348508_44124480466@N01.jpg Sudanese baby Africa Oil Watch: July 2004

Friday, July 30, 2004

Darfur: only half of the basic needs for food will be met in July - Even with the recently improved deliveries

Yesterday, several reports listed the number of deaths in Darfur as 50,000 not 30,000.

Today, a top U.S. official was quoted as saying the number of deaths in Darfur is 80,000.

Also, in a report by Medical News Today dated July 30, 2004, it looks like - even with the new improved deliveries - that only half of the basic needs for food will have been met in July. The current aid effort is insufficient. Urgent action is still overdue, as it has been throughout Darfur’s man-made emergency. Here is a copy of the report, in full:

Despite the increased political and media attention being given to the crisis in Darfur, Western Sudan, the international medical relief agency, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), says that the desperate condition of the people there is not improving.

MSF’s International President, Dr. Rowan Gillies, who has just spent a month working in the clinics and camps in Darfur, said, "What you see there is widespread suffering, inadequate relief efforts and continuing violence." Despite greater access to the area, more agencies and aid workers arriving, the urgent needs are still not being met. "Hardly anyone is getting the care civilians should get in a conflict," said Dr Gillies. "And there are pockets of real disaster, where people are at grave risk of dying in large numbers."

"I am particularly concerned about the food situation," Dr Gillies continued. "For example, in one big camp around El Geneina, only 35% of the displaced people even have a card entitling them to food from the UN. And the last time they received any was at the end of May – over seven weeks ago."

Food deliveries are inadequate and uneven across Darfur. A nutritional survey of four refugee camps in May and June found severe malnutrition rates of between 4.1 and 5.5%. MSF believes that even with the recently improved deliveries from the World Food Programme, only half of the basic needs for food will be met in July. Young children, under the age of five, are particularly vulnerable. MSF is currently treating around 8000 children for malnutrition across Darfur.

Death rates are already significantly above the emergency threshold. This is not surprising as there are extreme shortages of water, food, shelter and latrines, which contribute to high levels of diarrhea among children, a major cause of death.

At the same time there are continuing reports of violence, rape, and intimidation against the population. "I treated women who had been raped and boys who had been beaten when collecting firewood outside the camp perimeter," Dr Gillies said. "We are extremely concerned about reports of relocation of people from the camps back to their villages. This must not be done without the clear informed consent of the people themselves. Many are very frightened and don’t want to return."

MSF believes that the current aid effort is insufficient and fears that it will continue to fall significantly short of the needs in the coming months. Urgent action is still overdue, as it has been throughout Darfur’s man-made emergency.

MSF has been working to help the victims of violence and displacement in Darfur since February 2003. At present nearly 150 international staff are working alongside more than 2,000 national staff in 17 locations around Darfur.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

UN refugee agency plans another camp - Officials say (privately) this should have been done much sooner

Excerpts from swiss.org report dated July 28, 2004:

Suffer away from camps

While most of the 180,000 black Africans who have fled to Chad to escape Arab Janjaweed militias are now in camps, thousands more are living with local communities near the border, cut off from most international aid.

"Some have been here for five months," said Arbab Gamar Ibrahim, from the Sudanese town of Mestre, a refugee himself who acts as a representative for some 1,500 others scattered across villages about 30 km (20 miles) south of the town of Adre. "They are living with their brothers."

These refugees do not have access to the food handouts or daily medical clinics in the camps and have to rely instead on the generosity of Chadian villagers and occasional visits by aid workers to these isolated settlements.
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Forces refugees to move

Sophie Villemaire, a Canadian nurse from medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, says the refugees living away from the camps used to be easier to find, as they set up a makeshift community close to a pickup point for transfers to the camps. But the arrival of the rainy season about a month ago turned the land from semi-desert into fertile green terrain and local people needed the area the refugees were camping on for farming. The refugees have dispersed to live with host families in villages or try to make their own way to camps some 50 km away.

"You have to go to every village (now)," said Villemaire, who comes from Montreal and has spent the past five months in eastern Chad. "Before, we knew where they were."
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Still waiting to be given tents and other aid

Five thousand extra refugees who were near the border have turned up at one of the main camps, Bredjing, in recent weeks, adding to problems at the overcrowded site. They have yet to be properly registered so they can receive tents and other aid.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says it plans to build at least one more camp in the Adre area -- which is hosting some 50,000 refugees in camps and communities -- to take in the overspill from Bredjing and refugees still at the border.

Some officials acknowledge privately this should have been done much sooner.

At the Adre hospital, the arrival of refugees in the area has increased admissions by 50 percent, putting extra strain on a very basic health system. Seven malnourished children -- two local, five refugees -- lie in beds draped with mosquito nets in the 40-bed hospital.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Africa - A scar on the conscience of the world

August 21, 2004, Independent UK news report copied here in full:

Three years ago, British Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to the world to heal the wounds of Africa. As Foreign Secretary Jack Straw prepares to fly to the Sudan tomorrow, the continent is still riven by strife, war and famine.

"The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don't, it will become deeper and angrier" - Tony Blair, 2 October 2001.


What is going on?
The country, which produces 40 per cent of the world's cocoa, is effectively split between north and south following a rebellion two years ago by Muslim northerners over national identity and land ownership.

What is Britain doing to help?
Britain is taking a low profile with no direct aid. The African Union, is attempting to organize elections in October to end the standoff.

What is the solution?
No signs of early resolution to stalemate


What is going on?
Sporadic fighting continues despite 2002 peace agreement. Congolese Tutsi rebel soldiers occupied eastern town of Bukavu for a week in June

What is Britain doing to help?
Britain backs the UN peacekeeping mission and is also pressing Uganda and Rwanda to end any involvement, which they deny

What is the solution?
Conflict expected to continue


What is going on?
Political crackdown continues ahead of elections next year

What is Britain doing to help?
Britain hopes South Africa will intercede with President Mugabe to resolve standoff

What is the solution?
Stalemate will only be removed when Mugabe leaves power - quietly, it is hoped


What is going on?
Rebellion in Darfur provoked government crackdown leaving 1.2 million homeless and 50,000 dead

What is Britain doing to help?
Largest single cash donor having provided £63m in humanitarian aid. Backs African Union efforts and UN

What is the solution? No easy answer. Sanctions could prove disastrous


What is going on?
Mystical Lord's Resistance army has terrorised northern Uganda for years with vicious campaign that has forced 1.5 million people from their homes

What is Britain doing to help?
Britain has supported President Museveni with £740m in development aid since he came to power

What is the solution?
Negotiations with Sudan-based leader Joseph Kony doomed to failure, miltary solution seems inevitable


What is going on?
Rwanda continues to deny Congolese accusations that it has its soldiers in Congo in violation of a peace agreement. Ethnic tensions in Rwanda still strong after 1994 genocide.

What is Britain doing to help?
UK is largest single donor, providing nearly £33m last year. But government rejects calls to use aid to pressure President Kagame

What is the solution?
Peace in Rwanda depends on solution for Congo


What is going on?
160 Tutsis were the victims last week of low level civil war

What is Britain doing to help?
Britain is stepping up aid with £8m budgeted for 2004-5. UN just set up political mission

What is the solution?
Solution depends on settlement in DR Congo
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On the trail of the killers who harvest child body parts for muti medicine      

21 August 2004, Independent UK news report by Basildon Peta, Southern Africa Correspondent, copied here in full:

They first hit 10-year-old Sello Chokoe with a blunt instrument, causing a gash on his head. They then chopped off his penis, his hand and his ear. They were harvesting his body parts for "muti" - the murderous practice of traditional African medicine

Yet it is far from a normal part of such medicine. "In my many years of service in the South African police, I have not encountered this sadistic taking of a young innocent life," said police inspector Mohlahla Moshane as he led us to the spot.

The murder site is a few kilometres away from Sello's village, Moletjie, in northern Limpopo province. There stands a distinct and lonely hill in a vast grass and shrub veld.

The unsuspecting Sello was lured to the spot after being asked to look for a neighbour's donkeys. After a carefully planned ambush, his killers wedged him between the two large rocks to performed their macabre ceremony.

Sello seems to have dragged himself from the rocks where he had been abandoned. A woman collecting firewood found him and he was taken to hospital, but died a few days later. He was buried last Sunday in his fear-wracked village.

The practice of muti provides a disconcerting counterpoint to the contemporary image of the new South Africa. Dr Gerard Lubschagne, who heads the investigative psychology unit of the South African police service, conservatively estimates lives lost to ritual murders at between 50 to 300 every year. "We don't have accurate figures because most murders here are recorded in our records as murders irrespective of motive," he says. "Most people might also not regard a murder as a muti matter but just dismiss it as the work of some crazy killers."

Dr Lubschagne admits the rate of murders signals a very worrying trend in South Africa. Despite South Africa being the most developed African economy, a huge chunk of its population still believes power and wealth are better stoked by witch-doctors than stockbrokers and market analysts. "People who want to do better, people who want to be promoted at work, gamblers and politicians who want to win and even bank robbers who seek to get away with their criminal acts turn to muti," Dr Lubschagne said.

How the body parts are used varies with what customers want to achieve. They are eaten, drunk or smeared over the ambitious person. Various parts are used for different purposes. A man who had difficulty in producing children killed a father of several children and used his victim's genitals for muti. In another case, a butcher used a severed human hand to slap each of his products every morning before opening as a way of invoking the spirits to beckon customers.

Mathews Mojela is the head teacher at Sello's primary school. He has worked in rural areas for nearly a quarter of a century and says muti is founded in the archaic belief that there is only a limited amount of good luck around. If one wants to increase his wealth or luck, then it should come at another's expense.

The screaming of a child while his body parts are being chopped off is also regarded as a sign calling customers to the perpetrator's business, Mr Mojolela said. It is also believed that magical powers are awakened by the screams. Eating or burying the body parts "capture" the desired results. Robert Thornton, an anthropology professor at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg , who has done research in traditional healing, says children like Sello are targeted because it is believed that the power of the virgin is greater than that of a sexually active adult.

The main motivating idea is what Professor Thorntorn describes as "symbolic logic", the idea that another person's penis will strengthen the perpetrator's, or that the perpetrator's far-sightedness will be improved by devouring the victim's eyes. Blood is thought to increase vitality.

Professor Issack Niehaus of the University of Pretoria fears that muti killings will increase as the inequalities of wealth become more entrenched. He said: "I would expect the occult economy - that is the belief in using magical means to gain prosperity - to increase as poverty worsens."

At the spot where Sello was murdered, Inspector Mashane said "A young kid is carefully lured into this bush and mutilated without any witnesses. If he survives, perhaps he is the only person who could help identify his killers."

One of the few victims who lived to tell his story was Jeffery Mkhonto, who six years ago was mutilated by an organised gang set to harvest body parts. He had been lured to the house of a neighbour for food and ended up being castrated.

Dr Lubschagne says muti killings are difficult to investigate because there is no clear relationship between perpetrator and victim. Yet other reports have also suggested that the muti victim is often known to the perpetrators and is easily lured and murdered in the process. Communities themselves are often too afraid to come forward with evidence because of fears of a magical retaliation.

At Sello's homestead, even the elders were too afraid to point any fingers directly at a neighbour, a traditional healer, although many villagers implicated him in Sello's murder in muffled tones. The neighbour had allegedly sent Sello to fetch his donkeys without Sello's mother's permission. Peter Kagbi, who is in his late sixties, was questioned for four days by the police over Sello's murder before being released pending further investigations. Mr Kgabi confirmed that he had sent Sello to fetch the donkeys, but he denied taking part in the murder.

He said he saw nothing wrong in sending Sello without the mother's permission as he had done that on similar errands before, a point hotly disputed by the boy's family. Mr Kgabi said he had been threatened by the community and told they planned to burn him alive because he was a wizard.

"Some are accusing me of killing Sello but I did not," he said. "I have not fled my home despite the threats because if I do, the community will regard that as an admission of guilt."

Even the eventual capture and conviction of Sello's killers would do little for his brokenhearted single mother, Salome, 39, who lives with her two remaining children on a £15 a month social grant from the government.

"Anything that does not bring back my son is hardly of any importance to me now. No mother wants to lose a child this way," she said.

Her emotional state will not be helped when she learns that Sello's body parts probably were sold for no more than £200 each, the price normally charged for a child's body parts in the muti industry.

This weblog is dedicated to Karen Southwick

Yesterday, I read the below post at Jim Moore's Journal. It links to an extraordinary essay by the late Karen Southwick. The essay, entitled "A Breath of Hope", brought me to tears because it so eloquently put what I find impossible to describe. I need to read the essay again to quote the parts I find so perceptive - not about the US health system - the part about being above and below water. Anyone who suffers chronic long term illness that keeps them bedbound can identify with Karen's thoughts and feelings. Parts of Karen's essay are timeless. A classic. The other parts I hope will not be timeless - what I mean to say is I hope the US healthcare part of the essay becomes dated, that things get fixed, so patients do not have to endure dealing with so many complexities, and so much paperwork - when you become ill you almost have to become an expert on your illness and devote all of your energy to as much paperwork as is carried out in any part-time office job. It's gruelling and frustrating and actually feels cruel. I should imagine the bureacracy is the same in most European countries.

I only know Jim through his blog and had never heard of his friend before now. I am not able to articulate right now what the essay meant to me - but I felt compelled to copy Jim's post in my other blog at ME AND OPHELIA and link to the essay, to share with other readers.

Today, I found an overflow of drafts that I need to post to my blog on the Sudan, mainly to do with the failure of aid agencies to get basic food, water, shelter and medical help to those most in need in Sudan and Chad. And I got to thinking - of all of Karen Southwick's difficulties with health care in the USA ...my very different (but difficult) experiences here in the UK over the past four years ... and those of the refugees in Africa - and the difficulties faced by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ...

So, I decided to start up a new blog for my posts on aid agencies - and call it "A Breath of Hope" dedicated to Karen Southwick. Talk about serendipity. I have just visited Jim's blog to capture the links for the post below, but the Harvard server was down. So I clicked into the pdf copy I have of Karen's essay - and for the first time noticed a link - I clicked into the link and found a new blog called The view of a person. At first glance I could see Jim's footprint all over it. Don't ask me how I knew. I just knew. On reading the text, I guess I must be right because who else sits in front of a Mac - west of Boston - writing such thoughtful posts? It had to be Jim. They broke the mould when they made him, so I know I'm not mistaken. Hi Jim: if you are reading this: you make me laugh the things you get up to. It looks like Technorati is still not working. The link to my blog has not showed. I'm not sure what to think about being described as "a human rights activist and health advocate with a personal voice" - I don't mind - as long as it doesn't peg me as a troublemaker :-)
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This weblog is dedicated to Karen Southwick, a dear friend of Jim Moore's. Here is a copy of Jim's post dated July 26, 2004, at Jim Moore's Journal:

Karen Southwick passes away

I just found out that my close friend Karen Southwick passsed away in California this morning.  Karen was a writer on high technology and biotechnology, author of many books and magazine articles.  She was also an editor deeply loved by those who worked with her.  She was my editor for many years when I wrote a regular column for the old "Upside," the precursor of silicon valley business mags.  She was the editor who encouraged me to go wild with metaphors--as long as I could back them up with telling detail.  She was a writer's editor.

In her last months she hoped to blog on her cancer, and on health care reform from  the standpoint of the patient.

Here is her last essay, which she wrote not long before her death.

Thanks, Karen, for all you did, and for the love you gave to so many of us.

Posted by James Moore on 7/26/04; 11:10:37 AM from the Economics and cybenetics dept.