Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 4



Weekly - Year VI, number 4 – 11 March 2005

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.           

Good News Agency carries positive and constructive news from all over the world relating to voluntary work, the work of the United Nations, non governmental organizations, and institutions engaged in improving the quality of life – news that doesn’t “burn out” in the space of a day. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti. Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next.  It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 3,700 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGOs and service associations.

It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it has been included as an international organization in the web site



International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

HealthEnvironment and wildlifeCulture and education



International legislation



Law bans imports of non-iodized salt in Georgia

Almost half of the children in Georgia face the risk of mental retardation and brain damage caused by iodine deficiency

Tbilisi, Georgia, 3 March - The Parliament of Georgia has made a major breakthrough in the fight against iodine deficiency, adopting new legislation to outlaw imports of non-iodized salt. The new law: “Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency” will come into force in six months. (…)

The Law will contribute to a National Policy on Food Fortification as well as setting standards for the import and production of iodized salt and other fortified food products. It also aims to strengthen State supervision and inter-agency coordination. 

Measures will be put in place over the next six months to ensure that the legislation is effective once it comes into force. These include setting up reliable quality control mechanisms as well as ensuring easy access to iodized salt for the population.

The law is the result of joint efforts by the Government of Georgia and UNICEF. The active involvement of Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs in the fight against iodine deficiency has also led to positive changes. (…)


Global tobacco treaty enters into force with 57 countries already committed

Parties represent 2.3 billion people

24 February, Geneva -- The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) enters into force on Sunday 27 February 2005. This represents an historical moment in public health, as the Treaty gives countries more tools to control tobacco use and save lives. On the 27th, the provisions of the Treaty will be legally binding for the first 40 countries that became Contracting Parties before 30 November 2004.

Tobacco is the second leading cause of death globally, causing nearly five million deaths a year. Estimates show that it will prematurely kill ten million people a year by 2020 if current trends are not reversed. Tobacco is the only legal product that causes the death of half of its regular users. This means that out of 1.3 billion smokers, 650 million people will die prematurely.

Seventeen additional countries have become Party to the treaty since 29 November. For these, and every country which becomes Party from now on, the Treaty becomes legally binding 90 days after their date of deposit of the instrument of ratification or equivalent at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. (…)

Now, with the entry into force, countries Party to the WHO FCTC are bound to translate its general provisions into national laws and regulations. These countries, for example, will have three years from the day it enters into force for that country to implement measures to ensure that tobacco packaging has strong health warnings, or five years to establish comprehensive tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans, among others. (…)



Human rights



World Day against Child Labour 2005 to focus on child labour in mines and quarries

Geneva, 25 February - The plight of children who work in mines and quarries that are often dangerous, dirty and can post a grave risk to their health and safety will be the focus of the fourth World Day Against Child Labour, scheduled for 12 June 2005, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said today.

The ILO estimates that some one million children work in small scale mining and quarrying around the world. (…) The experience of the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) - which has conducted pilot projects in Mongolia, Tanzania, Niger and the Andean countries of South America - demonstrates that it is feasible to eliminate child labour in dangerous conditions by helping the mining and quarrying communities acquire legal rights, organize cooperatives or other productive units, improve the health and safety and productivity of adult workers, and secure essential services - such as schools, clean water and sanitation systems - in these often remote regions.

The ILO launched the World Day in June 2002 as a means of raising the visibility of the problem and highlighting the global movement to eliminate child labour, particularly its worst forms. This year, on and about 12 June, local and national organizations and many children's groups are expected to join with ILO constituents around the world to observe the World Day, which occurs during the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva, and to emphasize the need for the immediate removal of child workers from small scale mines and quarries.


Global launch of the Women’s Global Charter for Humanity

Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 25 – On March 8, International Women’s Day, the World March of Women is launching the Women’s Global Charter for Humanity. The global launch is taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Brazilian women are holding a march. Joining them will be women from Quebec, where the March was initiated, and delegates from Cameroon, Congo and Burkina Faso, where the relay of the Charter will end on October 17, 2005. (…)

Delegates of the World March of Women gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, adopted the Charter on December 10, 2004. The Women’s Global Charter for Humanity is a proposal to build a world where exploitation, oppression, intolerance and exclusion no longer exist and where integrity, diversity and the rights and freedoms of all are respected. It contains 31 affirmations describing the principles essential to the construction of such a world. These affirmations are based on five values: equality, freedom, solidarity, justice and peace.

From March 8 till October 17, women of the World March are organizing a Relay to pass the Charter around the world. The Relay will last till October 17, 2005, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. During the Relay, women will hold public education and information activities about the Charter, challenge their elected representatives, and question public opinion. (…) The World March of Women is a global feminist action network made up of 5500 women’s groups from 163 countries and territories. The World March of Women is struggling for an end to poverty and violence against women.



Economy and development



New 7th Ethiopian Youth Forum on youth and unemployment

Addis Ababa, 7 March - The Ethiopian Youth Forum held its seventh session on the subject of ‘Youth and Unemployment’ on Friday 4 March.  Following a full day meeting where the results of a survey on Unemployment and Youth conducted among high school students in Addis Ababa, Nazreth and Debre Zeit towns were presented, the Forum participants developed ten recommendations which were presented to H.E. Hassen Abdella, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. The Forum also began work on developing a ‘Youth Plan of Action on Unemployment’ which will be presented to stakeholders including Government, NGO, UN agency, media and civil society organizations.

In his opening statement Mr. Robert Okello, Director of Office of Policy and Programme Coordination of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said: “This gathering serves as another wake-up call to all of us in our obligations to give consideration to the youth development agenda of African countries, both at the national and regional levels. It is my personal pleasure, as the Director of the ECA Division working on youth related issues, to note that today’s Forum is taking place right at the time when ECA is developing strategies for fulfilling the promise we made last October to devote the next African Development Forum (ADF) to youth issues, under the theme “Youth for Leadership in the 21st Century”.

In his statement Mr. Hans Spruijt, on behalf of the UNICEF Representative, said: “I had the privilege of observing some of your discussions at the symposium and one thing that all of you made absolutely clear to everyone sitting in those meeting rooms was that youth are not just the future of Africa – youth are the present. If you are the present, then it is imperative that you are engaged in the development agenda and made partners in all social, economic and political spheres.  That is the only way that any meaningful change for the better is going to take place in countries like Ethiopia where youth make up such a large segment of the population.”

For further information contact UNICEF Communication:


Economic opportunities for rural women are key to eliminating poverty, IFAD tells UN conference

New York, 7 March - Rural women must be at the centre of poverty reduction strategies if real progress is to be made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the plenary of the 49th Session of the UN Commission on the Status on Women was reminded today.  “It is crucial to put rural women’s needs and priorities at the centre of development efforts if hunger and poverty are to be eradicated,” said Phrang Roy, Assistant President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

More than 75 per cent of the world’s 1.1 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas of developing countries. The majority are women. Speaking on the eve of International Women’s Day, Roy said IFAD prioritized the economic empowerment of women as one of the fundamentals for broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction. For this to be possible, women need secure access to productive resources such as land, water for agriculture and financial capital. (…)

On Wednesday 9 March, IFAD will bring together policymakers, development practitioners and activists at a high-level round-table discussion on Rural Women’s Access to Land and Property.

The following day, Thursday 10 March, IFAD will co-host an event on the issue of gender, land and water with the International Land Coalition (ILC). The Coalition, of which IFAD was a founder in 1996, is an alliance of intergovernmental, governmental and civil-society organizations.

For more information: Farhana Haque-Rahman, Chief, Media Relations, Special Events and Programmes


Jengi fever: Forest management in the Congo Basin

By Olivier van Bogaert

4 March - Not so long ago we were exchanging insults with ecologists. Today we are working hand in hand with them – Guy Decolvenaere, GD-Groupe Decolvenaere.  These are remarkable words of a Belgian entrepreneur with two logging concessions and two wood processing sites in the dense forests of south-east Cameroon who only several years ago saw environmental groups, like WWF, as an impediment to his company’s way of doing business.

When WWF set up a conservation project in 1998 in this part of Cameroon, with particular emphasis on sustainable forest management, the logging industry was not happy.

At that time management plans were rare within logging concessions throughout the 30,000km2 area that the project covers, with little consideration given to environmental concerns and unsustainable logging practices. But years of work on the ground by WWF to raise awareness on the issue, and to bridge the gap between local communities and multinational companies operating in the same area, have radically changed the picture, or the forest, as the case may be.

Today, in what seems like a complete turn around, Guy Decolvenaere’s company has in place management plans for its logging concessions, recently announcing that it will work with WWF's Central African Regional Programme Office (CARPO) towards forest certification and timber labelling using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.

“We have chosen FSC certification because of its complete programme, namely forest exploitation, protection and respect of biodiversity, and social aspects that take into consideration the improved livelihood of local populations,” said Guy Decolvenaere, Director of GD-Decolvenaere in Cameroon. “We have also decided to work with WWF because not only are they experts in matters of sustainable forest management, they are permanently on the ground to give a helping hand.”

Decolvenaere is hoping to obtain a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label by the end of this year. When this happens, they will be the first logging company to receive such a label in tropical Africa. (…)


Traditional knowledge combined with modern technology will enable poor farmers to improve crop and animal production in Yemen

Rome 4 March 2005 – About 30,000 families in nine districts of Al-Dhala in central Yemen will be able to grow more crops and raise healthier animals through a project that will introduce new farming technologies. The families will also gain access to credit.

The US$22.8 million project will be financed by a US$14.4 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters by Lennart Båge, President of IFAD and Ahmed Mohammed Sofan, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation for Yemen.

Farmers in this area plant crops on small rainfed plots of land and have little money to pay for fertilizer. They rely on livestock for food and animal power for agricultural production, but do not have easy access to medicines or veterinary services to keep their animals healthy. As a result, yields are low, and poverty acute.

“This project will revive and modernize many elements of the traditional way of life,” says Mohammed Hassani, country programme manager of Yemen. “It will make water harvesting systems more efficient, help herders gain access to animal medicines and train women in basic finance so informal credit schemes become even more potent.” (…)


UNODC and UNIDO join forces to fight drug trafficking and improve economic development

Vienna, Austria, 3 March, 2005 - Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, and UNIDO Director-General Carlos Magariños, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve their abilities to fight drug trafficking and improve development in some of the poorest nations on earth. Afghanistan, Colombia, Laos, Morocco, and Nigeria are all plagued with underdeveloped private sector enterprise, rampant drug trafficking, or both. These nations will be the first to benefit from the new agreement. (…)

UNIDO aims to improve the economic development of small and medium sized business enterprises, to assist the private sector in agro-industrial development, and to eliminate corruption to improve industrial performance. For UNIDO, this cooperation agreement is a new one in the series of strategic partnerships in the UN Reform context, following those already concluded with WTO and UNDP.

The main focus of the UNODC will be improving disposal of seized narcotics, and ensuring that the methods of disposal adhere to UNODC sustainable livelihood policies. UNODC will also work to improve the efficiency criminal justice systems in developing countries. The organizations will work together to improve technical research and analysis and to better control the disposal of chemicals both locally and globally.


China and UNDP promote Silk Road cooperation

2 March - UNDP has recently unveiled a major regional initiative--the Silk Road Regional Programme (SRRP), aiming at reviving economic and cultural links bridging China and the Central Asian countries. This programme is inspired by the ancient tradition of the Silk Road, and will promote modern forms of cooperation supported by advanced technologies.

“Regional cooperation is a key to help meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting growth and equality,” said Khalid Malik, UNDP Resident Representative in China, at a press conference to announce the outcome of the inception meeting of the SRRP, which took place from 15-17 February in Beijing, China.

The discussions during the two-day meeting between the five participating countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and China – marked the beginning of a strategic dialogue focusing on implementation of the SRRP. This initiative will focus on strengthening cooperation in three areas - trade, investment and tourism - between China and the four Central Asian countries.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will be a key partner to the programme, as it will provide a regional platform for dialogue among the countries concerned, as well as between their public and private sectors. (…)

At meeting held in UN headquarters in New York Germany becomes new State member of ECLAC

The Federal Republic of Germany was welcomed into the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

17 February 2005 - The Federal Republic of Germany yesterday was welcomed into the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as a full member, at a meeting of the 23rd Committee of the Whole of this regional United Nations body, held today in New York with the participation of delegates from 34 member and four associate countries.

Germany is one of the most active European countries in terms of technical cooperation with ECLAC, through German's Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), and for some years has been its main bilateral cooperant, as well as having historical, cultural and economic ties with the region. ECLAC now has 42 member and seven associate states, including six other European countries: Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Moreover, at this Committee of the Whole meeting, José Luis Machinea, ECLAC Executive Secretary, presented two major economic and social reports on Latin America and the Caribbean. He noted that in 2004 the region's economic growth recovered, climbing to 5.5%, making it possible to reduce poverty by 1% over the previous year, although with no change in the region's poor income distribution. (…)






WFP and Japan join forces for school feeding and human security

Yokohama, Japan, 4 March – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Japan have forged a partnership to promote human security through school feeding.  "WFP believes that providing a nutritious meal at school is a simple but concrete way to ensure that this will be the first-ever millennium free from hunger, and there's no more urgent place to start than Africa." said John Powell, WFP Deputy Executive Director, concluding a two-day annual consultation with government officials in Tokyo.

As part of the Millennium Development Goals, world leaders pledged to halve the percentage of the world's population that go hungry by 2015. WFP believes that one of the surest ways to achieve this goal is to provide malnourished children with both food and education. The agency is the largest organiser of school feeding programmes in the developing world, currently reaching some 16 million children. It aims to increase that to 50 million children by 2007. (…)

Japan and the World Food Programme share a strong commitment to Africa and discussed challenges facing the continent such as HIV, hunger and peace-building. As the largest humanitarian actor in Africa, WFP invested some US $1.5 billion (¥155 billion) in food aid for Africa in 2003. Japan has placed increasing importance on Africa since hosting the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 1993. (…)


Livelihoods next step to tsunami recovery in Thailand, says UNDP Official

Bangkok, 2 March – Restoring livelihoods and rehabilitating the coastal environment top the list of new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) post-tsunami initiatives in Thailand. These areas of long-term recovery support were announced today by Hafiz Pasha, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific, during his last stop on a two-week trip through Asian countries hardest hit by the tsunami. His trip included Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia ending today in Thailand, where he visited devastated Kao Lak communities in Phang Nga Province.

“The initial phases of emergency relief resulting from the Thai tsunami have ended, yet thousands of people remain affected,” says Mr. Pasha. “UNDP is now looking towards assistance for long-term recovery and reconstruction of tsunami-hit regions along the Andaman coast, with the pressing task of restoring livelihoods and hope for the future.”

UNDP estimates that over 120,000 people have been adversely affected in Thailand’s fisheries sector alone. Nearly 500 fishing villages along the Andaman coast are seriously affected, nearly 30,000 households dependant on fisheries have lost their means of livelihood, and over 4,500 fishing boats have been destroyed or damaged. UNDP will support community-managed small grants projects to help restore basic sources of income. This support will include micro-grants for repairing of productive assets such as fishing gear and boats. Returned money will be reinvested into a community revolving fund to finance training and planning for alternative livelihoods, as well as the integration of disaster mitigation measures where appropriate.

Special consideration will be given to maintaining traditional livelihoods and indigenous culture while promoting alternative livelihoods. Villages participating in this scheme are in Phang Nga, Ranong and Krabi provinces, and include sea gypsy and Muslim communities on Koh Lanta and Koh Sai Dam. (…)


Counterpart and local church community coordinate emergency tsunami relief

Displaced families in the tsunami affected region of Colombo, Sri Lanka will receive 350 emergency relief kits in the first shipment of such packages, thanks to generous donations.

Washington, DC, March 2  –Some 350 families displaced by the tsunami will receive critically needed emergency relief items thanks to a surge of donations and support from a Maryland church community, the staff of an international relief organization and transportation companies in the United States.  Sri Lankan families, huddled in one of three camps set up in the east cost town of Komari, will receive emergency kits thanks to the initiative of a Counterpart staffer who mobilized support and resources from her congregation and from shippers.

Yang Hee Kim, Counterpart International's Transportation Manager and Export Specialist in its Community and Humanitarian Assistance Programs (CHAP) division, spearheaded the kits project and brought it to fruition.  In addition to generous cash donations for the purchase of the supplies, church members of the local Gaithersburg, Maryland Hosanna Methodist Church joined Kim after their Sunday service a few weeks ago to assemble the kits. Along with this support, Kim also found unwavering cooperation from the freight forwarding company John S. Connor, Inc. and Austrian Airlines, which both donated their shipping services to deliver the kits to Colombo, Sri Lanka. (…)


Happy Anniversary Online Volunteering!

Celebrating five years of connected development:

Bonn, 1 March  – The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme’s Online Volunteering (OV) service, which connects non-profit and nongovernmental organizations working in the South with people willing to volunteer their skills over the Internet, marks its fifth anniversary today.

Since its launch in March 2000, some 30,000 people have joined the OV service, with more than half taking on an assignment.

This support has reached more than 600 organizations from the North and South who work to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, empower women, educate children, stop the spread of killer diseases like Aids, and cure other development ills identified as priorities within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.

Connected at home, in school or universities, in the office, or in libraries, online volunteers complement the work of these organizations by carrying out a multitude of tasks. Examples of engagement include: developing fundraising strategies to expand operations, building networks to generate support for projects, translating documents to achieve greater outreach, and creating websites to publicize and promote. (…)

To find out more about how the OV service and online volunteers are contributing to development, please visit the OV service’s special anniversary website:


Liberia: Tools distributed to 65,000 families

Monrovia (ICRC), 24 February – Anxious to play an active role in helping Liberians return to villages they once fled to escape fighting, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed tools to more than 65,000 families living in 1,300 villages. (…)

The ICRC has placed the tools in the care of committees made up of village chiefs, elders and women's representatives. They will ensure that everyone in the community has access to them. (…) Rural families need to clear brush from their lands and rebuild their houses before the planting season. The next step will come with the distribution of 1,430 tonnes of rice, bean and vegetable seed to these communities in March and April, before the end of the planting season. Last year, the ICRC distributed tools and seed to 30,000 families in Liberia.


Rotary leaders help feed the hungry on centennial anniversary

By Maureen Vaught and Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga

24 February -  Rotary leaders attending the International Assembly in Anaheim, California, USA, marked Rotary's 100th birthday by participating in a hands-on initiative to feed the hungry.

All of the 525 district governors-elect in Anaheim, their trainers, and senior leaders repacked more than 58,000 pounds of canned food at the warehouse of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, California, near the assembly venue on 23 February. In addition, they saved more than $26,000 from the cost of that day's lunch by eating a simple meal of soup and bread.

The Orange County food bank is part of a network operating under the umbrella of America's Second Harvest, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago.

RI President-elect Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, initiator of the centennial anniversary effort, presented a check for $26,731.08 to Robert Forney, president and CEO of America's Second Harvest, at the warehouse. (…) Many district governors-elect expressed how significant it was to spend the first day of Rotary's second century doing a volunteer project. All of the incoming governors were so moved by the experience that each is taking home as a souvenir an empty box from the Second Harvest warehouse. (…)


ONE Voice Can Make a Big Difference.

Join with CARE and The ONE Campaign in the fight against AIDS and poverty

CARE is participating in The ONE Campaign to rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. Through The ONE Campaign, each ONE of us can make a difference. Together, as ONE, we can change the world.

By directing an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget toward providing the most basic needs — and fighting the corruption that wastes precious resources — we can help transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the poorest countries.

Sign The One Campaign Declaration today and add your name to the list of people who think more should be done to fight AIDS and poverty.

With an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget, we can

ONE percent of the U.S. budget is $25 billion, and redirecting that much money would have to be done over time. Directed to honest governments, private charities and other organizations, this support would provide the tools and resources they need to really make a difference.

Show your support at:






Measles deaths drop by nearly 40 per cent over five years

Africa leads efforts to halve deaths from a leading child killer by the end of 2005

Geneva/New York, 4 March - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today announced that countries are on target to halve deaths from measles, a leading vaccine-preventable killer, by the end of the year.  Global measles deaths have plummeted by 39%, from 873 000 in 1999 to an estimated 530 000 in 2003 . 

The largest reduction occurred in Africa, the region with the highest burden of the disease, where estimated measles deaths decreased by 46%. (…)

Measles is an important cause of childhood deaths.  Only a decade ago, measles killed millions of children each year and affected 30 million more, leaving many with life-long disabilities like blindness and brain damage. (…) The dramatic decline in measles deaths is made possible through the commitment of governments to fully implement the WHO/UNICEF strategy for sustainable measles mortality reduction. 

The strategy seeks to achieve routine measles immunization coverage of at least 90% in every district and to ensure that every child from nine months to 14 years of age receives a "second opportunity" for measles immunization through routine services or supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) every three to four years. The SIAs have proven especially effective. From 1999 to 2003, more than 350 million children throughout the world were vaccinated against measles through SIAs. (…)


MSF starts vaccination campaign in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo 

MSF teams on bicycles, motorbikes and boats are inoculating close to 35,000 children between birth and 15 years against all routine antigens, with children older than 5 years receiving protection against measles. 

Baraka, 3 March - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started to vaccinate approximately 35,000 children and 5,000 pregnant women in the Fizi territory, on Lake Tanganyika in South Kivu province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The accelerated vaccination campaign covers all 34 so-called 'aires de santé' of the Fizi health zone, including hard to access areas such as the Ubwari peninsula and the Hautx Plateaux region of Fizi.

MSF teams on bicycles, motorbikes and boats are inoculating close to 35,000 children between birth and 15 years against all routine antigens, with children older than five years receiving protection against measles. Up to 5,000 women are receiving anti-malaria prophylaxis. 'The campaign is needed to improve the general health status in the health zone which has been neglected over the years', says Lorena Bilbao, the project coordinator in Baraka.

The campaign has been initiated by MSF to complement the gaps in the coverage of the routine vaccination campaign that started in 2004. So far, 23% of children had been vaccinated against measles and only 9% against diphteria, whooping cough and tetanus.

MSF expects to complete the first phase of the campaign by mid-March; the second and third phase will follow shortly after. The campaign is organized in close collaboration with the local and provincial medical authorities, as well as UNICEF.


More than 300 women treated in first week of "Fistula Fortnight" in Nigeria

Sokoto, Nigeria, 1 March — By Day 8 of “Fistula Fortnight,” 348 women with obstetric fistula had been surgically treated by a team of Nigerian and volunteer international doctors at four sites in northern Nigeria. Dozens more women will receive treatment over the two-week period that ends on 6 March. (…)

Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury that occurs when a woman endures prolonged obstructed labour, sometimes for days at a time, without the benefit of skilled medical intervention. Often, the baby will die and the woman will suffer chronic incontinence. Women affected by fistula may be abandoned by their husbands, ostracized by their communities and blamed for their condition.

Studies indicate that as many as 800,000 Nigerian women could be living with fistula, with an estimated 20,000 new cases each year. (…) The Nigerian Government, at federal, state and local levels, has played a crucial role in making the Fortnight a success. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs have provided and distributed equipment and supplies and have mobilized funds for rehabilitation programmes. (…)


Coast-to-coast polio drive to counter epidemic in Africa

22-nation synchronized immunization campaign to reach 100 million children as virus spreads to Ethiopia

25 February, Dakar/Harare/Geneva/Evanston -- A mass polio immunization drive starting today across Africa gained greater urgency from reports that a child has contracted polio in Ethiopia, the first case there in four years. The cross-continental drive – spanning 22 countries and reaching 100 million children – is the first in a series of 2005 campaigns to stamp out polio in Africa, which saw a fierce resurgence last year endangering global eradication efforts. With polio now in its low-transmission season, the next few months are critical to stopping the virus.

Countries joining the campaigns this round include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea on the southern and eastern edges of the epidemic. In the west, Côte d’Ivoire is rejoining the effort for the first time since civil unrest halted activities last November, causing months of concern after the country was re-infected early on in the regional epidemic. (…)

On the other side of the continent, Sudanese health officials in the wake of the Nairobi peace accord are cooperating to immunize children in both the north and south. Next door, Ethiopia is concentrating on activities along its northern and western borders, where the new case was found. Sudan convened earlier this month nine neighbouring countries to discuss cross-border immunization coordination. (…)


UNFPA responds to reproductive health needs in rebuilt communities and among migrants in tsunami region

Phuket, Thailand, 24 February — Responding to critical needs in Thailand’s tsunami-affected communities, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is expanding its support for maternal and child health and family planning services and HIV prevention. Working with Thai health authorities and NGO partners, UNFPA will offer training, research, supplies and equipment to ensure that newly built communities in four hard-hit provinces have adequate reproductive health information, counselling and services.

The Fund will also help the World Vision Foundation of Thailand to meet reproductive health needs in communities of migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar.

UNFPA has allocated emergency funds and is undertaking additional fund-raising to carry out these efforts. (…)



Environment and wildlife



WWF helps orphan rhinos in Nepal

Kashara, Nepal, 2 March – WWF Nepal is providing support to the country's largest national park by constructing an enclosure to raise two orphaned rhinos The two greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) include a female who was rescued four years ago after its mother was killed by a tiger, and a male who was rescued after being washed away and separated from its mother about eight years ago.

The enclosure is being built, with support from WWF's Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) Programme and the Bill Jordan Foundation-UK, in a natural setting at Kashara near the headquarters of the Royal Chitwan National Park in order to protect the rhinos from futher tiger attacks. In the absence of an enclosure, a 17-month old rhino raised in the park was recently killed by a tiger on 21 January 2005. (…)

Mortality of wild animals due to natural calamities and poaching has resulted in increased numbers of orphans within the country's protected areas. These orphaned animals are more vulnerable than those in the wild. Behavioral changes are apparent among human-reared orphan animals, which reduce the chances of their adaptability and survival in the natural habitat. However, organizations, like WWF, are doing everything they can to make sure the animals return to the wild. (…)


Promoting equitable and sustainable use of Nile water resources

Italy funds new project to improve water management among Nile basin countries

Rome, 2 March  - The ten countries within the Nile River basin will benefit from better access to information on the availability, use and development potential of the Nile resources they share, thanks to a new project aimed at improving water resource management in the region, FAO announced today.

The US$5 million project, funded by the Government of Italy, will be implemented by participating country governments with assistance from FAO. The project will be carried out under the umbrella of the Nile Basin Initiative, a regional partnership launched by the Nile riparian states in 1999 to facilitate the common pursuit of sustainable development and management of the Nile’s waters. (…)

With an average per capita gross domestic product of US$400, far below the African average, the ten countries that share the Nile—Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda—can ill afford further delays in making the most of this important resource.

The project will support basin-wide initiatives to integrate technical water resource and water use data with demographic, socio-economic and environmental information to examine how specific policies and projected water use patterns will affect water resources in the Nile riparian countries.


New Air Pollution Protocol to take effect on 17 May 2005

Geneva, 1 March - Portugal is the 16th country to ratify the Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone, which will, consequently, enter into force on 17 May 2005. The Protocol was originally adopted on 30 November 1999 in Gothenburg (Sweden) and signed by 31 countries. It is the eighth to take effect under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The Gothenburg Protocol is a major step forward in the development of international pollution controls. It aims at controlling several pollutants and their effects through a single agreement. The Protocol sets new targets for emission cuts by 2010 for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also sets, for the first time, targets for ammonia controls. Countries whose emissions have the most severe health or environmental impact and whose emissions are the cheapest to reduce will have to make the biggest cuts.

The Protocol also sets limit values for specific emission sources (e.g. combustion plant, electricity production, dry cleaning, cars and lorries) and requires best available techniques to be used to keep emissions down. VOC emissions from such products as paints or aerosols will also have to be cut. Finally, farmers will have to control ammonia emissions (manure, artificial fertilizer). (…)


Basel Convention and UNEP Regional Seas Programme join forces

Nairobi/Geneva, 1 March — The Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and the Regional Seas Programme have joined forces in the fight against coastal pollution with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in Nairobi last week.

The main area of cooperation is the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes in order to prevent coastal and marine pollution. Marine litter is targeted through the environmental management of plastic waste, used lead-acid batteries and used oils and lubricants. The two organisations will raise awareness on hazardous waste and marine pollution and support each other with technical and legal training.

The Basel Convention is the world’s most comprehensive environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes. It has over 160 Parties and aims to protect human health and the environment from the inappropriate management of hazardous and other wastes. (…)

Many of the joint activities will be carried out using the 13 Basel Convention Regional Centres (BCRCs) as platforms for regional cooperation with the various Regional Seas Programmes. The 13 BCRCs are located in Argentina, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovak Republic, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (Samoa), South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay. (…)


Cooperation agreement signed by UNESCO and NASA

1 March - Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, and Frederick D. Gregory, Deputy Administrator of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), today signed a cooperation agreement at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. According to the agreement, UNESCO will benefit from NASA’s expertise in the earth sciences and space technology to strengthen its work in the conservation of World Heritage sites and monitoring of Biosphere Reserves. This expertise will also contribute to UNESCO’s work relating to natural hazards, as well education and capacity building.

UNESCO’s particular concern is to improve the access of Member States to the benefits of NASA’s expertise, remote sensing data, and science research results. This cooperation should increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of conservation work. It should also reinforce Member States’ ability to mitigate the effects of natural hazards, a top priority in view of the recent tsunami disaster and the focus of several UNESCO programmes. In the field of education, cooperation with NASA will broaden the scope of UNESCO’s Space Education Programme and other activities aiming to raise interest in science.  (…)


UNEP facilitates Israeli-Palestinian environmental cooperation

Nairobi, 25 February - In February 2002, at its seventh special session, the UNEP Governing Council unanimously adopted a decision requesting the UNEP Executive Director to prepare a desk study outlining the state of environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to identify areas of major environmental damage requiring urgent attention.

The following year the Executive Director’s report "Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" was submitted to the UNEP Governing Council at its 22nd Session in Nairobi, February 2003. The report focussed on water quantity, water and soil quality, wastewater, solid waste, hazardous waste, environmental administration, biodiversity, and land use. It made 136 recommendations on a range of environmental topics. (…)

At the 23rd session of the Governing Council, which took place from 21-25 February 2005, UNEP reported on the progress made over the past two years in implementing recommendations of the Desk Study, which included needs assessments through field missions, a series of capacity building seminars, and mediation and facilitation.

Among others, the UNEP Desk Study recommends to reactivate the Environmental Experts Committee (EEC) established by the Oslo Agreements. In February 2005, UNEP organized a bilateral meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations, which took place in Helsinki, Finland (…) The outcome was a decision to hold a meeting of the EEC, which has not been convened since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. (…)


Action on heavy metals among key GC decisions

Governments also agree to strengthen UNEP’s finances and work in areas from water and gender equality to disaster preparedness and scientific assessment

Nairobi, Kenya, 25 February  – Governments today took an important step forward in reducing the health and environmental risks from mercury, a heavy metal linked with a wide range of medical problems. Under an expanded mercury programme, they have asked the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct a study on the amounts of mercury being traded and supplied around the world.  Mercury, a heavy metal linked with effects such as damage to the nervous systems of babies, is used in products such as fluorescent light bulbs, dental fillings and thermometers. 

Action is also to be taken on improving the communication of the risks of mercury to vulnerable groups. These include pregnant mothers whose babies may be at risk if they eat too much mercury-contaminated fish or marine mammals such as seals. Governments also agreed to promote ‘best available techniques’ for reducing mercury emissions from chemical factories and other industrial sites.(…) Governments, who have been attending UNEP’s 23rd Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, also agreed to review the success of the new programme in two years time. (…)



Culture and education



Sri Lanka: Tents provide alternative shelter for parents determined to reopen schools

3 March -  Education for children is accorded a high priority in all regions of Sri Lanka and even more so since the tsunami. Parents and local authorities stress the importance of reopening classrooms in the stricken areas so as to give children the feeling they are returning to a normal routine. However, many schools are still being used as temporary shelter for families who lost their homes in the disaster.

In Kaddaikadu, northern Sri Lanka, 323 families took refuge in the local school after the tsunami destroyed their homes in the village of Mullian. But on 17 January, they moved off the premises, preferring to live under tarpaulins so that their children could return to school.

Some of the families were able to find shelter with relatives or friends and, by 5 February, the ICRC had installed tents for the remaining 210 families on land adjacent to the school. Two days later, the ICRC provided each family with essential household items (buckets, mats, bedsheets, cooking pots, plates, cups and towels). (…)

Throughout Sri Lanka, the authorities are trying to move families out of schools by providing them with alternative shelter. The ICRC has agreed to supply 5,000 tents for this purpose, over 3,000 of which have already been set up. The organization is also helping to build basic infrastructure for transit camps and, along with other international organizations, it is providing water and sanitation facilities.


Counterpart links communities in Jordan with America

Young citizens of America's "Second City" will soon be able to savor the delights of one of the oldest civilizations and a country where Jesus was baptized and where Moses saw the Promised Land.

Washington, D.C. February 20 - Young citizens of America's "Second City" will soon be able to savor the delights of one of the oldest civilizations and a country where Jesus was baptized and where Moses saw the Promised Land. 

Counterpart International is making these exchanges possible through a new venture designed to strengthen relationships between American and Jordanian youth. This is being done now the development organization has been given the nod to coordinate community linkage activities between Jordan and its expatriate community in Illinois.

Under the Aqaba Pilot Program, children will build relationships through school-to-school pairings, book clubs, and e-buddy communications, while Counterpart establishes a pipeline of resources through bilateral community partnerships linked to the Jordanian Diaspora in Chicago.

Counterpart will help build technical capacity for educational institutions in Aqaba, Jordan, as well as equip students with skills to prepare them for the local labor market.

The United States Department of State has committed more than US $293 million over the past four years through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) for such programs. (…)



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Next issue: 1st April.

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