Morocco Tops 2014 Arab Democracy Index

Rabat – Morocco took the first place in the 2014 Arab Democracy Index which measures the level of democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law in Arab speaking countries.Morocco came ahead of Jordan and Algeria in the Index published by the Arab Reform Initiative.The Index was based on a survey in which 55.9% of respondents considered as important the political reforms undertaken by Morocco. The index also takes into account indicators relating to the rule of law, transparency and the performance of governmental institutions.

Spain Satirical Video Mocks Morocco

Rabat – Satirical Spanish television show Crackovia has recently aired an episode that tells a lot about the stereotypes that Spaniards have about their southern neighbors.Morocco is being portrayed as a country where corruption is widespread and where everything can be bought. In the episode, Morocco is directly referred to as a barren desert country where it seldom rains.The sketch begins with Real Madrid players Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas- who are impersonated by two actors from the program- as they arrived in Casablanca Mohammed VI airport to participate in the 2014FIFA Club World Cup. The two players are shown waiting in a line to get their passports checked. Sergio Ramos tells Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Casillas that he had thought Morocco was a desert. The latter then proceeds to explain that it is “indeed a desert, but with some oases.”Ramos tells Casillas that he knew from a friend of his that ‘in Morocco one can bargain in almost everything,” implicitly indicating that corruption is prevalent in all aspects of life.Spain: Satirical Video Mocks MoroccoTo make his point, Ramos hands over a swimming pool access card to the border control policeman instead of a passport, in an attempt to show his teammate that one can easily bribe his way in Morocco.When the Moroccan policeman asks Ramos once again to provide him with a passport, the Spanish defender tries another time to bribe the officer by giving him a Real Madrid membership card.In broken Spanish, the Moroccan policeman gets annoyed with the player’s mockery and calls on the guards to detain them and hand them over to the judge.The judge then sentenced both players to five years and one day in prison. They were accused of not “respecting the authorities, lack of identity documents and detention of women worth 100 camels.”Ramos refuses the verdict saying he only agrees to spend two and half years in prison. The sketch ended with the two players locked inside a Guantanamo-style prison. read more

Danish Man is Prosecuted for Blasphemy after Burning Quran

By Julia CabreraRabat – A 42-year-old Danish man is charged with blasphemy in Denmark after posting a video on Facebook of himself burning the Quran.Denmark’s decision is unexpected, as the country is mainly secular and supportive of freedom of speech according to various European news outlets. The man, who cannot be identified due to Danish laws, posted the 4’15 minute long video of himself burning the Quran in a anti-Islam Facebook page called, “Yes to Freedom- No to Islam,” according to Danish media The Local. At that time he was charged with hate speech, but on Wednesday his indictment was changed to blasphemy.A trial date has been set for June, and the defendant could be sentenced to four months in prison or a fine, the New York Times reported.Denmark’s blasphemy laws have not been practiced for over 46 years, when two radio producers were acquitted of the charge in 1971 after airing a song mocking Christianity.The laws proscribe punishment for “publicly mocking a religious community’s religious doctrines or worship,” according to ABC News.Religious tensions and free speech sensitivities in Denmark’s Muslim community have been rising  since the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten released twelve cartoons of Mohammed in 2006.According to The Local, Danish prosecutors did not invoke the blasphemy laws towards the newspaper, and the publication of the cartoons speared anger through the Muslim world.Jan Reckendorff, a Danish prosecutor in the trial, made the decision to charge the defendant with blasphemy.“It is the prosecution’s view that circumstances involving the burning of holy books such as the Bible and the Quran can in certain cases be a violation of the blasphemy clause, which covers public scorn or mockery of religion,” said Reckendorff in a Danish press release.The defendant’s lawyer, Rasmus Paludan, countered that the blasphemy charge was self defense.“The Quran contains passages on how Mohammed’s followers must kill the infidel, i.e. the Danes.” he said. “Therefore, it’s an act of self-defense to burn a book that in such a way incites war and violence.”Denmark is one of five countries that have a law against blasphemy in the European Union. According to the New York Times, this case could lead to the removal of the law overall. read more

The Latest Cuomo says shutdown puts air travellers at risk

NEW YORK — The Latest on delays in U.S. air travel (all times local):10:55 a.m.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the federal government shutdown is impacting safety and security at airports and putting travellers at risk.The Democrat wrote to Republican President Donald Trump on Friday demanding that he reopen government immediately. He said the partial shutdown is reducing staffing for Transportation Security Administration workers as well as air traffic controllers. He noted an increase in the number of TSA workers calling in absent, and said many air traffic controllers are working extra shifts without pay.Cuomo’s letter was announced shortly before the FAA announced LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing delays in takeoffs due to staffing problems at two East Coast air traffic control facilities.___10:40 a.m.The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting delays in air travel because of a “slight increase in sick leave” at two East Coast air traffic control facilities.FAA spokesman Gregory Martin said Friday that it had augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.The staffing problems were at air traffic centres in Jacksonville, Florida and a Washington D.C. centre that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states.Martin says safety is being maintained during a period of “minimal impacts” on travel.LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing delays in takeoffs.The Associated Press read more

The Latest Judge denies Nevadas plutonium injunction bid

RENO, Nev. — The Latest on a federal court battle over the shipment of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada (all times local):11:15 a.m.A federal judge has denied Nevada’s latest request to immediately block all future shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to a national security site north of Las Vegas.U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du denied the state’s request for a temporary restraining order on Thursday, a day after the Energy Department revealed it already has shipped one-half metric ton of the highly radioactive material from South Carolina to Nevada.The judge in Reno says she will allow to proceed on a regular schedule proceedings related to the merits of a lawsuit Nevada filed in November seeking to block plans the Energy Department approved in August to transfer a full metric ton of plutonium to Nevada.The department disclosed for the first time Wednesday it secretly trucked half that much to the site near Las Vegas sometime before November and said it doesn’t intend to ship any more there._____10 a.m.A federal judge has denied Nevada’s initial request to block the shipment of weapons-grade plutonium that the Energy Department has revealed already occurred months ago.The judge in Reno is now considering a new plea from Nevada for another injunction to prevent any further shipments from South Carolina to a site north of Las Vegas.Nevada’s attorney general is asking Judge Miranda Du to schedule a status hearing Monday on the growing controversy.Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state is considering seeking a contempt of court order after he says the government lied about the transfer of the plutonium.Energy Department officials say they had to keep the shipment secret until now for national security reasons.Deputy Attorney General Marta Adams says in a new affidavit Justice Department lawyers assured her no shipment would occur before Jan. 21.The Associated Press read more

Moroccan Lawyers Call for Outlawing French Language in Courts

Rabat – The Head of the Bar Association in Rabat, Mohamed Barikou, issued a note on Monday, urging his lawyer colleagues to “dismiss all documents or files presented in the French language to every court and demand their translation in Arabic.”The note calls for lawyers in Rabat demand Arabic translations for all legal documents originally presented to the courts in French, to ensure the application of justice:“I invite you to dismiss all documents published in French language and demand for their translation in Arabic,” Barikou stressed, underscoring the application Rabat’s Administrative Court of Appeals’ latest decision, which launched on January, 31, 2018. Initially presented in June, 2017, the appeals court calls for a ban of the French language in all legal documents, describing its use by Morocco’s state institution as “illegal” and “unconstitutional, as it is not included in the country’s law.”The court also references the fifth article of Morocco’s Constitution, which recognizes Arabic as the official state language, and calls for the ban to be applied in line with a previous request conjointly made by National League of Arabic Language and former head of the Bar Association, Abderrahman Benamrou. read more

New Jersey becomes first US state to take legal Oscars bets

LAS VEGAS — Are you so sure that Lady Gaga will win an Oscar for her performance in a “Star is Born” that you’d be willing to bet on it?Now, you can.New Jersey sportsbooks have become the first in the U.S. to accept wagers on the Oscars after earning state regulatory approval.The casinos see it as an opportunity to widen their pool of customers.Mattias Stetz is chief operating officer of Rush Street Interactive, which operates in New Jersey. He says the company believes fans of the Oscars may be a new audience of gamblers more used to playing things like bingo or roulette.Sportsbooks in Nevada have never taken wagers on the event.“Roma” is the favourite to win in the best picture category at the William Hill and SugarHouse books.The ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 24.___Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at Garcia Cano, The Associated Press read more

MEDays Art Can Bring Africa Together Spur SocioPolitical Changes

Rabat – That optimistic sentiment was the conclusion of MEDays 2018’s only panel on art and design in Africa.The panel featured go-to names in the Moroccan artistic landscape, such as Hicham Lahlou, a leading Moroccan designer; and Nourredine Ayouch, a household name in the Moroccan and African world of media and art.The other two panelists were Kwame Kwel Armah, the UK-based artistic director of the Word Festival of Black Art, and Hampate Bah Roukiatou, president of the Amadou Hampate Bah foundation. Together, they discussed how coordinated African policies to disseminate and popularize African art can shape the way forward for Africa on the global stage.Even if art cannot literally end the numerous crises that the African continent is facing today, it does provide an opportunity of self-expression for many Africans striving for meaning and socio-economic prosperity.“As it breaks barriers and fosters communication, art can bring our continent together,” said an optimistic Hicham Lahlou. Speaking about the role design and art can play in realizing African unity, the Moroccan designer extolled the unifying virtues of artistic creation.“Being a designer or an artist is not only about working alone in your corner of the table,” he said.As well as adding beauty and color to ordinary things, the work of the artist or a designer adds meaning to individual’s lives. A design or a song often is the reflection of the soul and identity of a whole people.But besides these traditional roles associated with artistic endeavor, art does practically contribute to economic development.Lahlou explained: “I was recently reading an article in Les Echos—a leading French magazine on economy-related matters—and I remember the article’s author saying that the art industry contributes six times more to [France’s] GDP than the automobile sector.”An avowed lover of colors and sounds, the Moroccan designer explained how Africa’s colorful creativity stems first and foremost from its uniquely diverse linguistic landscape. With an estimated 2,200 languages spoken across Africa, the continent can pride itself in being a repository of boundless creative potential.In fact, the Moroccan offered, “There is already a lot to be proud of in Africa. There is so much going on. So many talents both established and emerging. All that remains is to promote them, give them platforms to express themselves and contribute to the rise of the continent. Africa is not the future; now is the time for Africa.”In a burst of validations, other panelists resoundingly agreed with Lahlou. Though in different tones, reflective of their backgrounds, they all argued that “a society’s artistic creation plays a key role in how its people are perceived by outsiders.”Investing in African prideAccording to Hampate Bah, a crucial challenge of contemporary Africa is to “reclaim our sense of being in the world and wash away the inferiority complex” associated with being from Africa. “We need to be proud of our intangible heritage,” she asserted.For his part, Ayouch put a strong emphasis on the importance of communication in bringing Africa’s creative talents to the global stage.“Without communication, even the greatest talent can easily fade away, unknown and unexploited.” He explained that African governments and businessmen should invest more in nurturing the many unexplored talents on the continent, giving them space to produce beauty and alter how Africa is perceived by others.Kwame Kwel Armah, the panel’s last speaker, echoed the same belief in art’s transformative powers, though in more philosophical language.“Disruption,” he began, referring to MEDays’ 2018 theme—In the Age of Disruption: Finding the New Paradigms—“does not require new tools.” To disrupt all you need is to know the tools at your disposal, he asserted.The suggestion, as he went on to articulate, is that only by internalizing and espousing the “African spirit” can the African continent rise to the challenges facing its countries and people.Calling for a demystification of European universality, the UK-based artist and drama director spoke extensively of “how the way we think about our art can usurp the notion of European superiority.” read more

Amid Tension Moroccos Akhannouch Visits Algiers for WestMed Meeting

Rabat – Moroccan Minister of Agriculture, Sea Fisheries, Rural Development, Waters, and Forests Aziz Akhannouch led a delegation to the WestMed conference yesterday, held in Algeria this year.WestMed began in 2016 and is an annual meeting by Algeria, Spain, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Mauritania, Portugal and Tunisia that focuses on working towards the economic, political, and environmental improvements in the western Mediterranean region. One of the main goals set by the organization is to develop a “blue economy,” one that sustainably uses resources from the sea, by 2022. The EU lauded the goal, especially after Spain and Portugal were asked earlier this year to reduce their overfishing of sardines in 2019, due to depleting global populations. Read Also: Foreign Ministry Announces Official Delegation for Western Sahara TalksAlthough the focus of the conference was on international maritime cooperation, Akhannouch’s trip to the Algerian capital also occurred as upcoming talks involving the two countries loom. The countries have been at odds for decades, especially over the sensitive issue of Western Sahara. The Moroccan-Algerian border is now extremely militarized with increasing tensions, prompting alarm and calls for calm in the international community. In the past, Morocco has accused Algeria of attempting to isolate the country from the Maghreb, as well as funding the rebellious Polisario movement, but King Mohammed VI  wants to turn over a new leaf, calling for constructive talks in November between the two countries, in an attempt to thaw the icy relationship between the two nations. The UN voiced support for talks, but Algeria has not officially responded to the King’s offer.Meanwhile, the two countries are scheduled to meet tomorrow and Thursday, December 5-6, at a UN roundtable in Geneva for talks on Western Sahara. Mauritania and Polisario will also attend the talks, called by Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General Horst Kohler. read more

World Bank Report Morocco Improves Sustainable Energy Indicators

Rabat – The World Bank has published its report of the 2018 Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) that listed 133 countries’ renewable energies improvements, giving Morocco a score of 74. RISE is informs investors of the sustainable energy policies and regulations of a given country.The World Bank surveyed 133 countries based on data provided by governments from 2010 to 2017. Alongside China, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa, Morocco emerged as a prominent example of a country that has put in place advanced policy frameworks in support of sustainable energy.The report gave Morocco a score of 74 points for sustainable energy indicators, including access to electricity (100 points), energy efficiency (56 points), and renewable energy (67 points).In terms of energy efficiency, Morocco scored high with 80 points in the national energy efficiency planning indicator, 100 points in energy efficiency indicator, and 96 points in energy efficiency incentives from electricity rate structures. However, Morocco scored low in other indicators, including incentives and mandates put in place for the public sector (13 points), for industrial and commercial end users (13 points), transport (0 points), and minimum energy efficiency performance standards (32 points).Regarding renewable energies, Morocco did well in the legal framework for renewable energy (100 points), planning for renewable energy expansion (83), and attributes of financial and regulatory incentives (83 points).The report gave a medium score to incentive and regulatory support for renewable energy (62 points), counterparty risk (65), carbon pricing and monitoring (50), and use (23 points).Morocco produces 28,000 gigawatt hours of electricity, while the rest is imported from Spain.It seeks to boost its production capacity by 6,500 megawatts by 2020, with solar and wind energies each representing 2,000 megawatts, according to a US International Trade Administration 2017 report. read more

Germany Temporarily Detains Moroccan MPs Without Visas in Frankfurt

Rabat – German immigration officers detained Moroccan MPs travelling to Poland to attend COP24. The Frankfurt airport authorities said the MPs did not have a visa.The airport officials detained Casablanca’s Mayor Abdelaziz El Omari and MPs Mohamed Moubdii (MP party), Mohamed Salem Benmassoud and Amal Maysara (PJD), Abdelilah El Mouhajiri and Ahmed Touiji (WFP), Ahmed Touimi (PI), and Noureddine Lazrak (RNI) for over five hours at Frankfurt airport.Morocco World News (MWN) contacted RNI’s communications officer Jawad Chahbaouy, who was aware of the incident. He gave MWN RNI member Lazrak’s phone number, but he was unreachable.  The Moroccan embassy in Germany called upon Morocco and Germany’s foreign ministries to get the MPs released. The German immigration officers took photographs of the Moroccan MPs before allowing them to leave the country.A member of the delegation told a Moroccan news outlet that “the MPs “were not aware Germany does not recognize their official passports until German authorities denied access to the airport.” read more

GE 1Q Earnings Snapshot

BOSTON (AP) _ General Electric Co. (GE) on Tuesday reported first-quarter net income of $3.59 billion, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.On a per-share basis, the Boston-based company said it had net income of 41 cents. Earnings, adjusted to account for discontinued operations, came to 14 cents per share.The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 9 cents per share.The industrial conglomerate posted revenue of $27.29 billion in the period, also surpassing Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $26.92 billion.GE shares have risen 29% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen 17%. The stock has declined 32% in the last 12 months._____This story was generated by Automated Insights ( using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on GE at Associated Press read more

Ban Kimoon welcomes Sudanese move to allow ill Darfurian leader to travel

Mr. Ban said the decision by President Omar al-Bashir to allow Suleiman Jamous, a former member of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), one of Darfur’s many rebel groups, to leave the country will “create conditions conducive to peace negotiations.” Earlier this month, UN and African Union (AU) envoys Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim vowed to pursue the case of Mr. Jamous, who had been detained by Sudanese authorities, “in view of the role Mr. Jamous can play in the political process.” Full-fledged peace talks between the Sudanese Government and Darfur’s rebel groups are expected to be staged later this year, possibly by as early as next month, in a bid to resolve the underlying issues – including a lack of economic development – driving the conflict that since 2003 has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people. Another 2.2 million Sudanese have had to flee their homes because of the fighting between the rebels, Government forces and allied militias known as the Janjaweed. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants for the arrest of two suspects over alleged war crimes in Darfur, and the UN and AU have announced they are setting up a hybrid peacekeeping force (to be known as UNAMID) to try to quell the violence. Last night, Mr. Ban held a working dinner with Mr. Bashir at the presidential guesthouse in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, before he headed today to Juba in southern Sudan. There he met with Salva Kiir, the President of Southern Sudan and the First Vice President of Sudan, to discuss the implementation of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that ended the long-running north-south civil war. “It is crucially important that we implement this comprehensive peace agreement,” he said. “For that to be possible, it is again important that leaders of both north and south Sudan, President Bashir and President Kiir, are fully committed and closely coordinate.” Mr. Ban stressed that he was well aware of several remaining issues at dispute, such as demarcation, the redeployment of forces and the status of the area around Abyei, but he hoped “a strong political commitment” from both sides could resolve any impasse. The Secretary-General also met with key local officials and with some of the staff of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) that was set up to help implement the comprehensive peace agreement. In an address to Juba University, Mr. Ban acknowledged that “there is still a long way to go before southern Sudan can fully recover from decades of conflict and insufficient development” and asked the people of the region to “work as hard for peace as you did to uphold the rights of the people of southern Sudan all these years.” 4 September 2007The Sudanese Government has allowed the United Nations to arrange for the travel of a key Darfurian elder and former rebel group figure to Kenya for medical treatment, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today after meeting with Sudan’s President during his visit to the country. read more

Security Council applauds efforts to consolidate peace in Burundi

28 November 2007The United Nations Security Council today welcomed efforts to bring lasting peace to Burundi, calling for a consolidation of progress in the country, which is rebuilding after being torn apart by 13 years of armed conflict. In a statement to the press, Ambassador Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, called on the last major rebel hold-out group, the Palipehutu-FNL, “to return to the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM) without delay or preconditions and called on both parties to refrain from any action that might lead to a resumption of hostilities.”The statement followed a briefing to the Council by Charles Nqakula, South Africa’s Minister of Safety and Security, who is the Facilitator of the peace process in Burundi.Voicing it support for Mr. Nqakula’s work, the Council also expressed its appreciation of the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up last year to help prevent countries emerging from conflict from slipping back into violence. Along with Sierra Leone, Burundi became the first focus of the Commission.The Council also welcomed the Government’s strides towards fostering dialogue, national reconciliation and social harmony in the small Great Lakes region nation.The statement urged “all political stakeholders there to maintain the spirit of consensus-building and inclusiveness that had enabled them to achieve a successful transition in their country.” read more

Bosnian Muslim army chief placed under house arrest by UN war crimes

19 December 2007A judge at the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes of the Balkan wars of the 1990s today ordered that the former head of the Bosnian Muslim forces be placed under house arrest after he violated the terms of his temporary release from jail by discussing his case with someone other than his lawyers. Rasim Delić must be placed under arrest and permanent surveillance by authorities at his residence and can only be released for the purpose of medical treatment, according to an order issued by Judge Wolfgang Schomburg of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague.Judge Schomburg said he was satisfied by prosecution arguments that Mr. Delić had discussed the case, and therefore breached the terms of his provisional release, when he met with Haris Silajdžić, a member of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency.He also warned that any further infringement – however slight – of the conditions of Mr. Delić’s release could lead to the termination of that release.Last month Mr. Delić, now 58, was granted provisional release from jail in The Hague, where he is facing trial, to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina from 11 December to 11 January on the understanding that he would abide by certain conditions and return to the Tribunal’s custody.Mr. Delić, who served as Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina from June 1993 until September 2005, is charged on the basis of his command responsibility for murder, cruel treatment and rape committed by his subordinate forces. The charges include that he failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish those soldiers who executed captured Bosnian Croat civilians and soldiers in two villages in Travnik municipality in central Bosnia. He also stands accused of failing to prevent the torture, beatings and murders – including a decapitation – committed by subordinates at Kamenica Camp, a detention centre for captured Bosnian Serb soldiers in central Bosnia. In the most notorious murder, the decapitation of a Bosnian Serb soldier in July 1995, other prisoners were forced to kiss the severed head, which was later placed on a hook on the wall of the room where the prisoners were being held. Mr. Delić is also charged over the rape by his subordinates of three women at Kamenica Camp. His trial at the ICTY began in July this year and prosecutors expect to wrap up their case by early next year. read more

At least 3 million affected by deadly floods in India and Nepal

More than 3 million people have been uprooted and 60 people killed by the worst flooding to hit north-east India in five decades, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.The flooding began when heavy monsoon rains caused a dam to break, breaching the eastern embankment of the Kosi River, which straddles the India-Nepal border.The Sunsari district of Nepal, where 70,000 people have been displaced, and 16 districts in India’s Bihar state – one of the country’s poorest – have been the areas struck hardest. The Kosi River appears to have altered its course, flooding areas of Bihar not prone to inundation and damaging over 220,000 houses.WHO expressed concern over the possibility of the spread of communicable diseases.“No outbreaks have been reported in India nor Nepal, but the flooding, risk for water- and vector-borne diseases due to the massive population displacements, hot climate, stretched hygiene and sanitation levels and eventual pools of stagnant water… left behind by receding flood waters,” said Poonam Singh of the agency’s South-East Asian Regional Office.Working together with the Indian Ministry of Health, WHO is supplying 100 chloroscopes to assess water quality and is raising awareness on measles immunization.In Nepal, the agency has sent enough medicine to treat over 120,000 people for one month. It has also dispatched anti-malaria and anti-diarrhoea supplies.Along with WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have all dispatched staff to the areas in Nepal affected by the floods.UN agencies have appealed for more than $5 million for relief needs in Nepal for activities such as providing food, shelter and hygiene kits.“With so many people forced from their homes into extremely challenging conditions, all effort must be made to ensure the supply of safe drinking water, food, sanitation and accommodation facilities, as well as essential medicines,” said Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO’s Health Action in Crises Cluster. 2 September 2008More than 3 million people have been uprooted and 60 people killed by the worst flooding to hit north-east India in five decades, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. read more

UN envoy visits Chad to assess humanitarian situation meet with local leaders

22 December 2008The United Nations envoy for Chad has just concluded a mission to the eastern town of Dogdoré to assess humanitarian challenges there resulting from internal strife, rebel activity and a spill-over from the conflict in neighbouring Darfur. Over the weekend, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Chad, Victor Angelo, met with local authorities and representatives of the 28,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, which has been attacked repeatedly by bandits since September, prompting aid workers to temporarily suspend activities.Mr. Angelo said Chadian authorities would soon deploy gendarmes and guards to the area in an attempt to improve the security situation and allow aid groups to resume their work. Some 180,000 IDPs and 57,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as 263,000 Darfurians, are receiving humanitarian assistance in Chad. Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for 4,900 UN troops to be deployed to strife-torn areas of Chad and CAR – where a UN Mission known as MINURCAT is already operating – to replace the 3,000-member European Union Force (EUFOR), which is scheduled to leave in March. read more

Georgia UN expands longerterm recovery projects after conflict with Russia

5 February 2009The United Nations is expanding its efforts to help Georgia tackle the longer-term challenges of last year’s conflict with Russia by restoring livelihoods and improving public services, after easing the immediate humanitarian impact of hostilities that uprooted nearly 200,000 people. With 4.5 million euros in European Union (< ahref='">EU) funding, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will now deepen and extend the initiative, which has so far focused on the Shida-Kartli region bordering separatist South Ossetia, at the heart of the conflict, where the agency has used already $1.2 million of its own crisis response fund to ensure food security, repair infrastructure, and help local authorities provide needed public services.This so-called Fostering Sustainable Transition and Early Recovery (FOSTER) project has benefited some 10,000 people by rehabilitating 12 critical facilities such as schools and municipal offices, repairing drainage and water pipes, and working with the University of Gori to design and deliver short training courses in masonry, painting, plumbing and other construction trade for those left jobless by the conflict, UNDP said in a news release today.As jobs in agriculture are the dominant occupation in the conflict-affected regions, the project has also sought to help farmers who lost their harvests, and often livestock, orchards, and equipment, put a new crop into the ground before winter. By the end of 2008 UNDP had provided seeds, ploughing, and other services to enable 1,100 farming families to sow winter wheat crops, restoring a vital source of income.The conflict left many residents of conflict-affected areas with a lingering sense of insecurity and vulnerability. To help address human rights concerns, UNDP has helped extend the services of the Public Defender’s office to the Shida Kartli region, and provided support to the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid service. It also supported the creation of a regional Gender Equality Resource Centre in Gori. With the EU funding, UNDP now plans to boost recovery activities more broadly in Shida-Kartli and extend them to two other conflict-affected regions – Mtskheta-Mtianeti, east of South Ossetia, and Samegrelo, adjacent to Abkhazia, a second separatist region where fighting erupted.This will help bridge the transition from crisis to development by rebuilding infrastructure, providing vocational training to the jobless, and expanding microfinance programmes to promote the creation of small businesses.In the early weeks after the August fighting, UNDP focused on the pressing humanitarian challenge of providing food and shelter, but most of the 190,000 people who fled have since returned to their homes, while the Georgian Government has built temporary housing for the 30,000 people, mainly from South Ossetia, who remain displaced. read more

Using pedal power London boy raises money to help Haitian children –

27 January 2010Seven-year-old Charlie Simpson of London originally planned to just enjoy a bicycle ride in the local park with his father. Instead, he made a five-mile trip that has raised more than £150,000 for children affected by this month’s Haitian earthquake, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced. Seven-year-old Charlie Simpson of London originally planned to just enjoy a bicycle ride in the local park with his father. Instead, he made a five-mile trip that has raised more than £150,000 for children affected by this month’s Haitian earthquake, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced.Charlie decided to raise funds for UNICEF’s response to the disaster by riding around his local park seven times last Sunday. His goal was to collect £500 in sponsorship pledges through a website, but as of today he has raised nearly £170,000 and counting.“I want to do a sponsored bike ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives,” he writes on his website. “I want to make some money to buy food, water and tents for everyone in Haiti.”UNICEF is providing clean water for 235,000 people at hospitals and other sites around the hardest-hit city, the capital, Port-au-Prince. The agency plans to scale up its water distribution significantly, aiming to reach half a million people with a consistent supply of water within the next few days.The agency noted that providing clean water is particularly challenging as Haiti was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation before the 7.0-magnitude quake struck on 12 January.“You have to keep in mind that prior to the earthquake, only 50 per cent of the entire country had access to clean water in the first place,” said Silvia Gaya, who specializes in water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF. “Children in emergency situations like this one are more susceptible to illness and death from waterborne disease.”Charlie’s efforts to help children an ocean away have captured the public imagination and spurred donations from far-flung places including Hong Kong and New Zealand.“He really felt strongly about this and thought that something had to be done,” said his mother, Leonora Simpson. “It was great to see him so motivated. I am extremely proud of our Charlie.”Calling his initiative “bold” and “innovative,” UNICEF United Kingdom Executive Director David Bull said that Charlie “not only understands what children his own age must be going through in Haiti, but is also wise enough to know that he can help them.” read more

UN lauds Namibias lifting of travel ban for people living with HIVAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today welcomed Namibia’s decision to remove travel restrictions for people living with the virus, a move that aligns the country’s laws with international public health standards.The new legislation lifting restrictions for people living with HIV/AIDS and other contagious diseases took effect in Namibia on 1 July.Restrictions that limit movement based on HIV-positive status only are discriminatory and violate human rights, according to UNAIDS. There is no evidence that such restrictions prevent HIV transmission or protect public health, the agency said, adding that HIV-related travel restrictions have no economic justification, as people living with HIV can lead long and productive working lives.“I am heartened by this announcement in Namibia,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director. “HIV-related travel restrictions serve no purpose and hamper the global AIDS response,” he added.UNAIDS advocates for an individual’s right to freedom of movement, regardless of HIV status.There are now 51 countries, territories, and areas that continue to impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their HIV status. Five countries deny visas even for short-term stays, while 22 countries deport individuals once their HIV-positive status is discovered.The United States and China removed long-standing HIV-related travel restrictions earlier this year. Several other countries, including Ukraine, have pledged to take steps to remove such restrictions. 8 July 2010The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today welcomed Namibia’s decision to remove travel restrictions for people living with the virus, a move that aligns the country’s laws with international public health standards. read more