Ghana + 3 more

IRIN Update 607 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35

AFRICA: Slavery must be eradicated, Annan says

The persistence of slavery, in an era of progress in respecting human rights, is egregious UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement on 2 December marking the observance of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Even though laws banning slavery are enshrined in international instruments, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still practiced in many forms, Annan said.

These include traditional chattel slavery, bonded labour, serfdom, child labour, migrant labour, domestic and forced labour and slavery for ritual or religious purposes.

"Trafficking and related practices such as debt bondage, forced prostitution and forced labour are violations of the most basic of human rights," he said.

Child trafficking is an acknowledged problem in some West African countries. A 1998 report by UNICEF on "Child Labour and Trafficking in West and Central Africa" said that the main suppliers of child labour were Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Togo. The principal recipients are Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Benin and Nigeria fall into both categories.

AFRICA: Two million Africans die of AIDS

While 200,000 people died last year in Africa as a result of conflicts and natural disasters, two million died of AIDS, Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UN-AIDS), said on Wednesday.

In a news conference at UN headquarters in New York on the occasion of World AIDS Day, he said AIDS was the most deadly undeclared war and a challenge to the international community.

[For full story see IRIN separate titled 'AFRICA: Two million Africans die of AIDS']

WEST AFRICA: Central banks to set up fund backing travellers cheques

West African central banks have decided for set up a credit fund between now and January 2000 to guarantee the ECOWAS travellers cheques introduced on 1 July for the citizens of the 16 member countries. The fund is being set up by the central banks of ECOWAS and the Agence Monetaire Ouest-Africaine (AMAO) countries, ECOWAS said.

GHANA: Hundreds of thousands affected by floods

Recent floods in northern Ghana have affected some 291,573 people, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report issued on Wednesday.

In response, the UN food agency, WFP, will provide 900 mt of maize and 83 mt of beans as one month supply for approximately 50,000 vulnerable people. These include women, children and the elderly in Northern Region, (30,000), Upper East Region (12,000) and Upper West Region (8,000), OCHA said.

The report, which summarised a recent meeting between the UN and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), added that because of flood-damaged farmland yields would be reduced by 50-60 percent, therefore mid-term assistance would include seeds and farming tools. It recommended that a technical assessment team conduct a comprehensive food requirements mission.

Mosquito nets and vaccination campaigns needed

Emergency health needs for some 30,000 people over three months will be provided by WHO and UNICEF and include 12,000 mosquito nets, 90 emergency medical kits, vaccines, syringes and additional drugs. Drugs to provide free health care are also needed until the next harvesting period in September for people whose income has been affected by the floods.

Water and sanitation remains a problem as small dams and wells were destroyed, particularly in the Upper East Region, and many water sources have been contaminated. Technical assistance and community training for appropriate water purification treatment is needed, OCHA reported.

Shelter and road reconstruction

Some 6,600 houses were damaged and 2,500 destroyed during the floods. Tents and plastic sheeting already provided by the Japanese government and UNHCR will meet immediate needs but cement and construction materials are required to repair partially damaged homes, NADMO said. A survey of additional shelter, reconstruction and rehabilitation requirements has begun, it added.

The estimated cost of road reconstruction in Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions is put at US $3.23 million.

NIGERIA: Red Cross aids victims of Lagos clashes

The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) and the ICRC provided immediate help to victims of last week's clashes between Yoruba and Hausa traders in the densely populated Ketu area of Lagos, ICRC reported.

The NRCS provided first aid through 52 volunteers and evacuated 150 casualties to two area hospitals. The ICRC provided dressings to the two hospitals treating the wounded and providing drinking water for the 700 displaced who took refugee at the Ketu Police Station, the ICRC said.

The authorities provided free medical treatment to the victims, according to ICRC, which described police cooperation as "very good".

Fighting broke out on 25 November over control and collection of levies at Mile 12 market. Police reported 90 deaths and extensive damage to property.

NIGERIA: Refugees ask for political asylum

Some 97 Sierra Leonean refugees living at Oru camp in Ogun State, some 120 km from Lagos, have asked the federal government for political asylum to avoid repatriation, 'The Guardian' reported.

"We cannot go back now. If we do, we shall be killed," the newspaper reported, quoting a letter addressed to President Olusegun Obasanjo and signed by Alpheus Rogers on behalf of the refugees.

A UNHCR official in Lagos expressed surprise that the students had written such a letter to the president.

"Most of the refugees living at Oru camp are students," Marie-Jose Santos Kpakpo, UNHCR's Administrative and Programme Officer in Lagos told IRIN. "They wrote to us saying that they wanted to go home so that they could start the new academic year in January," she added.

There are currently some 1,600 Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria.

SIERRA LEONE: NGO to start emergency malaria control programme

A new emergency malaria control programme including bed net distribution and insecticide spraying is due to begin shortly in Kenema District in eastern Sierra Leone, MERLIN Programme Coordinator Glyn Taylor told IRIN on Thursday.

"The programme will start in about two weeks and will mainly target children between the ages of 0-5 years and pregnant and lactating mothers," the Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN) coordinator said.

The first phase will last between 3-4 months and will include spraying the temporary shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kenema town alongside a health education programme. Thousands of bed nets will then be distributed to the local population at a nominal cost. A second phase aims to take the programme beyond the town into regional health centres, Taylor said.

Partners in the programme, which aims to target between 20,000 and 30,000 people, include WHO and the Ministry of Health, MERLIN said.

MERLIN provides nutritional feeding to over 200 severely malnourished and some 1,000 moderately malnourished children in Kenema District. It is re-establishing and restocking one hospital and 18 health centres with drugs and equipment to provide care and health education to mothers and young children in Kenema and Bo Districts.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG responds to Bockarie

The West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) condemned on Wednesday the recent statement by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) "field commander" Sam Bockarie in which he objected to his troops being disarmed by ECOMOG soldiers.

"ECOMOG High Command views Sam Bockarie's attitude with great concern and wishes to assure the general public that his threats are not capable of reversing the progress so far made in the peace efforts in Sierra Leone," ECOMOG said.

Bockarie told the BBC on Monday that he did not want his troops disarmed by ECOMOG or by former ECOMOG soldiers due to be absorbed into the UN peacekeeping force. He added that the Nigerians must leave Sierra Leone before he would cooperate with the UN.

Meanwhile ECOMOG said it was satisfied with its "interaction with the RUF leadership", which confirms that Bockarie's statements were personal and that he was acting alone. It added that RUF leader Foday Sankoh had been supporting the bodies involved in the implementation of the disarmament process.

LIBERIA: IMF assessment team arrive

A five-member International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation has arrived in Liberia to continue the preparation of an economic development programme, Reuters quoted Kiss Radio as saying on Wednesday.

The pro-Charles Taylor station said that the team was in the country to help the government in its economic reform and national reconstruction programme.

Private investors have been returning to Monrovia in recent months, Reuters reported, and an international multi-donor mission completed an assessment of Liberia's reconstruction needs in November. Its findings will inform donors on how best to deliver on pledges made at a conference in Paris in 1998 in which 11 countries agreed to provide Liberia with some US $220 million in a two-year national reconstruction programme.

Abidjan, 2 December 1999; 19:15 GMT


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