Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 5



Weekly - Year VI, number 5 – 1st April 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

Peace and securityHealthEnvironment and wildlifeCulture and education



International legislation



Further outcome from the Brussels European Council summit

March 24 - In addition to relaunching the European Union's Lisbon Strategy for growth, competitiveness and social cohesion in today's knowledge-based world, focusing on growth and employment, the EU heads of state and government also covered important ground on climate change, sustainable development (www.europa-eu  for background material) and preparations for the United Nations summit (September 2005) at the Brussels European Council summit on March 22-23, 2005 (see for the Presidency Conclusions).    

The European Council welcomed the presentation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on March 21, 2005 of his report entitled "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All", as a prime contribution to preparations for the UN summit in September 2005 on follow-up to the 2000 Millennium Declaration and to major United Nations conferences and summits. It reaffirmed the Union's firm resolve to play a major role within the UN in general, and in preparations for the summit in particular. This process should lead to "ambitious, balanced results" at the summit, along with common responses to the world's main development, security and human rights problems.

The EU leaders called on the European Commission and the Council to step up their work, particularly on the various development components, to enable the European Union to play an active part in the discussions ahead. They also underlined the particular importance of Africa in 2005, welcoming the European Commission's intention to submit early proposals designed to make a substantial contribution to the review of the Millennium Development Goals, and to reinforce the Union's support for the African continent.


UNHCR welcomes asylum law in Serbia and Montenegro

Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, March 24 – Serbia and Montenegro today adopted an asylum law that UNHCR has called "a concrete step" towards establishing a national asylum system in a country recovering from years of conflict and displacement.

The Law on Asylum of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was adopted at the ongoing 36th Session of the Parliament of the State Union. This framework law is based on the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees and is the result of years of negotiations and drafting between the government and the UN refugee agency. (…) The newly-adopted law sets out the basic principles of refugee protection, rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the minimum procedural safeguards under the 1951 Convention, which Serbia and Montenegro signed in 2001. (…)


UNICEF applauds Armenian ratification of CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Yerevan, 19 March – President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan today signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, ratified by the National Assembly of Armenia on 28 February 2005. 

“The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a horrific crime and an intolerable violation of child rights,” says Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative in Armenia. “The ratification of this Protocol is a major step forward in the campaign to protect the children of this country from sexual exploitation and abuse. With its ratification, Armenia joins a transnational partnership to tackle this global crime.”

The Protocol applies to children under the age of 18 and obliges ratifying countries to take measures to prevent, investigate and punish cases of sexual exploitation and sale of children and provide victims with proper counseling and rehabilitation. “UNICEF estimates that over one million children worldwide enter the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year, though accurate statistics are hard to come by given the clandestine nature of this industry, says Yett.  “It is clear that this is a global scourge, affecting every country in the world, including Armenia.”

These exploited children are at increased risk of violence, drug abuse, and disease – including HIV/AIDS. The damage endures long after the violations; sexually exploited children suffer harm – sexual, physical and emotional – that can last a lifetime.

The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on 25 May 2000. Armenia’s ratification brings the total number of ratifying countries up to 88. (…)



Human rights



Customary law study enhances legal protection of persons affected by armed conflict

Geneva, 17 March – Following more than eight years of research, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has made public a study of customary international humanitarian law applicable during armed conflict. ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger today presented the study, published by Cambridge University Press, to State representatives during a meeting at the organization's headquarters in Geneva.

By identifying 161 rules of customary international humanitarian law, the study enhances the legal protection of persons affected by armed conflict. "This is especially the case in non-international armed conflict, for which treaty law is not particularly well developed," said Mr Kellenberger. "Yet civil wars often result in the worst suffering. The study clearly shows that customary international humanitarian law applicable in non-international armed conflict goes beyond the rules of treaty law. For example, while treaty law covering internal armed conflict does not expressly prohibit attacks on civilian objects, customary international humanitarian law closes this gap. Importantly, all conflict parties – not just States but also rebel groups, for example – are bound by customary international humanitarian law applicable to internal armed conflict."

In addition to treaty law such as the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, customary international humanitarian law is a major source of rules applicable in times of armed conflict. (…)



Economy and development



Three months after the tsunami: struggling to rebuild amid daunting challenges

Atlanta, USA, March 25 - In tsunami-affected regions of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Somalia, CARE workers continue to help communities transition from emergency aid to long-term recovery. CARE has assisted more than 590,000 people in the first three months following the disaster. At the same time, CARE is working to ensure that people in geographic areas of long-running civil conflict will have the right to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

“CARE’s goal is not just to help communities get back to where they were on December 25, 2004, but to achieve higher and more sustainable levels of human development and livelihood security,” said CARE President and CEO Peter Bell.

Because CARE has been operating in each of the affected countries for decades, staff responded to the disaster immediately with food, water and essential supplies. CARE’s history in the countries (with the majority of staff born there) also informs plans for long-term recovery and disaster preparedness. CARE understands the cultural and political challenges many communities must deal with to restore livelihoods and determine land use where the ground washed away or became too degraded for agricultural use. CARE has developed plans based on which of the most pressing needs can be addressed in one-year, two-year and five-year time frames. (…)

Long-term plans encompass projects in education, health, economic development and environmental recovery, with the goal of strengthening communities. (…)


Ecolabelling schemes to support sustainable fisheries get a boost

FAO's Committee on Fisheries adopts guidelines for "ecolabelling" of fish caught at sea

Rome, 23 March - Efforts to ensure the sustainability of the world's marine fisheries got a boost earlier this month when the FAO Committee of Fisheries (COFI) adopted a set of voluntary guidelines for the ecolabelling of fish products during its 26th session, held 7-11 March.

An ecolabel is a tag placed on a product that certifies that it was produced in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way. Such tags let consumers make informed choices about what they are buying, so that those who wish to can support responsible food production. In essence, they create a market mechanism that promotes sustainable production methods.

The new guidelines are aimed at providing guidance to governments and organizations that already maintain, or are considering establishing, labelling schemes for certifying and promoting labels for fish and fishery products from well-managed marine capture fisheries. (…)

With trade in fishery products at an all-time high and concern over the status of wild marine stocks growing, ecolabelling offers a way to promote responsible fish trade -- crucial for many developing countries -- while preserving natural resources for future generations. (…)


UNDP supports China in building all-round Xiao Kang Society

Beijing, China, 23 March -- China’s commitment to establishing a Xiao Kang Society mirrors, in many respects, the principles of the Millennium Declaration and its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by world leaders at a United Nations summit in 2000, where they pledged to build a better world through a global partnership for development, according to a senior UN development official. “Given the strong convergence between the two, there is a unique opportunity for China to integrate the Xiao Kang and the MDGs,” said today Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, referring to a new programme between the United Nations and the Chinese government, entitled “Supporting the all-round Xiao Kang Society (2005-2009).”

Launched today in Beijing, this programme seeks to support the Government’s long-term development vision of building an all-round Xiao Kang Society by 2020, provide policy recommendations to the formulation of the 11th 5-year Plan as well as long-term development strategies for China. (…)


Water for Life Decade launched on World Water Day.

World Water Day 2005 celebrated on 22 March will be guided by the theme of the International Decade for Action, 'Water for Life' while the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) is the UN body designated to coordinate WWD 2005 activities.

As this International decade established by the UN in Resolution A/RES/58/217 begins, the United Nations and governments are seeking to galvanize efforts to meet the internationally agreed targets of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

“This is an urgent matter of human development, and human dignity”, stated United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his message to launch the Water for Life Decade. “Together, we can provide safe, clean water to all the world’s people. The world’s water resources are our lifeline for survival, and for sustainable development in the twenty-first century.”

Meeting the targets on water and sanitation would also contribute significantly to the realization of other United Nations Millennium Development Goals, including reducing poverty, promoting gender equality, reducing child and maternal mortality and providing universal primary education. (…)


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

Rome, 4 March  – 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. (…)






Urgent WFP food aid to Afghans hit first by snow, then floods

Kabul, 22 March – After weeks of hard work to provide food aid to Afghan communities cut off by snow, the UN World Food Programme is shifting gear to help Afghans facing floods created by melting snow and torrential rains, which have burst river banks, damaged roads and flooded villages in various parts of the country. In southwestern Farah province, WFP will today start urgently needed food distributions to Afghans hit by floods. A total of 25 tons of wheat, rice and pulses were sent to the province last week. This food should cover the most immediate food needs of nearly 5,000 people.

WFP had already made contingency plans to provide assistance to people affected by the floods, which were expected to hit as the snow melted, but have been exacerbated by heavy rains over the last few days. This is believed to be the severest winter in this Central Asian country in two decades.  With the help of aircraft supplied by coalition forces and with road convoys often held up by snow for days on end, WFP succeeded in delivering food to more than 100,000 snowbound Afghans over the past few weeks. (…)

WFP is also continuing to provide food assistance to tens of thousands of Afghans in areas that were snowbound only days ago in the centre and south of the country. The winter emergency response is part of a wide scale humanitarian relief operation launched by the UN in support of government efforts to provide relief to people worst hit by this year’s winter. (…)


Big new contribution proves Japan’s growing leadership on Africa

Yokohama, 18 March - The United Nations World Food Programme welcomed an aid package of some JPY 1.954 billion (US$ 19 million) from the Japanese Government to assist refugees, internally displaced persons and victims of natural disasters and poverty in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The donation was approved by the Japanese cabinet earlier today.

This major contribution gives special attention to Africa, with 70 percent of the package, JPY 1.354 billion (almost US$ 13 million), allocated to five WFP programmes in nine African countries.

“WFP is sincerely grateful for Japan’s continuing support to Africa. It is a major step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and human security,” said WFP Executive Director James Morris. “WFP’s alliance with the Government of Japan is stronger than ever, and is vital to our efforts to halve the world’s hungry by 2015.”

While the international community has responded with unprecedented generosity to the tsunami crisis, WFP has called for equally generous help to the world’s hungry poor. Twenty-five thousand people die of hunger and related causes every day – more than all deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. “Japan’s leadership in African development gives real hope for the future of millions of children in Africa suffering from chronic malnutrition,” said Morris. The funds will be used to buy food such as rice, wheat flour, maize and sorghum. (…)

Historically, Japan has almost always been one of WFP’s top three donors. In 2004, Japan gave US $136 million (approximately ¥14 billion), ranking third, and in 2005, it is the second largest donor so far. (…)


Italian concert raises €1m for Sri Lanka's conflict and tsunami victims

Milan, Italy, March 22 – A star-studded concert featuring Italian artistes like Andrea Bocelli, Claudio Baglioni and Zucchero has raised €1 million for the UN refugee agency's work for victims of the conflict and tsunami in Sri Lanka.

On Monday night, "Music for Asia: Not to Forget" drew a galaxy of Italian stars together for the first time to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis. Some 10,000 people turned up at the FilaForum of Assago in Milan to support the event, which was organised by Media Friend.

Singer Antonella Ruggiero said, "The tsunami was a dramatic event that hit the sensitivities of everyone, including artistes. That's why we felt we had to help not only as individuals, but also to get together and help in a bigger way."

Among the highlights of the three-hour concert were a piano and guitar duet by Bocelli and Mario Rejes, and a virtual duet by Zucchero and the late Miles Davis. The artists, who also included Alexia, Biagio Antonacci, Gigi D'Alessio, DJ Francesco, Negrita and Velvet, were accompanied by an orchestra conducted by maestros Fio Zanotti, Lucio Fabbri and Peppe Vessicchio.

A video reportage shot in northern Sri Lanka was screened during the concert, giving the audience a glimpse of the situation on the ground – the destruction and how people doubly hit by the conflict and the December 26 tsunami are trying to rebuild their lives. (…)


Mexicans donate nearly US$4 million to rebuild tsunami-destroyed homes in Indonesia

Unprecedented response from individuals, businesses to aid appeal

Mexico City, 18 March - In an unprecedented national response to an international disaster, Mexicans have contributed nearly US$4 million in private donations to the victims of the tsunami disaster in Asia, in an initiative coordinated by UNDP in Mexico and Indonesia.

The Mexican aid appeal for tsunami relief came to an official close Thursday. The "Alliance for Asia: Rebuilding Homes" was a joint initiative that brought together 37 Mexican civil associations, foundations, companies, financial institutions and communications groups. The Alliance raised the sum of 42,713,174 pesos (almost US$4 million) which will be handed over to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to be used in the construction of homes in Indonesia (..)

The unit cost of a house is $2,888. Costs associated with the land and basic infrastructure (access roads, drainage, etc.) account for 50 per cent of this figure. The other 50 per cent represents construction costs and will be covered by donations collected by the Alliance. In total, 2,777 houses will be built with the money donated by Mexican civil society.

The "Alliance for Asia: Rebuilding Homes" appeal was launched on 11 January 2005, with the aim of helping the victims of the tsunami tragedy, which took place on 26 December 2004, in South Asia. Seven hundred thousand Mexican citizens responded to the appeal, making donations through direct deposits into bank accounts, using their credit cards, or by calling a dedicated phone number. The Alliance also received many donations from Mexican companies. (…)


Mobile legal clinics travel to tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 15 March - Mobile documentation clinics for tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka will offer free legal advice and assistance in obtaining personal legal papers that were lost in the December disaster. These mobile service camps to address the legal needs of families affected by the tsunami will be held 18-20 March in the District of Ampara, one of the hardest hit coastal areas of the country. These roving facilities are organized by the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration in Sri Lanka in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The clinics will respond to the thousands of people who lost important documents such as identifications cards, marriage certificates, deeds to property or school diplomas. The teams will include relevant officials who will travel to the affected areas with all the necessary equipment to directly record requests for replacement documentation. (…)

The first in a series of mobile clinics, conducted as part of UNDP’s Equal Access to Justice project, was launched in mid-February in the Hambantota District. Nearly 10,000 people were assisted, and 20,000 justice-related requests were recorded. Those are now in the process of being verified or new documentation has already been issued. (…)


Metamorphosis Art Show set for April 30th

25 March - The mission of the Metamorphosis Art Show is to provide an affordable avenue for artists in the Northern Virginia/Washington, DC area to display and sale their original works of art. The event will take place on Friday, April 30, in Herndon, Virginia. (…) The Metamorphosis Art Show is supporting ICAF's Healing Arts for Tsunami Survivors Program through donations received during the event. For more information about the show, including a list of participating artists, and information on sponsorship, please visit: or e-mail Alison Christ at:

The International Child Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that prepares children for a creative and cooperative future so they can lead us into a safer and better world. ICAF's headquarters are in Washington, DC and its European office is in Munich.


Dancing Orphans of Dushanbe

Counterpart's staff contributes gifts, talents, abilities and resources to satisfy the cultural development needs of some very important young people.

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, March 24 - A dancer who once trained with the storied Bolshoi Ballet company, Irina Wunder today is more accustomed to the company of truck drivers, container shippers and cargo freight forwarders in her role as a manager of Counterpart International's humanitarian arm which ships hundreds of containers of relief supplies.

But she finally found time to combine her two loves, ballet and humanitarian assistance.

Irina found her stage in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's leafy capital where Counterpart had delivered supplies to a school. It was at the school she recruited her line of orphans.  Outfitting the 8-10 year old girls in soft ballet shoes and tiny pink tutus donated by well-wishers in the Washington D.C. area, Irina put the petite ballerinas through their paces. Young legs were coaxed to stand en point and to feel the beauty and elegance of classical ballet.

So charmed was he by the poignant sight of the young dancers,  Mr. Mirali Dostievhe, Director of the Tajik Ballet Theater, gave the tiny troupe his theatre for its world debut.  Determined to ensure an audience to appreciate the debut performance, Counterpart's Rachel Roseberry rallied locals and members of the diplomatic and expatriate communities to enjoy the exquisite event (...)

The U.S. Department of State-funded Small and Medium U.S. Private Voluntary Organization Transportation Program (SMTP) provides for the annual delivery of more than 200 containers of humanitarian assistance to the Former Soviet Union.  Counterpart International, an international non-profit development organization based in Washington, D.C., administers this program for the U.S. Department of State. (…)


ADRA responds to flooding in Venezuela

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, 8 March—ADRA is providing emergency assistance to 150 families affected by flooding in Venezuela.  Concentrating its efforts in the towns of Tovar, Santa Cruz de Mora, and Puerto Rico, ADRA is providing locally-purchased kitchen, hygiene, and food materials to benefit as many as 1,000 persons.  The flooding occurred in mid-February when the MocotÌes River and the Guayabel Creek overflowed. The governor estimated that more than 6,000 people were affected.

The $10,000 project is funded by ADRA International, the headquarters for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America, its regional headquarters in Southwest Venezuela and Venezuela-Antilles, and local churches. The three-week project is scheduled to end March 12.

ADRA is using the help of volunteers at local churches and schools for relief items collection and the provision of shelter and food. Beneficiaries were identified in coordination with the National Civil Protection Department.



Peace and security



DRCongo: UNDP copes successfully with "Big Bang" demobilisation operation in Ituri

Aru/Kinshasa, DRCongo, 23 March -  Following an unprecedented operational effort in support of a massive spontaneous disarmament operation in the north-eastern district of Ituri, the UNDP in the Democratic Republic of the Congo managed to open a seventh disarmament Transit Site for ex-combatants on Monday and began receiving up to 4000 ex-combatants from the armed group Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais (FAPC). 

At 7 a.m., after six days of intense preparations carried out by the UNDP’s Rapid Response Mechanism, the facility located in Aru close to the Ugandan border admitted the first ex-combatants who had previously disarmed at a disarmament point jointly managed by the Forces Armés Congolaises (FA-RDC) and the UN peace-keeping force in the country known as MONUC. The Transit Site in Aru has a running capacity of 400 ex-combatants, a number which will be reached Thursday.  (…) 

Analysts believe the sudden willingness to disarm and demobilise within the framework of the USD 10,5 million Disarmament and Community Reinsertion Plan in Ituri, the “Plan DRC”,  is due to a combination of political will from the armed group leaders as well as an intensified sensitization campaign carried out by MONUC and a UNDP coordinated network of local NGOs in the war-torn district.  (…)


Working in Colombia to engaged Non State Actors

By Mehmet Balci

14 March - Geneva Call and the Colombian Campaign against Landmines (CCCM) have been working together in Colombia for the last two years in framework of a Memorandum of Understanding for Engaging Colombian Non State Actors in banning antipersonnel landmines.

This program, supported by the European Union and the Suisse government, included a large sensitizing and awareness work. The aim was to raise awareness about the landmine problem in Colombia among the Non State Armed Actors and to seek their commitment to a total ban on Anti-personnel Mines, trough civil society participation and trough direct dialogue with them and trough the Colombian government collaboration.

An International Forum, a National Forum with Indigenous and Afro Colombian communities, and 5 regional forums have been held already within this project. Other 5 regional forums are programmed for this year. During the regional forums, several local actors –civil society, NGOs, local politicians and functionaries, military personnel…- are called to think together about the landmine problem and the possible actions to face it. (…)


V International Peace Museum Conference

Gernika-Lumo (Basque Country – Spain) 1st-6th May 2005

Following on from the Peace Museum Conferences in Bradford (Great Britain, 1992), Stadtschlaining (Austria, 1995), Osaka and Kyoto (Japan, 1998) and Ostend (Flanders, Belgium, 2003), Gernika-Lumo (Basque Country, Spain) is the venue for the V International Peace Museum Conference in May 2005. The Conference will be held at a privileged location in Euskadi in the north of Spain, an enclave replete with beauty and a long history, and brought to the attention of the entire world by the terrible bombing of Gernika on 26 April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and the painting by Picasso inspired by the atrocity and named after the town, "Guernica" (now a universal anti-war symbol, a symbol of peace).

The main objective of this Conference is to bring together the representatives worldwide of the best-known peace museums, memory museums, human rights museums, anti-war museums etc., and also people with a sympathetic interest in the issues discussed, in order to reflect on their vital role in propagating a culture of peace and reconciliation to exchange information on projects and activities, and push forward a relationship which began in 1992 with the creation of the International Network of Peace Museums.

The Conference motto is : "Peace Museums: A contribution to remembrance, reconciliation, art and peace". The Conference will discuss three main topics in relation to the motto:

1: The contribution of art to a culture of peace.

2: Peace Museums, seeds of reconciliation in the world.

3: The importance of remembrance to build a world in peace.






Rotary grants emergency funding for polio immunizations in Ethiopia

Part of rapid response plan to stem the spread of the virus in previously polio-free countries

Evanston, IL, USA, 22 March - Rotary International today approved a US$500,000 grant to the World Health organization in response to two children that recently contracted polio in Ethiopia. The money will be used to support massive polio immunization campaigns in Ethiopia during early April and May. This marks the first time the virus has been reported in that country in four years. Epidemiologists of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative say that the boy and girl living close to the Sudanese and Eritrea borders contracted a virus linked genetically to the poliovirus endemic to northern Nigeria, which has also spread through Chad, the Sudan and to 12 other previously polio-free countries in recent months. (…)

With a global investment of over US$3 billion since 1988 for the eradication effort, including more than US$500 million contributed by Rotary International, tremendous strides have been made toward a polio-free world. In the 1980s, approximately 1,000 children were infected by this crippling disease every day. Since then, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent, with less than 1,300 cases reported globally last year.

Rotary International is the world's first volunteer service organization with 1.2 million members in more than 160 countries. In 1985, Rotary created PolioPlus and set one of the most ambitious goals in the history for global public health — to immunize the children of the world against polio. To date, over one million Rotary members have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).


MSF responds to meningitis outbreak in southern Chad

A vaccination campaign is aimed at protecting people against the two strains found in this particular outbreak. Teams will first cover the zones identified as hardest hit then will vaccinate the rest of the target population in 18 zones. 

N'Djamena/Brussels, 16 March – MSF has started a vaccination campaign in Bongor District, Chad, following a recent outbreak of meningitis. The campaign, due to last one month, will provide preventative cover all persons aged between six months and 30 years, which represents 72% of a total population of 272,000.

Chad is part of the so-called meningitis belt in Sub-Saharan Africa, an area where epidemics occur regularly, affecting large numbers of people, and usually requiring the intervention of specialised teams such as those of MSF. Epidemic thresholds in the district, located 250kms south of the capital N'Djamena, were reached at the beginning of March.

The MSF teams, in collaboration with local medical authorities and the Ministry of Health, will first cover the zones of Moulkou, Bongor city and its urban area, Bongor Sieke and Magao. (…) On average, three to four days are necessary to cover one zone. Mobile teams with cars ensure vaccination in the remote rural areas, while the rest of the population in villages and urban areas are invited through public announcements to come to health centres or vaccination posts set up by the teams. (…)



Environment and wildlife



WWF participates in post-tsunami reef clean-up day

Phuket, Thailand, 23 March – Following extensive coastal damage caused by the December 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, WWF continues its involvement in post-tsunami reconstruction by participating in a beach and reef clean-up event with Thai school children.

While hundreds of students from the Rajabhat Institute and the Baan Mai Khao School collected rubbish on a local beach for recycling, divers cleaned a reef in the vicinity of the Mariott Phuket resort — one of a few hotels that withstood the full impact of the tsunami — by gathering over 100kg of fishing nets and remains of plastic bags and bottles. (…)

Following the tsunami, an ad hoc assessment conducted by the Dive Operators Club Thailand – Phuket, and the private sector, used established dive-masters to estimate damage done to known dive sites. The areas surveyed were in the world-renowned Surin and Similan archipelago, and those in the south of Phangnga Bay, the sites closest to Phuket.

Of the 70 sites surveyed (a fairly comprehensive list of the Thai dive sites commonly visited from Phuket) 51 were found to have suffered “slight” damage, with 27 of these having no or minimal damage. A further six sites suffered “moderate” damage, while 13 sites were found to have suffered “heavy” damage. (…)


Innovative Waste Strategy:  Berkeley's Race to Zero

At the March 22 Berkeley City Council meeting, environmental history was made when the Council officially established one of the nation's first Zero Waste Goals. The Council unanimously approved the resolution which officially adopts a 75% waste reduction goal for 2010, and establishes a Zero Waste Goal for 2020. The resolution also suggests that Solid Waste Management Commission change its name to the Zero Waste commission. (…)

Zero Waste is a concept that couples aggressive resource recovery with industrial redesign to eliminate the very concept of waste. "If it can't be reused, rebuilt, refurbished, reconfigured, recycled, or composted, then it needs to be redesigned-or removed from production all together," said Dan Knapp, founder and owner of Urban Ore, Berkeley's premier reuse retailer.
(…) "In the 1980's when Berkeley set a goal of reducing waste by 50%, everyone said it couldn't be done", said Mayor Tom Bates who sponsored the resolution(…)


New website on forest invasive species

African countries will share information, experiences and benefits

Rome, 24 March - A new website on forest invasive species in Africa will enable countries to share information on outbreaks and on ways to tackle them, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said today at the launch of the web site. The site will help countries to more effectively address the problem of invasive species. (…)

Invasive species are species not native to a specific forest ecosystem, whose introduction does or is likely to cause harm to the ecosystem. Invasive species have always been of concern but their threat has grown seriously with the increase in trade, travel and transport.

The website has been created by African specialists at the initiative of the Forest Invasive Species Network for Africa (FISNA), and is hosted by FAO. Features include information on new outbreaks of invasive pest species and woody species. It also provides references, publications and other links related to invasive species in Africa. (…)

Through FISNA, countries are already sharing information on the latest outbreaks of invasive species. For example, an insect pest, the blue gum chalcid, has recently been discovered in Kenya and Uganda damaging young eucalyptus trees and nursery seedlings. On the website it is noted that the pest has previously been recorded in Morocco, Iran, Israel and Italy. (…)


Rescued Borneo pygmy elephant returned to forest

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, 24 March – WWF, together with Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department, have successfully treated and returned an injured Borneo pygmy elephant back to the forest.

The elephant, which was rescued earlier in the year along the boundary of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Malaysia, and taken to the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre for treatment of a leg injury caused by an illegal wildlife trap, was released back into the forest sanctuary.

Borneo pygmy elephants frequently venture into privately-owned land, including villages and oil palm plantations. Due to barriers formed by large rivers, large water channels, oil palm plantations and villages, the forest downstream of the Sandakan-Lahad Datu highway is divided into 15 fragmented patches. Elephants can move between these patches by swimming across rivers and walking through plantations and villages.  (…)



Culture and education



Afghan new year heralds return to school for millions

Ministry of Education and UNICEF look forward to record numbers of children in classes

Kabul, 17 March 2005 – As Afghanistan prepares for its New Year celebrations this weekend, millions of children will also be readying themselves for the start of another academic year, scheduled to begin on 22 March.  The Afghan Ministry of Education and UNICEF expect more than 4 million children to return to school in most parts of the country from next week; Afghanistan has two academic cycles – the majority of schools reopen in March after the winter vacation, while schools in southern and some eastern provinces close during the hot summers. Over the last three years more children than ever before in history have enrolled for classes across Afghanistan, and education planners expect student numbers to increase again in 2005.

In preparation for the return, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have been working to provide basic classroom stationery and materials to schools nationwide. The harsh winter has caused some delays in distribution with some materials held up en route from Pakistan, and classroom kits for northern provinces delayed in transit from Kabul. Despite the difficult conditions, the Ministry of Education’s Logistics Centre in the capital has now prepared tens of thousands of student kits, containing materials such as exercise books, pens, pencils and other stationery for more than 2 million children, as well as teacher stationery kits for 94,000 teachers, which have now arrived in the provinces. The full distribution to an estimated 4.3 million children is expected to be completed by mid-April. (…)


UNESCO programme grants funding to 51 new media projects in developing countries

Paris, 9 March - The Bureau of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) granted US$1,050,000 million to 51 media projects in developing countries and countries in transition at its meeting at Headquarters, (March 7 - 9), which was chaired by Torben Krogh (Denmark). Projects that received financial assistance from the IPDC include broadcast, print and electronic media, as well as training programmes. Among them, is a US$500,000 project approved for funds in trust arrangements to enable radio broadcasters in the Indonesian province of Aceh to resume their operations. Radio infrastructure was severely damaged in the province, more than half of it was wiped out, by last December’s tsunami. The IPDC granted initial seed money to help launch the project, which is vital for relief and reconstruction operations in Aceh.

Financial assistance was also extended to six projects in small Caribbean islands, including the creation of community multimedia centres in Haiti and Grenada, which received US$25,000 and US$ 20,000 respectively. US$ 319,000 were channelled to 13 projects in Africa (…) Three Palestinian projects figure among those that were granted funding in the Arab states (…)

The IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system to promote media development in developing countries. It provides funding from voluntary contributions by donor countries while working to secure a better environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.  The IPDC consists of an Intergovernmental Council of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference and of a Bureau of eight Member States nominated by the Council.  (…)


EDC's Zubrowski receives National Prize for Children's Science Books from American Association for the Advancement of Science

Newton, MA, USA, 2 March – Bernie Zubrowski, a longtime science educator at the Newton-based Education Development Center, has been awarded the SB&F Prize for Excellence by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his "distinguished contribution to the world of children's hands-on science books." Zubrowski received the award at the recent AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Zubrowski was honored for his 16 children's books over 12 years, including, Bubbles, Tops and Yo-Yos, and Messing Around With Drinking Straw Construction. His books and accompanying curriculum guides have influenced museum designers, educators, and parents throughout the world, and have engaged thousands of children in scientific exploration, teaching them to use simple materials to build houses out of drinking straws, tops out of paper plates, and cars powered by balloons. (…)

The award, sponsored by AAS's Science Books & Films (SB&F) publication is the association's authoritative guide to science resources. SB&F brought together scientists, librarians, science educators, and experts in the field of children's science books who spent months reviewing Zubrowski's work, which was continually proven to meet the high standards of the AAAS judges.



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Next issue: 22 April.


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