IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 71 covering the period 11 - 17 May 2002
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
MADAGASCAR: Rain storms and political gales
Humanitarian officials on Friday warned that the drawn-out political crisis in Madagascar was hampering much needed aid from reaching the east of the country, where floods have killed 29 people.
A toll released early this week put the number of dead at 13, all from the city of Tamatave, with rescue services unable to reach the towns and villages outside the port.
One aid worker said that all the wells in the city had been polluted and the risk for epidemics was high. At least 20,000 people had been affected, he told IRIN. The island nation's second largest city has been flooded since a tropical storm hit eastern Madagascar last week. Veteran ruler Didier Ratsiraka set up his capital in Tamatave when his election rival Marc Ravalomanana declared himself president in February.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org./report.asp?ReportID'808
Hopes of reconciliation faded on Wednesday as Ravalomanana appointed a new cabinet. Of the 30 appointees only one was from the former government. One diplomat said that the move by the new president would make an "already complex situation more difficult to resolve".
More details: http://www.irinnews.org./report.asp?ReportID'793
NGOs raised concern about the increasing ethnic nature of the violence in the country after six people were killed and many others injured over the weekend in a fresh outbreak of violence in the northwestern town of Mahajanga. AFP reported that pro-Ratsiraka loyalists looted and torched shops and houses in a district populated by Merinas, the ethnic group that predominates in the highlands, from where Ravalomanana himself originates.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org./report.asp?ReportID'747
ANGOLA: Tug-of-war over demobilisation
The diplomatic tangle between the government and the international community requesting a coordinated plan for humanitarian assistance to demobilisation areas continued this week. Diplomatic sources told IRIN that the government was trying to "shut the international community out" of effective participation in the process.
As more evidence emerges of a humanitarian crisis in some of the quartering areas, a senior UNITA official told IRIN that the government should work with international partners to provide urgent relief assistance.
"We don't believe the size of the operation is within the capability of the government," said UNITA member of parliament Jaka Jamba. "The government has provided some resources from the [defence budget] but it is not enough."
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'825
But the crisis goes beyond the quartering areas. Malnutrition levels in at least seven newly accessible regions are "critical", according to the United Nations. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Tuesday that inter-agency rapid assessments in 28 areas which were cut off from relief aid before May because of the war indicated that people needed assistance urgently.
"Populations in all of the assessed locations urgently require basic health care, sanitation, portable water, essential non-food items, education and proof of identity," OCHA said in a report.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'774
Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts this week called for Angola to invest heavily in its children if it wants to consolidate and preserve its new-found peace.
Otunnu said on Monday that if children were not a central focus during the post-war period, they could become "spoilers of peace" - as has happened elsewhere in the world.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'755
ZIMBABWE: Dialogue over with ZANU says MDC
ZANU-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) talks which were supposed to pull Zimbabwe out of a political stalemate are dead, the MDC has declared.
Opposition secretary general Welshman Ncube told IRIN on Friday : "The talks are dead, full stop. They were scheduled to start on Monday but ZANU-PF didn't arrive. They sent a letter saying they wanted certain things reviewed before they could go to the talks. We can't negotiate with preconditions so we told the facilitators thank you and goodbye."
"We would have had to withdraw out court application and recognise (President Robert) Mugabe's presidency. They were trying to create talks outside the talks but the things they objected to were already on the agenda."
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'772
Ministers from eight Commonwealth countries met in Botswana on Friday to discuss the talks crisis, AFP reported. The Commonwealth has already suspended Zimbabwe from the body for a year over the election results. On Monday a European Union delegation is expected to meet in Maputo with the same agenda.
Meanwhile, a leader of the controversial war veterans, who are seen to be at the forefront of land invasion, was taken into police custody on Wednesday to be questioned along with 12 of his associates. Andrew Ndhlovu recently said that militants planned a campaign to force Asians to hand over their businesses to black people, accusing them of smuggling and exploitation. However, on Friday in an apparent turnaround, the government moved to assure those threatened, with Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo calling the veterans' plans "hallucinations".
The government has also begun evicting about 12,000 poor people which have already moved onto farms earmarked for other people. The evictions are expected to last a month but some observers called it an attempt by the Zimbabwean government to gain favour at the Commonwealth meetings.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'807
Stopping short of meeting demands for devaluation, the Zimbabwe government has announced that tobacco growers would now be paid an 80 percent subsidy over the price they already receive, based on the value of their crop. The new system will remain in place for the next six months. It follows disruptions to the opening on Tuesday of the annual tobacco auction as small-scale black farmers protested over the low prices on offer due to the country's artificial exchange rate.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'769
Three journalists from the Sunday Standard were arrested this week under the Access to Information Act for allegedly publishing an untrue story about the purchase of riot control equipment and police corruption. Eight other journalists have been arrested since the Act was hurried through Parliament in March. At the same time three other journalists' challenge on the Constitutionality of the law was not allowed to go onto the urgent roll.
MALAWI: Three million in need of food aid
While the present harvest period had eased Malawi's food crisis, more than three million people are still in need of urgent food aid, humanitarian workers told IRIN on Friday.
In February, the government said that seven million people out of a population of 10 million had no food. Floods, drought and a government decision to sell off its grain reserves - arguing that they were old - contributed to the food crisis.
A senior aid agency official told IRIN on Friday: "There were seven million people in need then, at that time there was a crisis because maize had not been harvested. Now maize has been harvested. But presently the assessment is that about 600,000 households, which should be about 3.1 million people, are currently needing assistance."
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'824
Already struggling to cope with food shortages, Malawi was dealt another blow on Wednesday when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it would delay the disbursement of US $47 million in aid.
An IMF statement read: "Lack of good governance has resulted in a misallocation of resources, increased the cost of doing business, created a general distrust in public sector activities, and weakened civil service morale."
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'790
NAMIBIA: Poor regional rainfall slashes harvest expectations
Namibia's Kavango and Caprivi regions will see only a third of their normal maize harvest this year due to sparse rainfall. This falls in line with multi-agency warnings that harvests will be below normal throughout Southern Africa this year.
A government source told IRIN an assessment conducted this week showed that communal farmers will only harvest about 27 percent of their cereal needs.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'823
For the 70 percent of Namibians who depend on subsistence farming, finding solutions to desertification is vital. The Namibian government and UNDP has launched Desertification 2002, a regional network to link affected communities and governments and scientists. The idea is to share knowledge on community initiatives to combat desertification.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'759
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Vulnerable elderly ignored
Extreme food shortages and HIV/AIDS are forcing the elderly in Southern Africa to become breadwinners all over again, HelpAge said on Wednesday.
The organisation recently conducted a study on the plight of the elderly in Southern Africa and found that grandparents are using their meagre resources to fill the void left by their children who are either searching for work in the cities, or who are too sick to work. In some families where the children have been orphaned, grandparents have stepped in as the main caregivers.
Malawi and Zimbabwe are worst hit, where both governments have already declared national disasters and pleaded for help for the millions who face starvation.
"Older people are shouldering immense responsibility in the face of food shortages and they face a multiplicity of problems," Tavengwa Nhongo, HelpAge regional representative for Africa told IRIN.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'794
SOUTH AFRICA: Focus on Lindela detention centre
Stella is 23-years-old and about to be deported to Zimbabwe. For R1,000 a month (about US $100) she prepared salads and sandwiches in a pub in Johannesburg's wealthy northern suburbs.
In her hometown of Bulawayo she had no work. Last week on her way home she was stopped by police in Johannesburg's high-rise suburb of Hillbrow and asked for her identity document. Unable to produce one she was allowed to go home to collect toiletries and some personal items and then taken to the infamous Lindela repatriation centre outside Krugersdorp.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'810
Government wakes up to flight of health workers
South Africa's leading nurses' union on Tuesday welcomed comments by the government addressing the debilitating flight of health professionals from the country.
Speaking at a Commonwealth meeting of health ministers in Geneva, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said: "The recruitment of health workers from developing countries has created unforeseen shortages in those countries."
She said that the exodus of medical professionals could be stemmed by bilateral agreements between developing and developed countries.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'765
Township gets major facelift
Already the construction trucks have moved in, and the foundations have been laid. In one year, the South African government has promised that people who are now living in one of the country's most overcrowded townships will be able to move into new, properly serviced homes.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'750
SWAZILAND: Focus on marijuana cultivation
Swaziland, as signatory to international agreements to control illegal narcotics, has little choice but to disrupt marijuana cultivation in the kingdom. But many traditional Swazis are confused.
Insangu, as the inebriating weed is known in the SiSwati language, is the customary relaxant of the headman of a Swazi homestead. Its usage is traditionally discouraged among young people, but is enshrined as a privilege of the elders.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID'820
MOZAMBIQUE: Britain wipes debt
Britain has written off all of Mozambique's bilateral debt totalling US $152 million under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative, officials said on Thursday.
More details: http://www.irinnews.org./report.asp?ReportID'809
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