obama.

“I’ve faced much tougher obstacles in my life,” Martinez said. “My decision is not based on re-election prospects, but on what on what I want to do with the next eight years of my life.”

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON and MARK WANGRIN, Associated Press Writers

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., speaks at the Republican National ... 
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 4, 2008. Martinez , who has struggled to boost his approval rating since taking office, will not seek a second term in 2010, a state Republican party official said Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008.(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Martinez, 62, was elected in 2004 after serving as the U.S. secretary for Housing and Urban Development during the Bush administration. He served as general chairman of the Republican National Committee for 10 months, resigning in October 2007.

Martinez was born in Cuba. At the age of 15, he fled to America as part of a Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Pedro Pan. Catholic charitable groups provided Martinez, who was alone and spoke virtually no English, a temporary home at two youth facilities. He then lived with two foster families, with whom he remains close. He was reunited with his family in Orlando in 1966.

In appointing Martinez in 2001, Bush said he was “the embodiment of the American Dream.”

Myanmar Activists Sorry to Lose Laura Bush

November 2, 2008

First Lady has been a bright light for human rights; especially in Myanmar…

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON —  Activists opposing the military-run junta will lose a powerful ally in January when first lady Laura Bush moves out of the White House.

Voter dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush’s Republican Party could also cost them Myanmar’s fiercest congressional critic in Mitch McConnell. The Senate’s top Republican is battling to retain his seat in the face of Democrats intent on bolstering their control of Congress with a strong showing in Tuesday’s elections.

 

US First Lady Laura Bush, seen here October 13, 2008 at the ...
Laura Bush (L) with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
(AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

 

Laura Bush and McConnell — who heads the panel responsible for financing international programs — have used their high profiles to draw attention to human rights abuses in Myanmar and the 13-year detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. They also have won tough sanctions aimed at isolating Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Activists in the country say her support has been invaluable.

“The world takes an interest in Myanmar’s ethnic issues because of her,” said Han Tha Myint, a spokesman for Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy. “It is moral support for us even though we are not clear how much of the support can translate into change.”

Three Buddhist monks pray at a pagoda in Twantay, near the former ...
Three Buddhist monks pray at a pagoda in Twantay, near the former capital of Myanmar, Yangon, on October 19. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Khin Maung Win)

Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,445969,00.html

Congo Nighmare: Children Famished, Sick, Exhausted

November 2, 2008

The U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday that the violence in Congo has forced 250,000 people from their homes since rebels began their offensive in late August….children are suffering the most….Britain and France are determining if more aid can be sent….

By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer
.
KIBATI, Congo – They wail and yell to show their distress: the youngest victims of eastern Congo’s latest eruption of violence have no other way to say they’re famished, sick and weary.

Thousands spent the night in the open, their mothers trying vainly to shield them from the chilly rain with cotton cloth or plastic sheets torn from sacks. Many are so weak and malnourished they have no protection against disease.

Children running as a rumor spreads that a truck is coming with food aid at a camp for displaced people north of Goma, Congo, on Sunday. (Karel Prinsloo/The Associated Press)

The U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday that the violence has forced 250,000 people from their homes since rebels began their offensive in late August, swelling a refugee population that already stood at 1 million. More than 60 percent of the refugees are children, according to UNICEF.

Aid groups say that children are being disproportionately hit by a crisis that could expand into a full-blown humanitarian disaster if assistance is not widely distributed soon.

“We’re all so hungry. And today it doesn’t look like we’ll get any food again,” said 13-year-old Louise Maombi, who was comforting her sick 3-year-old brother outside a free clinic in a camp nearly four miles (six kilometers) north of the provincial capital of Goma. Twishime was sweating, running a high fever and crying that his body ached — typical signs of malaria.

Jaya Murthy, the spokesman in Goma for UNICEF, said emergency food, medication and tablets to chlorinate water had arrived from Rwanda on Saturday and would soon be distributed at the Kibati camp. With many aid workers having fled eastern Congo, the U.N. humanitarian agency said it would be Tuesday before food would arrive at Kibati, where the population has swelled from 15,000 to 50,000.

Even before the latest crisis, children at Kibati were reaching the “emergency threshold” where 10 percent are “skin and bones and the last stage before they perish,” Murthy said.

“We know the children are famished,” he said. “We don’t normally feel the type of desperation” displayed this week at Kibati.

The situation in eastern Congo “could have catastrophic consequences for hundreds of thousands of children who are weak, hungry and vulnerable to killer diseases,” he said. “If there is no immediate help many could die.”

Nurse Justin Majuwa of the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps said the worst problems at Kibati’s clinic were malaria and acute diarrhea, diseases that can kill a weak baby in two or three days.

In the last couple of days, tens of thousands have headed north behind rebel lines, saying they had no choice but to get home because they could find no shelter or food.

On Saturday, a disconsolate woman wept on the roadside north of Kibati: She had fled the violence into neighboring Uganda and was making her way back through the forest when she lost her only son.

“What shall I do? What will become of me?” she wailed, tearing at the braids on her head. “I can’t go home without him and I can’t find him.”

She was too distraught to give her name.

*****************

Britain, France Say Congo Needs Much More Help

(AP)  Britain and France said Sunday that Congo needs help to maintain a fragile cease-fire between rebels and government troops, but made no offer to deploy European Union peacekeeping troops following a round of talks in the region.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband of Britain and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, said any military reinforcements must first go to the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Congo.

Miliband and Kouchner made a joint visit to the region from Friday, holding talks in Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

“The international community must support humanitarian delivery, strengthen the United Nations force MONUC, and help promote and enforce agreements,” the men said in their joint statement, referring to the UN force by its French acronym, MONUC.

Kouchner and Miliband flew to the region following a sudden and dramatic escalation of eastern Congo’s civil war in the past week which has displaced thousands of people.

Read the rest:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/02/
africa/02congo-fw.php

By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer

Six Months after Myanmar Cyclone, Rebuilding Lags Due To Government Hastles

November 2, 2008

After the cyclone devestated Myanmar last May, the military junta governing the former Burma was so uncooperative and unhelpful that even international aid groups were delayed and hastled….

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Six months after Cyclone Nargis smashed into Myanmar‘s coastline, killing tens of thousands of people, aid groups say once-lagging relief efforts have picked up pace but the task of rebuilding and recovery is far from finished.

Foreign aid staffers were initially barred from cyclone-affected areas and the ruling military junta was criticized for its ineffective response to the May 2-3 disaster. During a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in late May, it agreed to allow in some foreign aid workers and formed a “Tripartite Core Group” made up of the government, the U.N. and Southeast Asian countries to facilitate the flow of international assistance.

A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed ... 
A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed monastery in Kaunt Chaung. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Lisandru)

Despite the slow initial response, “the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the representative in Myanmar for UNICEF, which has coordinated aid to women and children. “However, we cannot stop now.”

The U.N. said in a statement issued Sunday on behalf of the Tripartite Core Group that “there is a continued need for emergency relief, as well as support for early and long-term recovery efforts.”

Only 53.3 percent of the $484 million in relief money sought by a U.N.-coordinated appeal has been raised, it said.

The official death toll is 84,537, with 53,836 others listed as missing. Some 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with the total damage estimated as high as $4 billion.

A major pressing issue is how survivors will be able to support themselves.

Recent visitors to the Irrawaddy Delta, the area worst hit by the storm, report that most cyclone victims have cooking utensils, mosquito nets and other basic necessities. But they express concern about opportunities to earn enough money to buy food.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081102/ap_on_re_as/as_myanmar_cyclone_
recovery;_ylt=AoBSM67gxcYSKm3mpGUipeCs0NUE

Calls mount for Olympic ceremony boycott

March 18, 2008
By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press Writer 

PARIS – Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony.
Hollywood actor and Tibet activist Richard Gere, seen here in ... 
Hollywood actor and Tibet activist Richard Gere Saturday called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games if China “does not act in the proper way” in handling protests in the Himalayan region.
(AFP/Getty Images/File/Jim McIsaac)

Protesters demonstrate against the Olympic Games in Beijing ...
Protesters demonstrate against the Olympic Games in Beijing in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 18, 2008. Tibetans called on IOC President Jacques Rogge to speak up about the Tibet crackdown and ask for the withdrawal of the torch relay in Tibet.
(AP Photo/Keystone, Dominic Favre)

Such a protest by world leaders would be a huge slap in the face for China’s Communist leadership.

France‘s outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea “is interesting.”

Kouchner said he wants to discuss it with other foreign ministers from the 27-nation European Union next week. His comments opened a crack in what until now had been solid opposition to a full boycott, a stance that Kouchner said remains the official government position.

The idea of skipping the Aug. 8 opening ceremony “is less negative than a general boycott,” Kouchner said. “We are considering it.”

Asked about Kouchner’s statement, China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said: “Certainly I think what he said is not shared by most of the people in the world.”

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said last month that he expects many heads of state — including President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — to attend the opening ceremony.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080318/ap_on_re_
eu/beijing_boycott;_ylt=AvvNW18F6E5KqIU
oGmo_MlCs0NUE

Millions of Iraqis lack water, healthcare: Red Cross

March 17, 2008
By Stephanie Nebehay Sun Mar 16, 7:05 PM ET

GENEVA (Reuters) – Five years after the United States led an invasion of Iraq, millions of people there are still deprived of clean water and medical care, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday.

Kurdish woman lays flowers at a monument   for the victims of ...
Kurdish woman lays flowers at a monument for the victims of Halabja massacre on its 20th anniversary in Halabja, Iraq , Sunday, March 16, 2008. Some 5,600 people were killed when Saddam Hussein ordered the attack in Halabja as part of a scorched-earth campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the north (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)

In a sober report marking the anniversary of the 2003 start of the war, which ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and unleashed deep sectarian tensions, the humanitarian body said Iraqi hospitals lack beds, drugs, and medical staff.

Some areas of the country of 27 million people have no functioning water and sanitation facilities, and the poor public water supply has forced some families to use at least a third of their average $150 monthly income buying clean drinking water.

“Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world,” the ICRC said, describing Iraq’s health care system as “now in worse shape than ever.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080316/wl_nm/iraq_
cross_dc;_ylt=AknPdUDWArpq6L2TG4s80a2s0NUE

Opposition to Iraq war is divided after 5 years

March 13, 2008

By Susan Page
USA Today
March 13, 2008

WILMINGTON, Del. — Five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Bree Tease is trying to balance the obligations she feels to Iraqis and to the children whose needs she sees every day in her fourth-grade class.

“Over here, there are so many ways we could use that money,” the teacher, 27, says. “But then I think about the poor families and children in Iraq, and they didn’t do anything wrong.” If U.S. troops withdraw, Iraq could fall into chaos. So should they stay? “You have to leave at some point,” she says, uncertain over when.

Read the rest:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-12-warpoll_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Bangladesh: First U.S. Navy Ship Arrives for Relief Mission

November 23, 2007

By FARID HOSSAIN, Associated Press Writer 

DHAKA, Bangladesh – The U.S. Navy was prepared Friday to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies to hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis stricken by Cyclone Sidr, a top U.S. military commander said.

USS Kearsarge LHD-3.jpg

“We are here to help the people in their time of need,” Adm. Timothy Keating, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific Ocean, told reporters.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071123/ap_on_re_
as/bangladesh_cyclone;_ylt=Aj3l7dSocFqvAy
WU9g4sAACs0NUE

Related (November 24):
U.S. Navy, Marine Corps Provide Assistance in Bangladesh