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SIERRA LEONE: Amputee employment scheme launched
An employment scheme for amputees in Freetown, launched on Monday, has already resulted in the recruitment of six men, each with at least one limb missing, as security guards for private companies.
Launched by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the scheme involves registering the amputees and recording such information as their prior experience, qualifications, their disability and the type of work they prefer. The information is then sent to potential employers who select those they wish to interview.
"The response from the government and the business community has been very positive," Steen Wetlesen, Head of the IFRC Delegation in Freetown, told IRIN. "Amputees can get jobs as security guards, teachers, meter readers, guards and gatekeepers and in other areas," he added.
Steen said that obtaining employment helped the reconciliation process as it was easier for amputees to forgive and forget if they had a job. He said the six who had already found work were very happy to be employed. "They see themselves as the icebreakers for all the other amputees," he said, adding that 200 amputees in Freetown had registered for work during the past three weeks.
The possibility of future employment was also encouraging amputees to register for prosthetic treatment as some felt that it boosted their job prospects, Steen said.
At the Murray Town Limb Fitting Centre in Western Freetown Handicap International (HI) has fitted more than 80 limbs since April 1999. The centre houses more than 150 amputees, including some ex-combatants who had been through Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process.
Amputees spend on average 3-4 months in the centre, Kombah Pessima, HI's Programme Director in Sierra Leone, told IRIN. Most of the time is spent preparing the stump for prosthesis, Pessima said, and operations are often required. Another two weeks is spent training recipients in the use of artificial limbs. Psychological counselling is also provided when needed, Pessima said.
Both arms and legs are made at the centre's orthopaedic workshop, where up to 12 limbs can be produced per week. This includes "aesthetic prosthetics", where limbs look normal, and "functional prosthetics" were amputees are given the use of aids such as hooks to enable them to perform basic tasks, Pessima said.
Hundreds of Freetown residents - and many more in the rest of the country - lost limbs during the RUF's occupation of the capital in January 1999 and, to a lesser extent, in February 1998 when retreating AFRC/RUF fighters mutilated people as ECOMOG took Freetown. In the countryside, the first such cases were recorded in 1992, according to Handicap International.
NIGERIA: Delta group demands development projects
Youths from the Niger Delta states of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom on Tuesday asked the federal government to provide "people-oriented" development projects in their areas following the region's return to peace, 'The Guardian' reported.
The national president of the Niger Delta Oil Producing Communities Development Organisation (NIDOPCODO), Saturday Eregbene, said that following "intensive dialogue" between his organisation and militant groups, fighters and kidnappers in the Delta had promised to end the violence there.
Speaking on behalf of the youths he said the "government, oil companies and all lovers of peace should now channel resources towards meaningful and appreciable development of the region", 'The Guardian' reported.
The youths are asking for developmental facilities, job creation and joint participation of the Niger Delta communities in oil exploration and exploitation in their region, according to Eregbene.
NIGERIA: Youths seize toll gate
Some 300 youths on Tuesday seized a toll gate linking Akwa Ibom and other parts of the east to Cross River following a face off between the two states, 'The Guardian' reported.
The newspaper reported a witness as saying that traffic at the gate was held up for over five hours as the protesting youths, mainly from Itu in Akwa Ibom, insisted that no vehicle was going to cross into or out of Cross River State. The youths were protesting against the recent surrendering of Efiat East and West to Bakassi in Cross River. They charged that Bakassi was not in Cross River but in Akwa Ibom, 'The Guardian' reported.
They were also angry about a resolution passed last week by the Cross River state government requesting the removal or redeployment of Akwa Ibom indigenes in the Cross River State public service, the daily said. Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor Chris Ekpenyong has assured indigenes of the state working in Cross River of their job security in case of any sackings.
He added that in spite of the ties linking the two states Akwa Ibom could not afford the luxury of donating land to Cross River because of "its insatiable greed for oil."
NIGERIA: Concern over illegal weapons in Niger Delta
Delta State Governor James Ibori says he is seriously concerned about the widespread illegal possession of arms and ammunition by youths in the state, 'The Vanguard' reported on Tuesday.
Ibori, addressing a pan-Ijaw National Youths conference at Burutu in the state at the weekend, warned that "stringent measures" would be taken to deal with individuals committing violent acts, 'The Vanguard' said. He told the meeting of Ijaw elders, leaders and youths to cooperate with the government in finding a lasting solution to "the problem of proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the hands of youths".
NIGERIA: Senate begins investigation of OPC
A committee set up by Nigeria's senate to investigate the activities of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) in the southwest of the country began on Tuesday in Lagos, 'The Vanguard' newspaper reported.
The seven-man committee was formed as a result of a letter written by President Olusegun Obasanjo to Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu as well as the governor's reply. In mid-January, Obasanjo said that he might impose a state of emergency in Nigeria's commercial capital if Tinubu failed to stop the deterioration of security there. Tinubu responded by blaming the federal government for the insecurity.
The committee will present its findings in a report to the senate president, the daily said.
NIGERIA: Yobe residents opposed to new local government area
The chairman of Gujba local government in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe has said that the people of the area are opposed to the creation of a new local government area from the present one, 'The Guardian' reported.
Gujba Chairman Dala Mala told journalists that Governor Ibrahim Bukar wanted to carve Gotala local government area out of Gujba against the wish of the people because he wanted to site the headquarters of the proposed council in his village, Gonari.
The population of Gujba is less than 60,000 and if the proposed local government were created, it would be left with fewer than 20,000 people, based on the 1991 census, the daily reported Mala as saying.
Mala added that the council would take legal action against the state government if it went ahead to create the proposed Gotala local government area against the wish of the people, 'The Guardian' said.
WEST AFRICA: Good harvests expected in the Sahel
Peoples in the Sahel will be less hungry this year as abundant rains in 1999 have provided excellent conditions for harvests and animals, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) says in its latest Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) bulletin.
Pastoralists and food access
In Mauritania, food access for pastoralists "continues to be the best in years" and animal prices are high. In the east of the country, farm households have ample cereals and other staples. However, rain-fed harvests have been poor in the west and irrigated crops have been lost because of flooding.
"Those who were the most affected and were scheduled to receive food aid between November and January still have not received their three-month ration," FEWS said in its bulletin for 31 January.
Signs of malnutrition in adults and children were detected in December 1999 in one village in Brakna Wilaya. Food deliveries for these people were delayed by logistical constraints.
Prospects for the rice harvest are still good as the threat of grain-eating birds has been greatly reduced because of successful control methods over the past two years. In addition, off-season gardening is underway in all regions and prospects "are excellent", FEWS says, because of abundant ground, surface and river water.
Burkina Faso and Niger
Markets in Burkina Faso remained well supplied with cereals and other staples up to early January. Produce from off-season gardening is available in markets.
For the second consecutive year in neighbouring Niger, the availability of food is expected to be above average for 1999/2000, and the National Early Warning System, SAPS, says there will not be any need for emergency food aid.
Despite this, SAPS says that food security is tenuous in some parts of the country. It has determined that seven cities and 35 districts are vulnerable to food insecurity, the worst affected being Guidan Roundji, Bilma (about 1,310 km northeast of the capital, Niamey) and Diffa, some 1,070 km east of Niamey.
Although rain-fed cereal harvests in Chad's Sahelian zone are expected to be smaller than the FAO/CILSS pre-harvest estimate of 600,000 mt, FEWS says, they are expected to be near average. It says the country's Action Committee for Food Security and Crisis Management (CASAGC) reported a decrease in harvests toward the end of the season because of pest attacks in northern Batha and Biltine. Moreover, excess moisture hampered short-cycle millet growth in Kanem.
In Chad's Sudanian zone, rain-fed floods damaged crops in October 1999. In the Maro and Sahr rural sub-prefectures, residents are experiencing problems, especially around Danamadji where crops were "almost completely destroyed". However, food production was exceptional in the unflooded parts of the Sudanian zone.
Abidjan, 2 February 2000; 17:22 GMT
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