Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Gay Refugees in Kenya

African countries have some of the most prohibitive laws against homosexuality in the world. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and are a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.  33 African countries out of a total of 54 nations criminalise same-sex relations.  Persecution of LGBT+ Africans is also rife, with sexual minorities routinely being abused, blackmailed, assaulted by mobs, or raped by police or vigilantes. Moves to strengthen anti-gay laws in Uganda in 2014 sparked a wave of homophobic attacks which has resulted in hundreds of LGBT+ people crossing the border.
After Joe's father was shot dead for being gay the 24-year-old Ugandan college student realised the men from his church would be coming for him next. First came the anonymous phone calls in the dead of night. Then the chilling text messages detailing how he would be "hunted down". It was only after he was attacked and lay bruised and bleeding in a public toilet that Joe fled to Kenya, a country he believed would be a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) refugees like himself but it has been more like a living hell. He walks the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in constant fear of arrest. He is frequently evicted from his lodgings. And with no means of income, he is forced to sell sex for 200 shillings ($2) through gay dating apps.
"I try and get through one day at a time. But I don't see a future ahead for me," said Joe, now 28. "In Kenya, I can't even get a job and in Uganda, they will kill me if I return. These are my options. Sometimes I just want to kill myself," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Kenya hosts around half a million people fleeing conflict, drought and persecution from countries such as Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burundi. But largely forgotten, say, campaigners, are the hundreds of LGBT+ refugees - predominantly from Uganda - forced to live in the shadows and pushed to the brink due to a lack of protection, safe housing, and employment.
"While laws criminalising homosexual acts exist across Africa, LGBTQI people see Kenya as the least bad option as anti-gay laws are rarely enforced and there is less violence," said Adam Fitzgerald from the Refugee Coalition of East Africa. "But in Kenya, they also face multiple discrimination. As foreigners with no income, they face classism, racism and xenophobia. They are subjected to the prejudices of being a refugee. And then they also endure anti-LGBT attitudes." This discrimination, coupled with Kenya's restrictive refugee policy, which denies asylum seekers the right to work and requires them to live in remote camps, has led to high poverty rates - pushing many into survival sex, he added.
For many LGBT+ refugees in Kenya, life isn't better.
It can take more than four years to be granted refugee status, during which time asylum seekers cannot work. And even after gaining refugee status, LGBT+ refugees find it impossible to find a job due to discrimination from anti-gay employers. Refugees must live in either of the country's two northern camps, Kakuma or Dadaab, which offer basic accommodation, clean water, some food rations and access to healthcare and education.
But sexual minorities say they are not safe there. Following a Gay Pride event in Kakuma in June, there has been a spate of attacks on LGBT+ refugees who make up just 170 of the more than 180,000 refugees at the camp, say refugees and the UNHCR. Some LGBT+ refugees said they were beaten while walking through the camp, and others said their shelters were deliberately set on fire by refugees who were against sexual minorities. Most LGBT+ refugees prefer to take their chances, illegally residing in Nairobi where they risk arbitrary arrest, evictions, and harassment - but where they can live in relative anonymity.
"Whether you are straight or gay, all refugees must live in the designated areas. We cannot change our policies for one group - but we do try to prioritise their asylum claims," said Kodeck Makori, Commissioner for the Refugee Affairs Secretariat. "They are welcome in Kenya, but they should also not distinguish themselves from others. As visitors, they know what the law is and how conservative attitudes are, so 'When in Rome, do like the Romans do' otherwise you risk becoming a target".
 "There is a need to recognise that the LGBT refugee community members should not be expected to go to Kakuma if it is clear that they need to live a protected area," said Walpurga Engelbrecht, UNHCR's deputy representative to Kenya. "At the same time, it is important that their refugee status determination is sped up so they have access to work permits and can look after themselves."

Silence from the International Community

Between 330,000 and 340,000  Congolese forced out of Angola have flooded into a conflict-prone region where they have no food or shelter, aid agencies said on Wednesday, warning of an emerging crisis. At least 80,000 children among the returnees need aid, with the risk of malnutrition high as food prices around Kamako have sharply risen, said UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency. Returnees have also been subjected to extortion and illegal taxation by the defence and security forces in Congo, it said.
Angola this month launched a crackdown on illegal diamond mining, expelling hundreds of thousands of migrant workers back to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. human rights office last week condemned "serious human rights abuses" committed during the expulsions.
Most have gone to Kasai province, where in the border town of Kamako, with a population of about 20,000, some 50,000 migrants are stuck with no resources or means to travel home, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Others have continued north on foot, with children and belongings piled on bicycles, aid workers said.
The influx is putting pressure on scarce resources in Kasai, where a militia conflict in 2016 and 2017 forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes and left ethnic tensions simmering.
"The communities in Kasai are doing everything they can to help, but they are already struggling with poverty, hunger and disease," said Chals Wontewe, country director for global aid agency Oxfam. "Families are sheltering up to 30 of those who have returned from Angola, yet their own children are suffering from severe malnutrition," he said
"A main need is onward transport, as well as food and healthcare," said Andreas Kirchhof, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "So far, the situation is relatively calm, but there is certainly a risk that ethnic tensions could be exacerbated," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Tanzania's Gay Witch-hunt

A Tanzanian governor has announced the creation of a surveillance squad dedicated to hunting down gay people.
Paul Makonda, governor of the economic capital Dar es Salaam, told reporters round-ups would begin next week. The team will scrutinise social media in order to track down and arrest people in same sex couples, he added. Makonda said he expected international criticism for the move, but added: "I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God."
Homosexual acts are illegal in Tanzania, where anti-gay rhetoric has been on the rise since President John Magufuli's election in 2015. Many gay, lesbian and transgender people are forced to hide their sexuality as a result. HIV clinics have also been forced to close after being accused of promoting homosexuality.

Africa Rising Without Its People

The Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD), Mr Senyo Hosi, has observed that African countries have failed to translate the recent strong growth in Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in their economies into direct prosperity to improve the lives of their people. In spite of outperforming the rest of the world in GDP growth, he said improvement in life expectancy had slowed while inequality and joblessness were worsening in the continent. “Africa is rising but not with its own. It is rising geographically but not with its people,” he said.

Hosi said, “Africa must industrialise by optimising the value of its natural resources and agrarian output. It must structurally transform its economies from a primitive primary production model to a secondary and tertiary production model,” he said.
He said it was disturbing that “Africa continues to export crude and import petroleum products. It cannot continue to export copper and import electrical cables, export cotton and import used clothing, export coffee and import Starbucks. It is unacceptable that Africa outpaces the world in arable land per capita and yet it is food insecure,” he said.
Explaining that the current primary level-based production economies of Africa made the continent highly vulnerable to commodity price volatilities.
According to him, while cocoa beans may experience volatility and weakness in prices, the prices of Cadbury and Lindt chocolates are relatively stable.
This, he said, affirmed the economic view that exports of manufactured products are a lot less volatile and sensitive to long-term price deterioration, hence the need for Africa to industrialise.
“Sadly, countries such as Switzerland with no production of cocoa are rather known to produce the best chocolates in the world with raw materials from poor farmers in places such as Asankragua (in the Western Region) in Ghana."


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Zimbabwe Woes

There is a worsening economic and political crisis hitting Zimbabwe. Inflation and prices are on the rise, there is a shortage of foreign exchange and supplies of fuel, food and pharmaceuticals are drying up.

Signs in Zimbabwe are pointing to a possible rerun of the massive crisis that engulfed the country about a decade ago. Among them is a sudden surge of the country's stock exchange's industrial index in October, which now stands at the relatively high market valuation of $22 billion (€19.3 billion), a sudden gain of more than 50 percent in a matter of days.

According to the market's spokesperson Tapiwa Bepe, the surge is a consequence of the country's profound crisis. "The political and economic environment is volatile. The heightened activity on the stock market was therefore investors scrambling to take positions in real assets by disposing of cash and bank balances," Bepe told DW. Foreign investors and national investors believe that stocks and shares offer more security.

But brokers like Itai Chirume say it has become extremely difficult to take out money locked in electronic bank balances from the stock exchange. "What we have seen is that foreigners have been taking their money out through the medium of fungible shares," investing them in foreign companies, he said. That way the money is leaving the country through legal means.

The 76-year-old leader said that Zimbabwe would continue using the multi-currency system which the country adopted in 2009 after abandoning its worthless currency. But the hard currencies – mainly the US dollar and South African rand -, making up the system together with government issued so called bond notes, have been hard to find lately on the formal market. And many in Zimbabwe believe that the time has come to scrap bond notes altogether. Economist John Robertson explains why it is a mistake not to: "The existence of the bond notes caused the US dollar to go out of circulation." An end to the bond notes would bring back in the US dollar, which would be good for the economy, Robertson told DW. Bond notes, a currency Zimbabwe started printing about two years ago to ease cash shortages and help fight hyperinflation, have been losing value lately. They were supposed to trade at par with the US dollar, but are now almost four against the greenback.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Is Africa Rising?

 Countries in Northern and Western Africa regions are more urbanized when compared to Eastern Africa. Population in urban areas are currently about 40 per cent and projected to increase, which will lead to an urban population larger than the rural population in about twenty years. African urban growth presents major challenges for sustainable development because migration to cities require access to land, infrastructure and basic services. This has also caused a strain on healthcare services. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, 41 per cent of the population lives in some form of extreme poverty and survive off just $1.90 or less per African per day.

 Half of all people living in extreme poverty worldwide can be found in Africa, which is one continent out of six others.

There are 145,000 millionaires living in Africa today and have a combined wealth of roughly $800 billion.

 Mauritius is the wealthiest country in Africa, standing ahead of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Egypt and Angola. Wealth per individual living in Mauritius increased to $4,000 in recent years. 

On the opposite end of spectrum, people living in Zimbabwe are the poorest, which is about $200 per person. Other African countries in deep poverty are Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Liberia, and Niger.

 African countries received about $162 billion in 2015 mainly in loans, personal remittances and grants. 

Specifically, African countries received about $19 billion in grants, $68 billion went out via capital flight, mainly by multinational companies.

 Although the continent received $31 billion in remittances, multinationals repatriated about $32 billion in profits back to their home countries. 

African governments received about $33 billion in loans and paid back about $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments. 

An estimated $29 billion is stolen each year in Africa through illegal activities.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) to Africa was $42 billion in 2017.  Venture capital funding in 2017 reached $560 million. As seen in previous years, South Africa (167.9 million), Kenya (147 million) and Nigeria (114.6 million) continue to dominate as investment destinations, which accounted for 76 per cent of total funding for 2017.  

Thus, there’s an imbalance between money coming in and money going out of Africa, which causes setbacks to this continent’s ability to move ahead and prosper.

The informal economy accounts for a high amount of employment and also contributes to poverty reduction. Income from informal sector is what keeps many individuals and families across Africa out of extreme poverty. Even in countries where informal work is a small percentage of its workforce, such as South Africa, it has a significant impact on reducing poverty. 

The continent’s population is estimated to increase from about 1.2 billion people to 2.2 billion people between 2015 and 2050. About 41% of the people in the continent are below 15 years old while another 19% are youth between 15 and 24 years old. As you can see, there will be a new generation of young Africans in need of a prosperous  Africa to live in,  a continent where food is healthy and nutritional for human consumption, where water is clean to cook and shower with, when housing has running water and electricity 24/7, and healthcare is easy to access and receive treatment right away, with education preparing youth for a world full of technology and automation, and the institutions are working for the people and not for an elite few, and infrastructure built  to last a long time, and so forth.

Is Africa Rising?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Uganda's Poverty Rises

he latest State of Uganda Population Report 2018 shows that more Ugandans have become poorer in the last five years.

The report, released in Kampala on Thursday by the National Population Council, indicates that poverty levels have gone up in all regions.

The report says poverty levels across the country rose from 19.7 per cent to 21.7 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 financial years.

 The report indicates rising levels of poverty in eastern region, growing from 24.1 per cent to 34.7 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 financial years.

“The problem of poverty in the country is exacerbated by inequality that remains a major concern. Also the economic growth achieved over the past decades has not been in position to address the challenges of unemployment, especially among the youth and women, and yet leaving women and the youth behind slows down economic development,” the report reads in part.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Angola's ethnic cleansing

The destruction in the town district of Kapende, where no house remains occupied or intact, marked the culmination of three days of violence in Lucapa, a sprawling mining town in the northeast of Angola surrounded by some of the world’s richest diamond fields.

About 300,000 Congolese have fled Angola in the last few weeks, many of them in response to the violence in Lucapa. For many in the town, the violence was shocking in an area that had turned a blind eye to Congolese migration and where digging for diamonds provided a living. Although illegal, Lucapa’s diamond trade was not hidden.

 Reuters has pieced together the events of Oct. 3, 4 and 5, detailing for the first time the ethnic violence, police action and looting that forced half the city to flee to the border and into Democratic Republic of Congo. The accounts of death and pillage contradict assertions by the Angolan government that Congolese migrants are returning home voluntarily and that only one person died, in a traffic accident. Reuters was unable to establish how many people died in Lucapa, but witnesses said the toll was at least eight. An Angolan security source with knowledge of the operation said between 10 and 14 had been killed. Congolese who fled Lucapa and were interviewed by Reuters across the border said the number was higher. It remains unclear how many deaths were the result of police fire or of ethnic violence, but at least three people were killed by law enforcement, according to witnesses.

Angola denied accusations of massacres and abuses, with Pedro Sebastiao, Minister of State for Presidential Security and head of Operation Transparency, saying: “They are completely false, the claims of massacres, abuses and violations committed by the authorities or by Angolan people.” and that Angola is instead asserting its right to ensure national security and protect its natural resources. Angola says the effort, which it calls Operation Transparency, is part of a drive to reform the diamond sector and increase revenues from the country’s second largest export after oil.

Corneille Mbala, a 42-year-old mining supervisor. A group of locals from the Tchokwe tribe burst into houses of Congolese migrants on the morning of Oct. 3. 
“They threatened to kill me and my wife,” Mbala said. “We fled, leaving everything we possessed behind.” He said five of his friends were killed by the mob in Roque that morning, butchered with machetes.

The authorities had been using local Angolans from the Tchokwe community to spy on the town’s Congolese, witnesses said. A few informers began looting houses of those that had left. Others joined and a mob formed, threatening occupied homes. The Tchokwe people, dominant in this part of Angola, have long resented Lucapa’s immigrant Congolese community, many of them from the Pende tribe. They said they resented their arrogance, flashy cars and fancy clothes - bought with money from diamond digging. While the bosses built luxury homes, most of Lucapa lived in squalor. Mountains of trash run through town. Poorer neighbourhoods are reachable only by motorbike, along narrow muddy paths.

“This was one of the last places in the world you could become a millionaire overnight,” said Jorge Felix, a 50-year-old Cuban who works on legitimate diamond projects in the area. “But none of the money stayed here. There’s no water, no electricity, nothing.” 

On Oct. 4, the Congolese fought back. Many grabbed machetes to defend themselves from looting. Reports spread that the Pende were arming themselves with bows and venomous arrows, according to local residents. About 200 Congolese men marched shouting towards the main police station sometime before midday, two eyewitnesses said. The group clashed with Angolans outside a school, with a young girl slashed in the head with a machete. She later died in hospital, the sources said. Police fired warning shots and dispersed the crowd. Fighting continued to flare up across town. An Angolan security source with knowledge of the operation said Lucapa police called the provincial capital Dundo for back-up. The law
enforcement that arrived to restore order were the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR), an elite heavily-armed branch. members of the PIR and Chacal, Angola’s Israeli-trained special forces branch, entered the neighbourhoods of Kapende and Santa Isabel. In Kapende at least one man was killed by law enforcement, according to eyewitnesses, while in Santa Isabel at least two died at the hands of the authorities.

With their homes looted, the Congolese left in droves.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

When Hospitals Become Jails

The Kenyatta National Hospital is east Africa’s biggest medical institution, home to more than a dozen donor-funded projects with international partners — a “Center of Excellence,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital’s website proudly proclaims its motto — “We Listen ... We Care”.
Robert Wanyonyi, is not allowed to leave the hospital because he cannot pay his bill of nearly 4 million Kenyan shillings ($39,570). At Kenyatta National Hospital and at an astonishing number of other hospitals around the world, if you don’t pay up, you don’t go home. 
The hospitals often illegally detain patients long after they should be medically discharged, using armed guards, locked doors and even chains to hold those who have not settled their accounts. Mothers and babies are sometimes separated. Even death does not guarantee release: Kenyan hospitals and morgues are holding hundreds of bodies until families can pay their loved ones’ bills, government officials say. During several August visits to Kenyatta National Hospital, The Associated Press witnessed armed guards in military fatigues standing watch over patients, and saw where detainees slept on bedsheets on the floor in cordoned-off rooms. Guards prevented one worried father from seeing his detained toddler. All despite a court ruling years ago that found the detentions were illegal. At many Kenyan hospitals, including Kenyatta, officials armed with rifles patrol the hallways and guard the hospital’s gates. Patients must show hospital guards a discharge form to prove they’re allowed to leave and even visitors must sometimes surrender their identification cards before seeing patients.
“What’s striking about this issue is that the more we look for this, the more we find it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, who was not involved in the British research. “It’s probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of people that this affects worldwide. It is not something that is only happening in a small number of countries, but the problem is that nobody is looking at this and it is way off the public health radar.” The problem has also surfaced in wealthier countries, with patients being detained in hospitals in countries including India, Thailand, China and Iran.
In Congo’s second city of Lubumbashi, the AP visited more than 20 hospitals and clinics and found that all but one routinely detained patients who failed to pay, even though the practice is illegal there.
“It’s the dirty underbelly of global health that nobody wants to talk about,” said Sophie Harman, a health academic at Queen Mary University of London.
“People know patients are being held prisoner, but they probably think they have bigger battles in public health to fight, so they just have to let this go.”
 In some hospitals in Cameroon and elsewhere, for example, the problem of patient imprisonment was solved by some institutions by simply demanding payment upfront. Unlike many hospitals in developed countries, African hospitals don’t always provide food, clothing or bedding for patients, so holding onto them does not necessarily incur a significant cost. Detained patients typically rely on relatives to bring them food while those without obliging family members resort to begging for help from staff or other patients.
Dr. Festus Njuguna, a pediatric oncologist at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, about 300 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, said the institution regularly holds children with cancer who have finished their treatment, but whose parents cannot pay. The children are typically left on the wards for weeks and months at a time, long after their treatment has ended.
“It’s not a very good feeling for the doctors and nurses who have treated these patients, to see them kept like this,” Njuguna said.
“We can’t just let people leave if they don’t pay,” said Leedy Nyembo-Mugalu administrator of Congo’s Katuba Reference Hospital. He said holding patients wasn’t an issue of human rights, but simply a way to conduct business: “No one ever comes back to pay their bill a month or two later.”
In its 2016 financial report, Kenyatta’s auditor-general said the hospital lost more than $470,000 in fees from patients who “absconded” without paying. That year, the hospital reported total revenue of more than $115 million. Kenya’s Human Rights Commission attempted to conduct an audit of Kenyatta, but officials refused to cooperate and have ignored all requests for information about detained patients.
In January, demonstrators called for an investigation into allegations of rape and sexual harassment of patients at the hospital. 
“This is something that hospital authorities have been trying to keep under wraps,” said George Morara, vice chairperson of the country’s national commission on human rights. He said the number of Kenyans imprisoned in hospitals is “disturbingly high” and that the practice is “ubiquitous in public and private hospitals.” He said patients have been held at Kenyatta for up to two years, and it was reasonable to suspect that hundreds of patients could be detained there at any time.
After she was elected to Kenya’s Parliament, Esther Passaris visited Kenyatta last December to check on supporters who were injured in election violence. She was stunned to find that patients were incarcerated.
“There was one lady I met in the corridor and she was crying, ‘please let me go home,’” Passaris said. The woman had hurt her back and hip. She had been medically cleared to leave, but wasn’t allowed to go home because she hadn’t paid her bill. “I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s almost Christmas, how can these people not go back to their families?’”
Passaris started an online campaign to have the patients released. Just before the holidays, Kenyatta let more than 450 leave — a victory, Passaris says, though the problem remains.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “you can’t get water from a rock, so some of these patients stay for a year because they don’t have the money.”
“Aid money becomes ineffective and useless in an environment where people are terrified they’re going to be locked up,” said Robert Yates, a health policy expert at Chatham House, the British think tank that reported on imprisoned patients. “It’s very embarrassing for the global health community that these detentions have become so embedded into countries that they seem normal, and so the whistle needs blowing on all of us.”
Dr. Carey Farquhar, director of the university’s Kenya Research and Training Center, said she didn’t recall seeing any detained patients at Kenyatta, though was not surprised that it happened — she knew of no hospitals there that did not detain patients. “It does make me uncomfortable,” she said.
Dr. Agnes Soucat of WHO said the U.N. agency was aware of hospital detentions and confirmed they happened “quite frequently.”
“We do not support this in any way, but the problem has been documenting where it happens,” said Soucat, director of WHO’s department of health systems, financing and governance. To date, WHO has made no attempt to collect data on hospital detentions and says such information is hard to find.
Researchers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which acts to support women’s health around the world, were conducting a study of maternal health care in Kenya in early 2012 when they learned of the cases of Maimuna Awuor Omuya and Margaret Oliele.
Unable to pay her bill at Pumwani Maternity Hospital after the delivery of her sixth child, Omuya and her baby were imprisoned along with more than 60 other women in a damp ward, in September 2010. She often slept on the wet ground next to a flooded toilet. Mother and child were released after nearly a month, but only when one of Omuya’s friends appealed to the mayor to intervene.
Two months later, Oliele arrived at Pumwani. During a botched cesarean section, doctors left a pair of surgical scissors inside Oliele’s stomach; a second surgery was needed to remove the scissors and she later suffered a ruptured bladder and a blood infection. When she couldn’t pay her hospital fees, Oliele was taken to a detention ward.
“I tried to escape, but when I got to the main gate, I was taken by the security guards,” Oliele told AP. “I had no clothes on and still had the catheter in my stomach. The guards then forcefully took me back to the hospital where they handcuffed me to a bed, while claiming that I had gone mad.” She was held for six days.
Center for Reproductive Rights lawyers resolved to take up the cause of detained patients, bringing suit on behalf of Omuya and Oliele.
“These were two very appalling cases and their treatment was very degrading,” said Evelyne Opondo, a senior regional director at the center who oversaw the case.
They won. In September 2015, Kenya’s High Court ruled the women’s detention violated numerous human rights enshrined in the constitution and was therefore illegal. The High Court described the women’s detention as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” The court further ordered the Kenyan government to “take the necessary steps to protect all patients from arbitrary detention in health care facilities.”
But three years later, it appears little has changed. “People are still being detained,” Oliele said. “They should stop treating people like animals and treat them as fellow human beings.”
Opondo said detentions continue because nobody has asked hospitals “to provide answers, because they’ve not been held accountable.” She estimated there could be many thousands of people across the country detained, based on information received by the center and news reports.

The real cost of disease

 The Ebola outbreak that ravaged Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in 2014 cost economies an estimated $53 billion, according to a study in this month's Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The outbreak ran from 2013 to 2016 and killed at least 11,300 people, more than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined. 

The report's authors, Caroline Huber, Lyn Finelli, and Warren Stevens, put the economic costs at $14 billion and said the human cost was even greater, based on the people affected and a dollar figure that reflects the value of each human life.
The total is far higher than previous estimates. In October 2014, the World Bank said the Ebola epidemic could cost $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 in a worst case scenario, but by November 2014 it dialled back that forecast to $3-4 billion. In 2016 the World Bank estimate of economic loss was $2.8 billion.
The new Ebola study factored in the impact on health workers, long-term conditions suffered by 17,000 Ebola survivors, and costs of treatment, infection control, screening and deployment of personnel beyond West Africa. The biggest cost not previously accounted for was deaths from other diseases, as Ebola tied up healthcare resources and hospital admissions fell dramatically, adding $18.8 billion to the total bill.
During the outbreak, there were 10,623 additional deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with 3.5 million additional untreated malaria cases. Measles caused 2,000-16,000 extra deaths as 1 million children missed being vaccinated for measles, and 600,000-700,000 missed other vaccines. The authors added that they had limited information on the cost of deploying international health staff and military personnel, and they were obliged to place a value on human life, a widely accepted economic measurement.
Although the "value of a statistical life" (VSL) in North America and Europe is estimated at $7 - 9 million, the authors said, they took a figure from the only study in a West African context, with a VSL of $577,000 in Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nigeria's child mortality

  • A report on inequality by Oxfam International said one in 10 children in Nigeria died before the age of five.
  • UN data puts Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate at 100 per 1,000 children – or one in 10. Nigerian data points to an even higher rate.

Was It Worth It? (1961)

From the November 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following letter has been received from a sympathiser and we think it will be of interest to our readers.
On September 4 dockworkers and railwaymen at Takoradi and Kumasi in Ghana went on strike against a deliberate attempt by the government to decrease the workers' share of what they produce. The austerity budget introduced in July provided for measures which would lead to an all-round rise in prices. In addition a compulsory savings scheme was introduced and a wage freeze announced.

The strikers were told that they didn’t really want to strike but that they were being forced to; if anyone wished to return to work the government would gladly provide protection. Very few workers took up this offer and President Nkrumah from a holiday resort on the Black Sea coast of Russia ordered his Ministers at home to get tough with the strikers. All those who refused to return to work were threatened with dismissal and troops were moved into Takoradi. The strike was, of course, unofficial since the leadership of the trade unions supports Nkrumah. The general secretary of the T.U.C. hurried back from the neutral's conference in Belgrade, quickly got to know the facts and did not hesitate to call the strike a “counter-revolution" and to denounce it as illegal.

This is not the first time that Ghanian workers have protested. Last year they were demanding wage increases. The opposition newspaper Ashanti Pioneer supported these demands and in September the legal daily minimum wage for unskilled workers was raised from 5s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. The austerity budget will make the workers worse off than they were before September last. Not surprisingly, then, they have gone on strike. The reasons given for last year's trouble are interesting:
  T.U.C. spokesmen blamed the workers’ dissatisfaction on the remnants of a capitalist, imperialist, colonialist system which still darkened the economic and social horizon. The minority and the Ashanti Pioneer, felt that the workers were dissatisfied because they saw top trade union officials and Government Ministers becoming wealthier while the workers suffered. (Observer, 28/8/60.)
For daring to make such observations on the development of capitalism in Ghana and for supporting the demands for wage increases the Ashanti Pioneer found that in future it would be subject to censorship. The Ghana T.U.C. spokesmen are right in attributing the cause of the trouble to Capitalism. But it is not the remnants but the beginning of Capitalism that is responsible. Ghana is just entering a period of capitalist development despite all the talk about "Ghana's way to Socialism." As Capitalism develops and more workers are needed to operate the new machinery the tribes are broken up: simultaneously classes begin to appear among the urban inhabitants. Already Ghana has a wealthy upper class:
  Ghana's first gambling casino will open shortly—but only for foreigners and certain classes of wealthy Ghanians. A company set up to run the casino announced today that in conformity with casino licensing laws passed last year, Ghanians will not be admitted to membership unless they have a yearly income of more than £1.500 and are not members of the armed forces, judiciary, police force or public service departments. (Guardian, 9/6/60.)
Very few workers in this country, let alone Ghana, get £1,500 a year. As it is, with the legal minimum wage at 6s. 6d. a day these Ghanian capitalists get about ten times as much a year as an ordinary worker.

Little wonder, then, that the workers are beginning to feel that perhaps they have no interests in common with all classes of wealthy Ghanaians including the Nkrumah ruling clique. Many must be asking themselves as they survey the part they played in the struggle for independence: “Was it worth it? ” Socialists have said all along that national independence movements merely end in the setting up of capitalist nation-states and are therefore not worth supporting. The leaders of nationalist parties once in power are faced with the harsh realities of running and expanding Capitalism in their countries, and Capitalism can never be made to run in the interests of the workers. If we look outside Ghana we see the same sort of thing happening: men like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika with more regard for democracy than Nkrumah have been forced to act against the workers in their countries, as the following report from Tanganyika shows:
  Relations between Mr. Nyerere, Tanganyika’s Chief Minister, and the territories’ trade union leaders are sharpening. The strike at the Williamson diamond mine which Mr. Nyere firmly ended after 12 days, brought this division into the public eye. After Tanganyika obtained an elected majority in the legislative council in September, trade unionists expected quick action to improve wage levels. But Mr. Nyerere has to be pushed into rash promises or actions. Working closely with Sir Arthur Vasey, his Finance Minister, he is endeavouring to maintain the climate of quiet confidence for foreign investment. (Daily Telegraph, 29/12/60.)
Dr. Banda, after his sweeping victory in the Nyasaland elections, seems to be planning similar actions to those of Nkrumah. The Sunday Express (17/9/61) reports that Suzgo Msiska, leader of one of the two rival trade union congresses in Nyasaland "has lost a great deal of prestige in the eyes of Banda and his colleagues. No sooner had Malawi emerged victorious at the polls than Msiska brought 800 workers out on strike for more pay. Now Banda urges: ‘Msiska must go.’ ’’

In the Congo politicians like Lumumba were elected to power on promises of wage increases which the workers didn’t get. So they went on strike. At first, Lumumba called out troops against them but eventually gave in and granted the wage increases, but not before he had devalued the Congolese franc. So that the workers merely received an increase in money wages.

The plain fact of the matter is that independence merely brings a change of masters for the workers—and their new masters are more often than not their former leaders. Socialists see no reason why they should help such men to power. Even the elementary democratic rights of “one man, one vote ” and freedom of political activity that independence may bring are not secure as in events in Ghana in particular show. To those Ghanian and other workers who ask if the struggle for independence was worth it, Socialists reply that it was. not. We do not, of course, expect colonial workers to suffer colonisation forever. We are just pointing out that independence is not the solution to their problems. Indeed, in many cases, it is just the beginning. Socialism is the only solution to the problems of the workers throughout the world.

Adam Buick

Nkrumah Strikes (1961)

Dr. Nkrumah has made a habit of disappointing some of the well-meaning asses who supported him because they thought that he wanted to set up a democratic state in Ghana.

These people fall so readily and so persistently for any small-time nationalist who breezes along that it is fair to assume they are able to ignore any evidence which points out the error of their ways.

But surely even they were unsettled by Nkrumah's recent arrest of his political opponents, and by the propaganda which accompanied it?

When the Ghana government roped in the fifty politicians, the official statement justified the arrests by referring to “. . . acts of violence, secret meetings . . . strikes, sabotage, lockouts . . . conduct destructive and subversive, against the Constitution and other legal institutions of the State.”

Now this rings a bell. It is just the sort of vague accusations which colonial powers use to excuse the suppression of a rising nationalist movement.

To read it takes us back to the early nineteen-fifties, when Nkrumah was in gaol. The asses were braying, then, for his release, because he was supposed to be leading Ghana to freedom. Are they surprised that he has turned out to be no better than the rulers he replaced?

We know our asses too well. Even if they drop the dictator in Accra, they will soon be taking up the cause of some other Nkrumah of the future

Monday, October 22, 2018

Female Empowerment

High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman. Countries with high fertility have faster population growth, which poses challenges for governments already struggling to make progress to provide education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.
Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception.
UNFPA found that over 20 percent of women in the region want to avoid a pregnancy but have an unmet need for family planning.
At the same time, almost 20 million—or 38 percent—of the region’s pregnancies each year are unintended.
Practices such as early marriage, which is associated to an early start to child bearing, is also common.
In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 38 percent of women are married by the age of 18. In Niger, 76 percent of girls marry by the age of 18. Child marriage, which is accompanied with the end of education and the lack of opportunities for employment and thus reduced earnings in adulthood, denies girls’ decision-making power and their right to choose.
“The gap between desired and actual family size suggests that women and men are not fully able to realise their reproductive rights,” the report states.
“Choice can be a reality everywhere. This is something that governments should prioritise,” UNFPA’s Washington D.C. director Sarah Craven told IPS. Craven expressed concern over any policy that restricts individuals to access information and services, and highlighted the importance of reproductive choice.
In high fertility countries, there is a need for education on reproductive rights and employment opportunities for rural women while low fertility countries should implement family-friendly policies such as child care services and parental leave.
UNFPA’s executive director Natalia Kanem said “The way forward is the full realisation of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn…the real measure of progress is people themselves: especially the well-being of women and girls, their enjoyment of their rights and full equality, and the life choices that they are free to make.”

A Rush to Freedom

300 people rushed a border fence between Morocco and Spain's North African enclave Melilla, Spanish authorities said. One man died and nineteen other people were being treated for fractures or cuts sustained while scaling the fences . 

The border between Morocco and Spain's Melilla is cordoned off by two fences over six meters (20 feet) high and topped with barbed wire. Despite the Spanish government's promise to remove barbed wire on top of the fence, it has not yet done so.

According to the latest United Nations figures, over 48,800 migrants and refugees have entered Spain so far this year — more than Italy and Greece. Over 4,000 have entered Spanish territory in 2018 by crossing the fence into Melilla.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

ICC - A toothless court

At least 33 countries ignored International Criminal Court’s warrants for arrest of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir. 

He has been travelling freely around the world despite an eight-year-old international warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and genocide. In 2009 and 2010 Bashir was indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Warrants for his arrest were issued on the basis of his “individual criminal responsibility” for those alleged crimes during the conflict that began in Darfur in 2003. However, despite these warrants, in the last decade he has made 150 trips to countries including China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Kenya, with many of these party to the statute that set up the ICC.

Bashir has made regular trips to countries that are not full members of the ICC, such as Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Qatar, but it is his visits to full members of the Rome statute, such as South Africa, Uganda and Jordan, that raise the most questions. This was highlighted when Jordan was referred to the UN security council by the ICC following its failure to arrest him during a March 2017 trip. Jordan’s response was that he was immune from arrest as a sitting head of state. Jordan said it subscribed to the need to punish those responsible for crimes within the court’s jurisdiction, but not at the “expense of fundamental rules and principles of international law aimed at securing peaceful relations among states”. South Africa was also admonished for similarly failing to arrest him, but the ICC decided not to refer it to the UN.

There are 123 countries signed up to the ICC, but the lack of a police force means it is reliant on countries implementing its decisions.
“How useful is the ICC when it can’t arrest those it wants to try for crimes they have allegedly committed?,” asked Windridge. “Bashir is consistently travelling to non-state parties, which is undoubtedly frustrating, but of more concern is that he is also consistently travelling to state parties, sometimes on multiple occasions,” he said. “And it does appear that one of the biggest weaknesses the ICC faces in this case and moving forward is arresting sitting heads of state, which is concerning, as eradicating immunity was one of the very reasons the ICC was created. It wasn’t created to try low-level perpetrators, it was created to try those most responsible for the worst crimes, when domestic prosecution could not take place. But those most responsible are often those leading countries, and we are having great difficulty actually prosecuting them.” He continued, “Is the reality that the ICC will only ever try former heads of state, those deposed from power? It’s possible, but many people would say that isn’t a good place to be, nor is it the ICC vision that so many worked hard for so many years to create. The idea was, and continues to be, that if a wanted person were to leave their country and go to an ICC member state, they would be arrested. So in a sense, at the very least, they would be pinned into their own country with very limited or no travel, becoming an international pariah. But what we are seeing with Bashir is quite the opposite and we are now seeing the realisation that arresting and trying sitting heads of state is a lot more complicated than perhaps first thought.”