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 Tuesday 16 December 2008
 
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WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 447 for 27 September - 3 October 2008

DAKAR, 3 October 2008 (IRIN) - CONTENTS:

BENIN: Erosion-inducing coastal sand mining to be outlawed
CAMEROON-CHAD: Heaviest-ever rain season predicted
GUINEA: State of suspended development after 50 years of independence
MALI: Violence against women on rise
COTE D'IVOIRE: Toxic waste criminal investigations may indict higher-ups
COTE D'IVOIRE: Shaky peace leading into elections
BENIN: Cotonou’s overlooked killer: air pollution
COTE D'IVOIRE: Who is to blame for dumping toxic oil sludge?
TOGO: 17,000 poultry killed in latest flu outbreak
LIBERIA: Growing mental health needs, but only one doctor
MALI-NIGER: Insecurity persists despite militia leader's arrest
COTE D'IVOIRE: Urban displaced slip into obscurity



BENIN: Erosion-inducing coastal sand mining to be outlawed

Faced with rising sea levels and coastal erosion caused in part by coastal sand mining, carting away of free beach sand for commercial uses, the national government has begun a campaign to save its coastal sand by digging up sand inland, instead. But communities near these newly-created sand collection spots are fighting back. Paul Gbogbo, a farmer from one of the river sand mining sites, Abomey Calavi, told IRIN, “We want our compensation to be clear. We are from the countryside. The state cannot just take our land like that. We are not declaring war; we just do not want to be taken advantage of.” Along West African coastal countries, rising sea levels linked to warming global temperatures have wiped out homes, hotels, roads and harvests. An increase in construction in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, in recent years has driven up demand for sand, which is mixed with cement to pour into foundations.

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CAMEROON-CHAD: Heaviest-ever rain season predicted

Up to 70,000 people have been affected by flooding in northwestern Cameroon and southern Chad; based on meteorological data, disaster workers with the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) predict a longer and wetter rain season than normal. Thousands of people have remained homeless in Chad and Cameroon since the rains began early in August, according to Allale. August flooding affected more than 8,000 families in Logone Occidentale, Mayo Kebbi and Moyen Chari in southern Chad, and 5,000 families in and around Cameroon’s northwestern town of Garoua, 60 km west of the Chad border, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to help 14,000 victims across the two countries

full report



GUINEA: State of suspended development after 50 years of independence

As regional leaders gathered in Conakry on 2 October to celebrate Guinea’s 50 years of independence from France, on the other side of the capital, doctors emerging from a ten-day strike said when it comes to healthcare, there is little to celebrate. “There has not been much progress in the health sector in Guinea over the past few decades. Health centres and hospitals still do not have enough equipment or staff. And we experience frequent difficulty in acquiring even basic life-saving medicines,” said government health adviser Dr. Sékou Doukouré. “The public health sector lacks support staff such as nurses, lab technicians and midwives, and this has dire consequences on the population,” Doukouré added. Even the few ambulances for use by the nations’ hospitals are in poor repair, or simply not running because hospitals cannot afford to fill their tanks.

full report



MALI: Violence against women on rise

At least 300 women are victims of sexual violence every year in Bamako, according to local police records, but the actual figure is much higher said the president of the Bamako-based non-profit, Women in Law and Development in Africa. “Victims and their families rarely denounce rapists in order to preserve the family’s dignity and honour,” said the group’s president Sidibe Djenba Diop, “Rape cases are on the rise, yet neither the [Malian] culture nor its laws recognise, yet, that rape is an act of violence against women.” The group recently released results from a year-long study on women’s vulnerability to sexual violence. Based on police reports, the study noted at least one reported case of rape every four days, with the police launching a new investigation every week. But these inquiries rarely lead to any punishment, said Diop.

full report



COTE D'IVOIRE: Toxic waste criminal investigations may indict higher-ups

Ivorian government lawyers have said they may pursue criminal investigations against the Netherlands-based oil trader Trafigura, which owned the oil waste dumped in open-air sites in Abidjan in 2006. Ivorian health officials, an independent investigation panel, and European lawyers have said the poisonous sludge led to more than one dozen deaths and tens of thousands of people to fall ill in Abidjan. Trafigura settled a civil case with the government in February 2007 for US$214 million, which the multimillion dollar international commodities trader said prevented the government from pursuing it for liability or damages, according to the 13 February 2007 agreement. But on 1 October 2008, on the sidelines of a criminal investigation underway in Abidjan against local port authorities—which Trafigura blames for the illegal dumping— government lawyer, Christophe Koussougro Sery, said the state can pursue Trafigura on criminal charges of poisoning Ivorians, even with the civil settlement.

full report



COTE D'IVOIRE: Shaky peace leading into elections

As presidential elections approach at year-end after repeated delays, analysts worry slow progress on meeting the demands of the Ouagadougou peace agreement, combined with what they see as continued hostility among some in power towards foreign-born Ivorians, threaten the elusive stability in the still-divided country. “Ouagadougou was a breakthrough because the protagonists of the crisis came together to agree on their own timetable and roadmap to peace rather than at the behest of the international community,” said Kissy Agyeman, country analyst for Sub-Saharan Africa for London-based think-tank Global Insight. “The pressure is now on because if there is further stalling, President Laurent Gbagbo’s legitimacy is at stake and people fear it could precipitate violence in the country.” The rebels and government signed a power-sharing peace accord in Ouagadougou in March 2007 that called for disarming and demobilising rebel troops; identifying voters in preparation for elections; building up the state infrastructure in the north; and helping hundreds of thousands of people displaced during the civil war that broke out in 2002 return to their towns and villages.

full report



BENIN: Cotonou’s overlooked killer: air pollution

Health officials say air pollution in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, is an often-overlooked, undiagnosed killer that is as much of a health threat as the country’s leading cause of death, malaria. “People banalise pollution because no one ever made the link…between pollution, illness and death,” said UN Development Programme coordinator Mathieu Houinato. “They think as long as they can put up with it, it is okay. People do not understand the deadly cumulative [long-term] impact it has on their health.” Air pollution has grown worse in Cotonou with the increase in population, old cars, carbon dioxide-emitting motorbikes and high-lead smuggled gasoline. On average, 50,000 people have moved to the capital every year, swelling the population from 638,000 in 2001 to more than one million in 2008, according to the National Institute of Statistics.

full report



COTE D'IVOIRE: Who is to blame for dumping toxic oil sludge?

A trial is under way in Abidjan of local officials accused of conniving in the dumping of toxic oil sludge in August 2006 and causing over a dozen deaths, and illnesses to tens of thousands. Victims of the Abidjan dumping scandal, environmentalists and lawyers say the real culprits have slipped away. The president of the Union of Abidjan and Surrounding Areas’ Victims of Toxic Waste, Ouattara Aboubacar, told IRIN the trial of 12 Abidjan port and customs officials was missing the big players: “This trial sanctions impunity. We are sending underlings to trial without trying their silent partner, [Netherlands-based oil trader] Trafigura. For us, this trial has the bitter taste of impunity.” Trafigura said an Ivorian waste disposal company, Tommy Company, which had offloaded oil waste from the Panamanian-registered tanker Probo Koala, was responsible for the damage caused. Tonnes of sludge, the leftover low-quality oil that cannot be sold, were dumped near Abidjan’s residential communities.

full report



TOGO: 17,000 poultry killed in latest flu outbreak

Some 17,000 birds died or have been culled since the outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus on 9 September on three poultry farms in Agbata, located 10km east of Lome, according to the country’s livestock director, Komla Batawui. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization adviser to the government, Jacques Conforti, says the risk has been contained. “We focused on free-range poultry, and did not cull poultry in coops in the areas surrounding Agbata. This [the culling] should reduce the risk of the virus spreading to zero.” Conforti says the disinfection has moved along quickly in the past three weeks, “We do not want to lose any time. We try to disinfect a zone in less than 24 hours before moving to the next at-risk area.” He says officials meet with farmers who point out any sick birds, cull the birds, and pay the farmers for the value of the bird, eggs or bird feed that is destroyed.

full report



LIBERIA: Growing mental health needs, but only one doctor

Only five years out of a brutal 14-year-civil war that killed an estimated 150,000, according to the UN, and displaced and wounded tens of thousands more, Liberia only has one mental health specialist to treat trauma and depression. Health officials are preparing to meet on 2 October to find a way to treat the country’s growing mental health needs, despite the lack of trained doctors. Bernice Dahn, the Ministry of Health director in charge of Liberia’s health system and its employees told IRIN the country is ill-equipped to treat trauma, “To the best of my knowledge, there is one licensed doctor in the country to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We actually do not have [enough] doctors to deal with this. There is one recognised health centre in [a community located on the outskirts of Monrovia] to deal with this problem.” Liberian fighters who were victims of sexual violence are more likely to report higher rates of depression, PTSD- a severe, ongoing emotional reaction to extreme trauma- and suicidal thoughts than non-combatants or former combatants who did not report experiencing sexual violence, according to a study published August 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

full report



MALI-NIGER: Insecurity persists despite militia leader's arrest

Analysts say despite the government's efforts to secure the north through its clampdown of a militia accused of masterminding recent Tuareg killings, lasting peace is still elusive because of restive ex-fighters, extreme Sahelian poverty, and drug trafficking. Mali officials have reported arresting dozens of suspects in the Ganda Izo militia, or "children of the earth," including its leader Amadou Diallo who had fled to neighbouring Niger after four ethnic Tuareg civilians were abducted and killed during a Muslim holiday fair in Gao, Mali on 1 September. Rather than feeling appeased by the government crackdown, Tuareg human rights lobbyist Raichatou Wallet Altanata says even good intentions may provoke a violent backlash, "I fear the government's hunt and mass arrests of militia members may have the opposite effect on their [militia] movement."

full report



COTE D'IVOIRE: Urban displaced slip into obscurity

People who flee to cities because of conflicts or natural disasters tend to become invisible to the authorities and organisations that can help them, says US-based Tufts University and the Geneva-based International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The Tufts University and IMDC study researched the specific protection needs of the urban displaced in Sudan’s Khartoum, Colombia’s Santa Marta, and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire. As opposed to rural displacements in which communities are more likely to move in groups and to enclosed camps, in cities, “people often arrive in individual [family] units and can become lost…many of them will not have friends or family connections, and will not know where to go,” said urban risk lecturer Dr. Mark Pelling of King’s College in London. “As a result, they can become invisible to those in power,” said Pelling.

full report


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Aid Policy, (PLUSNEWS) Avian Flu, (PLUSNEWS) Children, (PLUSNEWS) Conflict, (PLUSNEWS) Early Warning, (PLUSNEWS) Environment, (PLUSNEWS) Gender Issues, (PLUSNEWS) Governance, (PLUSNEWS) Human Rights, (PLUSNEWS) Natural Disasters, (PLUSNEWS) Urban Risk, (PLUSNEWS) Water & Sanitation

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.