Monday, January 30, 2023

Niger - Irreversible Climate Change

 Niger is facing a complex humanitarian situation marked by insecurity and the impact of climate change. 

In five years, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid has more than doubled, from 1.9 million in 2017 to 4.3 million in the beginning of 2023.

 Humanitarian needs are surging due to endemic poverty, chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, food prices increase due to the Ukraine war and the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, around 100.000 hectares of arable land are lost as a result of climate change 

 “The climate change we see today is now irreversible, and addressing the consequences is critical to long-lasting resilience for the people of Niger,” said the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Joyce Msuya

Niger: UN deputy humanitarian chief reiterates commitment to the most vulnerable people, calls for long-term engagement to build resilience - Niger | ReliefWeb

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Madagascar's Malnutrition and Climate Change

  In southeast Madagascar, malnutrition is on the rise in rural communities. People in the Ikongo district face acute food shortages after harvests were destroyed in last year’s cyclones.

Food insecurity is not new in Madagascar. It is one of the countries at most risk from climate change and faces extreme weather events at regular intervals. The southeast region was hit in early 2022 by two consecutive cyclones, Batsirai, on the 5th of February and Emnati, on the 22nd of February. They left a trail of destruction, uprooting trees and destroying crops, heavily affecting local agriculture. The majority of people in the area live off agriculture, mainly crops such as cloves, coffee, vanilla and bananas. With most of the crops destroyed, people lost both their food stocks and their sources of income. In the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions, almost the entire agricultural area has been affected including more than half of the food crop.

 More than a quarter of the population in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions are currently experiencing acute food insecurity. In November 2022, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) found that nearly one in five children screened were suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition at the onset of the lean season. This number is expected to rise over the coming months due to a lack of food combined with the peak malaria season.

“While communities in these areas already have very high rates of chronic malnutrition, the cyclones have tipped them over into an acute situation,” says Brian Willett, MSF Head of Mission in Madagascar. “Repeated climate shocks aggravate hardship for communities who have to build back every time”. Willett explained, “Many households tell us that despite careful rationing, their staple food stocks will be completely empty by February. This is worrying as the crop production from this year’s season is expected to be low due to little rain in the beginning of the season. And if yet another cyclone was to hit this season, it would transform this already dire situation into a catastrophe of significant scale.”

Madagascar: Malnutrition spikes in the wake of climate shocks - Madagascar | ReliefWeb

Friday, January 27, 2023

Ups and Downs in Africa

 Africa is less safe, secure and democratic than a decade ago, with insecurity holding back progress in health, education and economic opportunities, according to an assessment of the continent by the Ibrahim index of African governance

However, better infrastructure and phone and internet connectivity had improved economic opportunities across Africa since 2012. Health services for children and pregnant women, as well as disease control, had improved, as had education. Better resources and greater efforts in getting more children enrolled and completing their schooling was evident, although progress was slowed by Covid 

According to the index, security, rule of law and human rights have deteriorated in more than 30 countries. The report warned that democratic freedoms were being curtailed, citing examples of crackdowns and attacks on protesters calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria and regime change in SudanProtests that have been met with excessive force from the security services have been steadily rising in number since 2016.

Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia were found to have the most effective governments, while South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia had the worst. Libya, which has seen the biggest deterioration in governance over the past decade due to years of civil war, had some of the worst health, education and social welfare services on the continent

South Sudan suffered from a lack of economic opportunity, while almost three-quarters of its population faced hunger.

In countries where militias have proliferated, they have filled a vacuum of governance, often left by elites in capital cities who are not accountable to the rural populations. 

Russian Tensions – Page 272 –

Eradicating Disease

 Guinea worm is a painful and debilitating tropical illness. Once a person is infected with guinea worm, or dracunculiasis, there is no known way to stop the disease taking its course. About a year after the guinea worm larvae have entered the body, usually through drinking contaminated water, the affected person will experience severe pain due to the formation of a blister on their skin and the slow emergence of one or more worms measuring up to a metre. The person can be debilitated for weeks or months. In 1986, about 3.5 million human cases were recorded annually in 21 countries in Africa and Asia.

The good news is it will soon become the second human disease in history to be eradicated.

Only 13 cases of guinea worm disease were reported worldwide in 2022, down from 15 the previous year.

 It is the result of more than four decades of global efforts to stamp out the parasitic disease by mobilising communities and improving drinking water quality in transmission hotspots.

Pakistan, India and Uganda are among the countries that have eradicated it. Last year the Democratic Republic of the Congo joined the list.

The remaining endemic countries are Chad, where six of last year’s human cases occurred; South Sudan, which recorded five; Ethiopia, which saw one; and Angola, Mali and Sudan, which recorded no cases. The Central African Republic, a non-endemic country, reported one case, which is under investigation.

 Cases in animals also need to be eliminated and here, too, the numbers are going in the right direction. Infections in animals fell by more than a fifth last year.

Guinea worm disease could be second ever human illness to be eradicated | Global health | The Guardian

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Child Malnutrition in Kenya's Refugee Camps

 Dadaab in northern Kenya is one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In September of last year, it was home to more than 233,000 refugees – more than three times the number it was intended to accommodate. The number of arrivals is projected to increase by more than 100,000 by April. Malnutrition among children as surged over the past year.

Médecins Sans Frontières said its health facility in Dagahaley, part of the Dadaab refugee complex, has treated 33% more patients – mainly children – for malnutrition over the past year, while the rate of malnourishment in the camps grew by 45% in the last six months of 2022. 

“We’ve had to put up an extension ward to accommodate these numbers of children,” said Kelly Khabala, MSF’s deputy medical coordinator. 

The influx of new refugees has strained food and water and sanitation resources. MSF warns that the increase could “tip the crisis beyond the levels humanitarian organisations can manage”.

MSF has also raised concerns over rising cholera cases in the camp and across northern Kenya, including Garissa and Wajir. 

Northern Kenya and Somalia have been hard hit by the worst drought to hit east Africa in 40 years. The region is braced for its sixth consecutive failed rainy season this year. Millions are facing hunger and destitution. Humanitarian agencies say they are concerned over how they can meet people’s needs in the face of dwindling refugee funding.

Children go hungry at Kenya refugee camp as malnutrition numbers soar | Humanitarian response | The Guardian

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The reality of hunger

 After five consecutive below-average rains, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is expanding and deepening. The upcoming March-May 2023 rains are also forecast to be below-average. 

Across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, an estimated 22 million people are now acutely food insecure because of the drought. 

 Some 5.1 million children across drought-affected areas of the three countries are acutely malnourished in 2023, with dire implications for their health, growth and survival. 

WFP Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa (January – December 2023) - Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

Escaping Zama Zama

 Mining towns across South Africa have become hostage to a booming but bloody illegal mining economy.

Wealthy kingpins, mainly from neighbouring Lesotho, run criminal syndicates and recruit poverty-stricken workers to go into disused underground shafts to dig for the country’s mineral wealth. Dubbed ‘Zama Zama’, many of them are former mine workers retrenched by the big legal mines and who know the ins and outs of the dangerous but lucrative mining operations.

Paps Lethoko, the chairperson of the National Association of Artisanal Miners (NAAM), says these the Zama Zama spend months in the underground shafts. Their criminal bosses run tuck shops in the dark belly of the earth.

 “The tuck shops sell bread for R200 (normal price around R20), tinned fish for R300 (normally about R25). After months of living in the claustrophobic catacombs under hazardous conditions, the miners end up with about R30,000 (about 1800 USD) and paying more than double the normal amount for food and other necessities to the very bosses who employ them,” he told IPS.

Lethoko says most disused underground shafts in Klerksdorp, a mining town in the North West province, are run by a wealthy politician from Lesotho.

“The Basotho miners are forced to pay the security guards up to R20,000 (about 1700 USD) to enter the mines they are employed at.

They are treated worse than slaves, just as they were by mining companies under apartheid.”

Violence is inevitable. Local communities and artisanal miners, who until recently could not become legal, often get caught in the crossfire of territorial battles between rival Zama Zama gangs. Toto Nzamo, a member of the Tujaliano Community Organisation, says xenophobic tension erupts regularly as Zama Zama violence spills into local communities.

Lethoko says: “We have been trying to form cooperatives and get permits to operate legally, but the mining companies, the media, and even the police lump us with the criminal Zama Zama.”

Nzamo works with artisanal miners and Zama Zama in the Makause informal settlement in Germiston near Johannesburg, said, “They have to form co-ops, identify the land they wish to mine on, and have environmental assessments done. These people have neither the skills nor the access to the kind of money required. A geologist’s report costs at least R82000; where are these poor people supposed to get that kind of money?”

We Want to Be Legal; We're Not Criminals Say SA's Artisanal Miners | Inter Press Service (

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Nigeria's hungry to rise

  Nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023 (lean season) if urgent action is not taken, according to the October 2022 Cadre Harmonisé, a Government led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis carried out twice a year. This is a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk of food insecurity. 

Continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices are key drivers of this alarming trend. Food access has been affected by persistent violence in the north-east states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) and armed banditry and kidnapping in states such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger. 

According to the National Emergency Management Agency, widespread flooding in the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands, which diminished harvests and increased the risk of food insecurity for families across the country. The flooding is one of the effects of climate change and variability impacting Nigeria. More extreme weather patterns affecting food security are anticipated in the future.

Of the 17 million people who are currently food insecure, 3 million are in the northeast BAY states. Without immediate action, this figure is expected to increase to 4.4 million in the lean season. This includes highly vulnerable displaced populations and returnees who are already struggling to survive a large-scale humanitarian crisis in which 8.3 million people need assistance. 

The northwest region, around Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states, is an increasing food insecurity and malnutrition hotspot. An estimated 2.9 million people are currently critically food insecure (Cadre Harmonisé Phase 3 or worse.) This figure is projected to increase to 4.3 million in the lean season if urgent action is not taken.

Approximately 6 of the 17 million food-insecure Nigerians today are children under 5 living in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states. There is a serious risk of mortality among children attributed to acute malnutrition. In the BAY states alone, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition is expected to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 to 2 million in 2023.

“The food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning,” said Mr. Matthias Schmale, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria. “I have visited nutrition stabilization centres filled with children who are fighting to stay alive. We must act now to ensure they and others get the lifesaving support they need.”

25 million Nigerians at high risk of food insecurity in 2023 - Nigeria | ReliefWeb

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Poverty of Aid

The world has spent more than enough time trying to end global extreme poverty, with the same approaches and the same failures.

 Uganda has its fair share of poverty but the region, Busoga, it is the highest, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), with a rate of 74.8%, compared with a national average of 63%. 

The deeper you go into the countryside, the harder life becomes. If you discount urban centres such as the tourist city of Jinja, the poverty rate in rural Busoga, such as the village of Namisita, is well above 90%.

Busoga is a byword for people living a near-ancient way of life in abject poverty.

Nationally, 60% of working Ugandans earn 200,000 Ugandan shillings (£44.50) a month, about £1.50 a day. But in Busoga many are unemployed. This is especially true in the neighbouring districts of Kamuli and Buyende, home to more than a million people: there are people who earn 50,000 to 100,000 Ugandan shillings (about £11 to £22) in an entire four-month planting season; people who have rags for bedding in their houses.

According to a 2021 Ubos report “poverty programmes and interventions have not had any dent in reducing poverty”. 

This is because interventions have always been top to bottom. Humanity is still convinced that the best solution for the world’s poor is to sit and wait for the right people from the global north to come and help.

Today, only 1% of all the money intended to end poverty (official development aid and humanitarian assistance combined), goes directly to the extreme poor.

Only 1% of all official development assistance (funding from agencies such as USAid and UKAid), and an even smaller portion (0.4% in 2018) of all international humanitarian assistance (all charitable funding included), goes directly to grassroots organisations in the global south.

In 2018, only 5.2% of the $9bn (£7.5bn) in US foundation funding earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa went to local organisations.

That means about 99% of antipoverty funding stays in the hands of the global development sector, which means western agencies. However, the sector has historically operated at arm’s length from the poor, and is very inaccessible. It is a near impossibility to get anyone from the development sector to work together on poor people-led solutions. 

The top-down approach has had more than a good run: it just hasn’t worked. The only thing it has accomplished is to keep those in poverty on the sidelines.

I have seen how top-down solutions condemn the world’s poorest to eternal poverty | Anthony Kalulu in Namisita | The Guardian

Zimbabwe Health Workers Lose Right to Strike

 Zimbabwe’s government passed  legislation that outlaws any industrial action in the health sector.

The new Health Services Bill, which came into force on Tuesday, forbids health workers who are classified as an “essential” service from striking for more than three days. Those who do not comply face a fine or imprisonment of up to six months.

"It is very unfortunate. The right to protest has been taken away,” said Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA). “When you threaten health workers with jail, how do you expect them to discharge their duties? This will affect every citizen, nurses will just adopt a ‘go-slow’ ” he said.

“This law has taken us two steps backwards. We have been trying to fight brain drain. Further frustration of health workers would lead to more people leaving. This bill will bring more negatives than positives,” said Norman Matara, the president of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

Health workers in Zimbabwe dismayed as law curbing strikes is passed | Global health | The Guardian

Monday, January 09, 2023

Fact of the Day

 About 350 million people in Africa, roughly a quarter of the continent's population, suffer from food insecurity, said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Director-General Robert Mardini.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Africa’s Great Green Wall in Doubt

  Escalating conflict and climate change threaten the implementation of the Great Green Wall (GGW), an ambitious land restoration project across Africa launched 16 years agoPromoters of the Great Green Wall have called for a stronger political will to engendering peace and increasing commitment to environmental preservation. Competition over natural resources that are affected by climate change is fueling interstate conflicts, especially in West Africa.

Launched in 2007, the Great Green Wall is envisaged that the land restoration initiative will boost economic prosperity in the participating countries, create employment, reduce hunger and reduce conflict, which has been linked to a fight over access to and use of natural resources across the width of Africa. The GGW is an Africa-led project to stop the march of desertification across Africa through the restoration of degraded land. To date, the project has covered more than 4 percent of the target 100 million hectares. The project was initially aimed at planting trees in the Sahel region from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, which is now much more than just planting millions of trees across Africa but a holistic approach to unlocking economic and ecological benefits for many countries but its scope has been expanded to cover the restoration of degraded land in more than 20 countries with a view to sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon and creating 10 million green jobs by 2030. According to a United Nations status report, the Great Green Wall needs to cover 8 million hectares of land a year at a cost of up to $4.3 billion if it is to meet the implementation deadline.

 Paul Elvis Tangem, coordinator for the Great Green Wall Initiative at the African Union Commission explained the project, which has received multiple funding from governments, donors, and multilateral development banks, would need more than 50 billion US Dollars to be realized by 2030. Currently, about 27 billion US dollars has been pledged, a seemingly huge amount which Tangem says is not much if the return on investment at 1:7 US dollars in nature-based solutions is considered.

Conflicts and climate are the greatest threats to the full realization of the Great Green Wall currently, Tangem explained, adding that the impact of drought across Africa has justified the importance of the GGW, which has garnered global attention as a solution to land degradation, drought, and desertification.

“The main challenges we have now, especially for farmers, is the issue of grazelands which is the biggest push of conflict in the drylands of Africa,” Tangem told IPS, highlighting that there was high competition for rangelands between countries and within countries, especially in West Africa where part of the Great Green Wall runs. He cited the conflict in the Tigray region as less political and more environmental. Conflicts and climate are the greatest threats to the full realization of the Great Green Wall currently, Tangem explained, adding that the impact of drought across Africa has justified the importance of the GGWI, which has garnered global attention as a solution to land degradation, drought, and desertification. “It is the competition for land, the politics of it is what we see, but the underlying causes are natural resources,” said Tangem. “People do not want to speak the truth, but many conflicts in Africa are basically in the drylands, which are the areas most vulnerable to climate change and where the GGWI is focusing on...Conflicts are a big, big challenge. Most of the challenges that are happening now are because of competition for natural resources, the use of benefit sharing of the scarce resources from water, fertile land, fishing, and pastoral lands.”

 It was now impossible to work in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea as a result of conflict, Tangem underscored the need to restore peace by restoring the environment.

Droughts are hitting more often and harder than before, up nearly by a third since 2000. Climate change is expected to cause more severe droughts in the future. 

nger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), warns that the world cannot turn a blind eye to the impacts and effects of degraded lands in places like the Sahel, where millions face multiple vulnerabilities, including climate shocks and conflict. Action to tackle the drought is of utmost urgency, Andersen stressed.

Noting that desertification was becoming a massive crisis, Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, which is part of the International Drought Resilience Alliance, said the alliance is focusing on finding nature-based solutions and the right technology and societal approaches to prevent further land degradation.

Presidents Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón of Spain and Macky Sall of Senegal rallied world leaders to create the Alliance as “a specific solution for the United Nations” to the impacts of climate change. In a joint communication, they declared that building resilience to drought disasters was the way to secure the gains made on sustainable development goals, particularly for the most vulnerable people.

Conflicts, Climate Change Threaten Sprouting of Africa’s Great Green Wall | Inter Press Service (

FGM in Kenya

 In Kisii town, south-west Kenya like many others in the area, a pharmacy doubles as a clinic that offers female genital mutilation (FGM) services on request. In Kisii county, medicalisation is standard. Two out of three cases of cutting are performed by health practitioners, in contrast to much of the country, where 70% of FGM cases are performed by traditional practitioners. Figures from 2014 place Kisii’s FGM prevalence at 84%, the third highest rate in the country. However, older reports also recorded an 87% opposition to the practice among the Kisii community – the highest among different ethnic groups – and gender officials from the region say tensions between women who support the practice and those who don’t have become increasingly apparent.

The number of unlicensed health clinics in Kisii has grown significantly over the last few years due to poor and inadequate services at public hospitals, according to health workers and rights groups. They are often run by nurses, lab technicians, paramedics, hospital support staff or community health workers who have worked in cities and return to their communities where they are trusted to perform FGM, even though they are not qualified to carry out surgical incisions. In rural areas, they are called daktari (doctor), as long as they are working in the hospital.

 “Every chemist has a ‘behind’,” says Carol Makori*, a retired medical practitioner from the area, referring to the common pharmacy backroom for FGM and other illegal medical services, which serve many purposes. “It’s a consultation room, an examination room, a bed,” she says. “It’s good business. People want the service and they want it as secretly as possible.”

FGM rates in Kenya have gone down significantly over the past decade. The country passed strong laws in 2011, imposed hefty fines on practitioners, and stepped up surveillance and enforcement. Kenyan president William Ruto backed the country’s chief justice who said that FGM “should not be a conversation we are having in Kenya in the 21st century”, and reiterated his administration’s commitment to eradicating the practice.

Roughly 475,022 girls are at risk of FGM in Kenya between 2022 and 2030, and 75% of girls undergo the cut between the ages of eight and 14.

Traditionally, FGM among the Kisii was carried out as a means of controlling girls’ libido, but health workers say there’s been a shift. “Some parents feel like it is a way of fulfilling the culture in a modernised way,” says Ruth Mogaka, a retired nurse and counsellor, who has worked at one of the area’s largest hospitals for years.

‘Every chemist has a backroom’: the rise of secret FGM in Kenya | Female genital mutilation (FGM) | The Guardian

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Maternal Mortality in Africa

  A 2022 WHO survey of 47 African countries found that the region has a ratio of 1.55 health workers (physicians, nurses, and midwives) per 1000 people, below the WHO threshold density of 4.45 health workers per 1000 people needed to deliver essential health services and achieve universal health coverage.”

It noted that 65% of births in Africa are attended by skilled health personnel – the lowest globally and far off the 2030 target of 90%, adding that “skilled birth attendants are crucial for the well-being of women and newborns.

 Neonatal deaths account for half of all under-5 mortality. Accelerating the agenda to meet its reduction goal will be a major step toward reducing the under-5 mortality rate to fewer than 25 deaths per 1000 live births.

Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said the campaign was critical to accelerating the decline of maternal mortality from 308 out of every 1,000 live births to 70 by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

 A new report, the Atlas of Health Statistics 2022, estimated that, in sub-Saharan Africa, 390 women will die in childbirth for every 100 000 live births by 2030. This is more than five times above the 2030 SDG target of fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births and much higher than the average of 13 deaths per 100 000 live births witnessed in Europe in 2017.

“It is more than double the global average of 211. To reach the SDG target, Africa will need an 86% reduction from 2017 rates, the last time data was reported, an unrealistic feat at the current rate of decline,” the report said.

The region’s infant mortality rate is 72 per 1000 live births. At the current 3.1% annual rate of decline, there will be an expected 54 deaths per 1000 live births by 2030, far above the reduction target of fewer than 25 per 1000.

Reacting to the Atlas report, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “This means that for many African women, childbirth remains a persistent risk and millions of children do not live long enough to celebrate their fifth birthday.”

Physician and chief executive officer of Medway Health, Dr Omotuyi Mebawondu, has expressed concern that despite the worldwide reduction in maternal mortality rate, sub–Saharan Africa still accounts for two third of an average of 800 daily deaths of women from pregnancy and its complications.

Africa’s Maternal Deaths Need Urgent Action to Meet SDG Goals | Inter Press Service (

Sunday, January 01, 2023

WSM’s New Year’s Message


2022 which has just drawn to a close has not been a particularly happy one for the workers. If we have a New Year’s message for the workers, it is that the progress of humanity does not require the loss of lives from famine nor from war. Live and thrive for socialism. The only answer is to establish a world of common ownership, where production is carried on solely for the use and enjoyment of the whole of the world’s population. It will take mass working class knowledge and understanding to achieve, but that it can and will be done is our confident expectation, despite the apparent bleakness of the present.

 We urge all members of our class to devote their attention in the new year to our emancipation. That is our New Year message.