Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Faith leaders call for political action on poverty

from Newsday


For the one in five Long Islanders trapped in poverty, life could get better with some concerted political action by the religious community, faith leaders say.

The call to a political agenda came at a conference of 225 faith leaders Monday at the Adelphi University School of Social Work in Garden City. That does not mean partisan politics, said Richard Koubek of Catholic Charities, a coordinator of the conference and a founder of MICAH, an interfaith coalition to end poverty and hunger on Long Island.

"We're asking the faith community to go beyond feeding and clothing the poor and to help get at the root causes of poverty," Koubek said.

Some of the causes were identified at workshops on segregation, underfunding of social service departments and child care agencies, and lack of affordable housing, health care, jobs that pay a living wage and public transportation.

Congregations could make a difference by "showing up in places where they are not often seen, such as county and state legislatures" to advocate for the poor, Koubek said.

Recent foreclosures in the wake of the mortgage crisis have deepened Long Island's housing problems, people at the workshop said.

Connie Lassandro, director of the Nassau Office of Housing and Homeless Services, said her department was working to prevent foreclosed homeowners from becoming homeless.

"We first try to remodify their loan so they can keep their house. We negotiate with the lending institution," she said. She urged homeowners in distress to call the Nassau Home Ownership Center hotline, 516-571-HOME.

Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, a professor at Adelphi's social work school, pointed out that the poverty line should be "regionalized" for a high-cost area such as Long Island.

A poverty standard of $40,000 for a family of four -- which would show 21 percent below the poverty line -- would be more realistic and would bring more state and federal money to Long Island, social workers say.

Poor students shut out

from the Chicago Sun Times

HIGHER EDUCATION | Number receiving Pell Grants declining at top schools

BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter/

The number of low-income students at the area's top universities continues to shrink.

The University of Chicago, Northwestern, Notre Dame and the University of Illinois have each seen a drop in the number of students who qualify for Pell Grants -- federal aid to the neediest students.

The drops mirror declines at the wealthiest schools nationwide, where Pell recipients dipped to 13.1 percent of students in 2006-2007 at the 75 private schools with endowments of more than $500 million, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Pell recipients now total 18 percent of undergrads at the 39 best-endowed public universities.

Critics of rising college costs have questioned why the schools don't spend more of their endowments to halt skyrocketing tuition. A small number of schools -- most notably Harvard -- have responded by replacing loans with grants for students from poor and middle-income families and reducing costs even for families making up to $180,000 a year.

But others say the problem goes deeper, because as the nation's top schools get more selective, lower-income students get crowded out.

"Because of their poverty, they've gone all their lives to inferior schools and haven't got a prayer either of getting into an elite college or of doing the work when they get there,'' said Walter Benn Michaels, an English professor at the U. of I.'s Chicago campus and author of The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality.

Michaels said the tuition reforms at the most elite schools "only make things worse'' -- particularly in the case of Harvard -- because the discounts are funded by the school's $29 billion endowment. University endowments are tax-free, as are donations to endowments, meaning there is an indirect public subsidy, he said.

Not surprisingly, Harvard ranked near the bottom of the Chronicle's list, with just 8.1 percent of its students receiving Pell grants. But some area schools didn't rank much higher.

Notre Dame, whose endowment was worth $4.5 billion in 2006, ranked 66th out of the 75 schools listed. Just 8.6 percent of its 8,350 undergrads qualify for Pell.

"This is a year where it slipped a little bit," said Joe Russo, director of Student Financial Strategies at Notre Dame. Russo said the school is doing some "very generous things" for "truly needy lower-income students" enrolling next year. He declined to give details.

At Northwestern, which ranked 63rd, spokesman Al Cubbage said the declining value of Pell grants -- they had remained stagnant for years until Congress passed legislation increasing them last year -- could be part of the reason for a slight decline in lower-income students at NU. He noted that the school hopes to attract more poor students by eliminating loans for students for families earning less than $55,000. The school will also cap the total amount of federally backed loans any student will have to take at $20,000. At the University of Illinois, the percentage of Pell recipients dropped to about 15 percent of undergrads, ranking it 28th out of 39 public schools with the largest endowments.

But financial aid director Dan Mann said the school's number went up this year, and he said when final tallies are calculated the total will exceed 16 percent. He said part of the increase was because of Illinois Promise, a program that covers all costs for the 500 neediest students on campus.

Nutritional changes to WIC program will allow low-income mothers to buy fruits and vegetables

from the Los Angeles Times

Get ready for less fruit juice and cheese: Soon, WIC coupons will cover produce and other healthful foods.

By Susan Bowerman

As food prices spiral higher, the quality of a diet can really suffer. Starchy, sugary, fatty foods are filling and relatively inexpensive compared with fruits, vegetables and lean meats. The effects of a tight budget on food choices are particularly concerning for people who may find healthful foods difficult to afford: low-income mothers and their children.

Soon, they will be getting some overdue help.

For the first time in its 35-year history, the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program -- which provides food vouchers to millions of households nationwide -- will, starting October 2009, allow participants to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and soy-based products.

It's about time. The mission of the WIC program is to safeguard the health of low-income children up to age 5 as well as pregnant, postpartum and lactating low-income women, who are considered to be at nutritional risk. Since the program's inception in the 1970s, knowledge about nutrition has advanced considerably -- but the WIC food provisions have remained mostly unchanged.

The original list of eligible foods made no provisions for children or pregnant women to obtain fruits and vegetables. There were no fresh fruits, only juice. Fresh carrots were the sole vegetable that could be purchased with WIC vouchers, but only by lactating mothers. (Vouchers could also be used to purchase whole milk, dried beans or peanut butter, certain fortified cereals, and up to two dozen eggs and 3 pounds of cheese a month.)

In 2003, concerned by rising obesity rates and WIC participants' poor diet quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture commissioned the Institute of Medicine (which advises the government on medical matters) to suggest modifications to the existing food packages. The institute's report, released in 2005, recommended sweeping changes in the food program. They were approved by the USDA in December.

The foods that will qualify next year are more consistent with the government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which emphasize the importance of including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products on the menu.

They'll also be more in line with the messages long provided in WIC's nutrition education classes.

This should be a relief to WIC's health educators, who stress to participants the importance of consuming more produce and whole grains -- even though the program hasn't helped participants obtain these items.

By far the most significant change will be the provision of cash-value vouchers, redeemable at regular grocery stores and farmers markets, that can be used to buy fruits and vegetables -- items that often go by the wayside when a food budget is stretched to the limit.

Only about 10% of Americans consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

A typical American family spends 15% to 18% of its food budget on produce. But, according to a survey published in November in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn., a low-income family would need to spend 43% to 70% of its food budget on fruits and vegetables to meet the dietary guidelines.

The new WIC plan also will allow the purchase of whole-grain products such as breads, oatmeal and brown rice -- in contrast to the old package, which allowed only fortified cereals, which were not necessarily whole-grain.

The government's dietary guidelines call for at least three daily servings of whole grains to reap the benefits of their fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. But the average person doesn't consume even one.

In other WIC changes, whole-milk purchases will be allowed only for the youngest children -- those older than 2 will get milk that's 2% fat or less -- and the amounts of cheese, eggs and fruit juice that can be purchased will be reduced. These changes are geared at reducing dietary saturated fat and cholesterol, and calorie-laden beverages such as fruit juice.

The changing ethnic composition and dietary preferences of WIC participants is being acknowledged too -- the number of Latino participants has doubled since 1988, and the number of Asian participants has grown sharply. Families will now be able to use vouchers to buy items such as soy milk, tofu and whole-grain flour or corn tortillas.

Susan Bowerman is a registered dietitian and assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

[Comment] Voters Want Action on Poverty in 2008

from Spotlight on Poverty

Gary Cunningham of the Northwest Area Foundation discusses recent polling.

When they vote this November, Americans say they’ll think about how candidates help those who “struggle to make ends meet”

Poverty is an issue that tends to get more attention during political campaigns and in the wake of natural disasters. That was certainly the case nearly three years ago, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit our Gulf Coast. When the media turned its cameras on the terrible destruction, the bright lights revealed lots more than the hurt and need that comes in the wake of flood and howling wind. The media discovered neglect and persistent poverty, as well as political perspectives and social systems that served to perpetuate deep want and lack of opportunity in poor communities across the South.

The news stories were no surprise to anyone who works to reduce poverty. Yet, we at the Northwest Area Foundation felt the coverage missed two important elements: that the struggle to make ends meet can affect how people vote; and, that scores of communities are confronting poverty head-on and making real progress.

Over the years, the Northwest Area Foundation has worked with rural, urban, American Indian reservation, and rural Latino communities – some with populations under 200 and others that span multiple counties – supporting their efforts to build skills and set plans to reclaim their destinies. Tens of thousands of men, women and youth have participated in efforts to understand the poverty within their communities, create better visions for tomorrow, and take action to get there.

This experience prompted us to commission a survey to learn whether the high level of self-determination and accountability we saw among our grantees was alive in other communities across the country.

After three years of conducting the telephone survey, we can confidently answer “yes.”

In 2008, respondents from all across the country – 4,000 in all – painted a strong picture of realism, expectation and hope.

More than half of the respondents said their local economies are “only fair” at best. More than one-third worry all or most of the time that their incomes won’t pay the bills this year, and seven out of ten said it takes at least $40,000 a year to support a family of four; that’s nearly twice the Federal poverty threshold ($21,027).

Political leaders, especially those campaigning in 2008, may also be interested to know that:

* 90% say it is “very or somewhat important” for local elected officials to help people struggling to make ends meet
* 80% say they are almost certain to vote this November
* 80% they will think about how candidates address this struggle when they go to the polls

At the same time, over 8-out-of-10 said they feel the number of people struggling to make ends meet could be reduced in their communities. Even more, 9-out-of-10 said they would personally like to do more to help people struggling within their communities.

Gary Cunningham is vice president of programs and Chief Program Officer of the Northwest Area Foundation. Its mission is to help its eight-state region reduce poverty long term. For more information about the 2008 national poll and the foundation, visit

[Press Release] As food crisis deepens across globe, major aid group forced to scale back assistance

from World Vision

* Higher prices may force agency to cut urgent hunger assistance to 1.5 million people this year
* Misery increasing in poorest nations: Haiti, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan — and among refugees
* Afghanistan: From bread-and-tea diet to “just tea” in desperately poor western provinces
* World Vision calls on donor governments to fund World Food Programme’s $755 million shortfall

Washington, D.C., April 28, 2008—Amid surging food prices, child malnutrition, violent unrest and the prospect of prolonged food shortages, one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations has announced a potential 1.5 million drop in the number of people receiving its food assistance.

World Vision, whose work includes providing nearly 450,000 metric tons of food in some 30 countries, cites the soaring cost of food and unmet donor-nation aid commitments for a potential 23 percent decrease in the number of people it is able to supply with food aid this year.

“Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid,” said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. “At least a third of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive.”

The Christian humanitarian agency’s field staff report that the spike in food prices, along with other factors, is deepening the hunger crisis for children and families in developing nations:

* Haiti: “Many Haitians are still recovering from last year’s floods. Coupled with their low level of income, they cannot afford the high cost of even basic supplies and commodities. We’re distributing food to as many people as we can but there is never enough. The next few months are critical for Haiti.”
—Wesley Charles, World Vision national director, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

* Afghanistan: “Wheat prices in Afghanistan’s western provinces have increased 100 percent from this time last year. I am meeting families in the villages, who, for years, have been surviving on a diet of naan and chai, or bread and tea, alone. Today, they can no longer afford the bread … It’s an unfathomable situation.”
—Mary Kate MacIsaac, World Vision communications manager, Herat, Afghanistan

* West Africa: “We have already had riots in major cities in West Africa, including Dakar, Senegal, by people protesting against the higher and higher prices of basic food staples. This is of serious concern to the region.”
—Paul Sitnam, World Vision regional director of humanitarian and emergency affairs, Dakar, Senegal

* Bangladesh: “Families in Bangladesh are still recovering from last fall’s devastating Cyclone Sidr. Seven-year-old Supria’s family lost their entire harvest in the cyclone; now her father struggles to find paid work. Without food assistance, it would be difficult for families like Supria’s to find daily food.”
—James East, World Vision communications director for Asia-Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

* Somalia: “We expect to see increased malnutrition and disease, especially among children. Somalia, one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies, is about to get a lot worse unless we do something fast.”
—Chris Smoot, World Vision program director for Somalia, Nairobi, Keyna

* Jordan: “Iraqi refugees are among the hardest hit in Amman. Even before food prices started to spike, refugee families here had been surviving by watering down their yogurt because milk was too expensive, and by not eating fruit and proteins. Now, many will be forced to cut even more nutrition from their diets.”
—Ashley Clements, World Vision emergency advocacy advisor, Amman, Jordan

* South Sudan: “Food assistance is a vital part of rebuilding war-torn South Sudan: Feeding programs in schools protect children from malnutrition and motivate families to educate their daughters. Food-for-work programs enable roads to be built in a region that lacks critical infrastructure. But higher prices this year mean we’ll be able to distribute food to thousands less. It’s a crisis that will set South Sudan back years in its development efforts.”
—Seth Le Leu, World Vision program director, Juba, South Sudan

A lack of available funds from donor nations, combined with rising prices, has caused some regular food delivery channels to dry up, preventing the launch of new food aid projects where they are needed.

World Vision therefore calls on donor governments to increase resources in order to fund the World Food Program’s $755 million shortfall. It also urges leaders of the world’s leading industrialized nations to make the issue a priority at the upcoming G8 conference.

“This is a challenge that requires both short and long-term approaches to resolve,” said Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s director of advocacy and government relations in the U.S. “In addition to providing food for urgent hunger needs, it is essential to invest in long-term agricultural development, improve access to credit and to markets for struggling farmers, and to enact fair trade policies.”

Poverty in Haiti Places Children at Risk for Labor Exploitation

from the Voice of America

By Brian Wagner

U.N. officials are working with Haiti's government to prevent scores of children from falling prey to forced labor. VOA's Brian Wagner reports that chronic poverty places many children at risk of exploitation.

Many Haitians take pride that their nation was the first in the Americas to abolish slavery during a revolt in 1791. Yet even today, scores of children labor as unpaid domestic servants in homes across the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The U.N. Childrens Fund estimates that more than 170,000 children, mostly girls, do not attend school and engage in forced labor in a practice known as restavek. Many come to the capital from rural areas, where parents say they have no resources to provide food and schooling for some of their children.

These children clean, perform chores, and live in the homes of extended family members or non-family.

Sintyl Wilson runs a school in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, where he says he is working to keep the numbers of restavek children down. He says, if not for free meals and low tuition at his school, some of his 125 students would likely be working as domestic servants.

Wilson says the neighborhood is full of restavek children. He says the students most at risk of being pressed into work are those with siblings who already are restaveks.

U.N. estimates show about half of Haitian children attend primary school, and about 20 percent continue on to secondary school.

This school in Martissant offers afternoon classes for restavek children who must work during the day.

Now, Wilson says he is trying to draw more restavek children into the school, by offering vocational training for students to become auto mechanics, electricians or develop other trades. Wilson shows off brand-new wrenches and other hand tools he has bought for students to begin apprenticing in a nearby auto repair shop.

One of those students is 15-year-old Audrel Delil, whom Wilson found living on the streets.

Audrel says he came to the Haitian capital about a year ago from the southwestern port town of Jeremie.

He says he came to live with his aunt, but she beat him when he was disobedient and did not send him to school.

Audrel fled his aunt's house and now lives on the top floor of the cramped school, along with several other children who have no other safe place to stay.

The school's assistant director, Jean Baptiste Marie Marline, says children pressed into domestic service often face a difficult future.

Marline says children in abusive and demeaning situations often have low self-esteem and, even if they flee restavek homes they can be drawn into forced labor by others.

Haiti's government has laws on the books forbidding forced labor and child abuse. But experts say many children can fall through the cracks in a nation where scores of babies never receive a birth certificate.

Massimo Toschi, a child welfare expert with the U.N. Mission in Haiti, says a child without a birth certificate has very few legal protections. "So basically they do not exist, and it is very easy to have them forced into trafficking, exploitation, child labor, and no one would know about it," he said.

Earlier this year, the U.N. mission began targeting restavek with a media campaign featuring Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean.

Toschi says the goal is to raise awareness about the plight of thousands of children and challenge cultural acceptance of restavek.

Also, U.N. officials from UNICEF and the U.N. mission in Haiti have been working with the government to improve its ability to monitor orphanages across the country. Experts say traffickers take advantage of the weaknesses of Haiti's birth registry system and adoption agencies to gain custody over orphans.

Toschi says the U.N. mission has seen improvements in orphanage monitoring efforts in the past year. But he says the problem of restavek goes beyond enforcing existing laws. "Children restavek exist because their families are poor, that they cannot manage to cope with feeding their children. So the real problem is the poverty," he said.

Facing a food crisis, optimist finds hope in the dismal science

from The Globe and Mail

Jeffrey Sachs's ‘yes we can' attitude has its fair share of supporters – and detractors


NEW YORK — More than two decades ago, long before ambition and optimism conspired to make him the Man Who Would Save the World, Jeffrey Sachs was merely the Man Who Would Save Bolivia.

As a precocious 28-year-old, already a tenured professor in Harvard's economics department, Mr. Sachs attended a lecture on the South American country's growing financial crisis. After listening to one speaker enumerate a host of ills, chief among them a crippling rate of inflation, he stood up and confidently declared, “I can fix that.”

Mr. Sachs might be seen as the Barack Obama of the economics world, a self-appointed saviour who, no matter how seemingly intractable the problem, is there to smilingly reassure us that “yes we can.”

Not long after that Harvard seminar, he was on a plane to La Paz, where he counselled the Bolivian government on a program of “shock therapy” that dramatically reduced its hyperinflation. That success, in turn, led to similar advisory roles in Poland and Russia after the fall of communism, transforming him into perhaps the world's most high-profile economist (he was twice named one of the most 100 influential people in the world by Time magazine).

In recent years, as Mr. Sachs has become a special adviser to the UN Secretary-General, and shifted his attention to the more expansive and complex issues of extreme poverty, climate change and AIDS, this rock star appeal has continued to grow (Bono, of U2 fame, has become a vocal acolyte).

But so too have the doubters, who question whether Mr. Sachs's “yes we can” prescription of more government intervention and improved co-operation among the global community isn't more than a little rose-tinted.

“Even though there is a lot of confusion, a lot of inertia, a lot of normal negativity coming from powerful groups, a lot of vested interests – all of this I believe can still be surmounted by good information understood by the public,” Mr. Sachs, now 53, explained during an interview recently at his Manhattan home, near Central Park. “They would like to see solutions to problems.”

This conviction lies at the heart of his latest book, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, a blueprint of sorts for navigating both the perils of a burgeoning population, and the corresponding strain it is placing on our natural resources.

Philosophically, his proposed remedies are more closely aligned with the left-leaning John Maynard Keynes than they are with Milton Friedman, but Mr. Sachs, who is also director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, has clearly been influenced by both.

Like Mr. Friedman, he believes in market solutions for many economic issues – he just doesn't think that unfettered markets, left to their own devices, will lift Africans out of abject poverty or stamp out environmental degradation. These crises, he insists, require strong public policies to align private interests with the goals of sustainable development.

Mr. Sachs, who is a diminutive man with boyish looks, a ready smile and a helmet of implacable hair, has an academic's tendency to lecture on these subjects, rather than converse.

And while his diagnosis is undeniably grim, he never succumbs to Malthusian pessimism. Quite the opposite. He is exhortative rather than shrill, hopeful rather than plaintive, even as he ticks off a list of calamities ranging from the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery, to the more than one billion people trapped in extreme poverty, to the AIDS pandemic in Africa and the looming possibility of massive species extinction.

“You might ask why I'm cheerful and optimistic,” he acknowledged. “What I can tell you is that eight years ago, not one single African was being treated for AIDS with antiretroviral medicines. Bed-net distribution was at a standstill. The use of old and ineffective medicines for malaria was still rampant, and it looked pretty much like this food situation right now, where the international community was giving speeches – and doing essentially nothing.”

The spiralling cost of food, which has already sparked riots in poorer regions of the world, will provide an immediate test of Mr. Sachs's optimism.

The UN's World Food Program has made an impassioned plea for $775-million (U.S.) in emergency funding, saying it cannot afford to buy enough grain at these inflated prices. Even if it is successful, the cash would be little more than a Band-Aid: The long-term solution, Mr. Sachs believes, is multifaceted, and involves putting the brakes on the U.S. ethanol industry, creating a $5-billion fund for agriculture, and financing better research and development for crop technologies in the developing world.

The obvious glitch here – and it's one that underlies each of Mr. Sachs's main objectives, whether it be eradicating extreme poverty, curbing population growth, or fighting environmental degradation – is the need for a new spirit of global co-operation, one in which political leaders with differing agendas can be mobilized in the pursuit of shared goals. These ambitious goals require much more collaboration, not to mention cash, than handing out malarial bed netting.

“Sustainability has to be a choice, a choice of a global society that thinks ahead and acts in unaccustomed harmony,” he states matter-of-factly in the book. “Governments will have to be restructured for such twenty-first century problems,” he declares at another point.

Mr. Sachs believes the cost of inaction is too great for governments to ignore; yet critics fasten upon these statements as fanciful, proof of a well-intentioned naiveté.

Take the food example. The ethanol industry, despite fierce criticism from many around the world, soldiers on, fuelled by the powerful U.S. corn lobby. Several countries have recently imposed export bans on key crops, choosing a path of self-interest rather than co-operation. Agricultural research budgets for Africa are in the process of being slashed, rather than augmented. And the United States continues to direct most of its spending at the war in Iraq, making it more difficult to solicit more food aid from the world's wealthiest nation.

But Mr. Sachs, optimist that he is, shrugs off the criticism as little more than defeatist cynicism, pointing out that not long ago it was a struggle merely to convince corporate interests that climate change was real.

“My experience in life over many, many issues is that in the end, the truth comes out,” he said. “It usually takes longer than I think, but it also usually is more relentless than the short-run political analysis allows for.”

He insists that the path to salvation lies in a multidisciplinary approach; private players must work with willing governments, academics, scientists and non-governmental organizations to create sustainable technologies.

These technologies are where he places a great deal of faith – not merely in their ability to help contain some of the environmental damage (carbon capture sequestration is an example he's fond of citing) but to improve agricultural yields with more resistant, bountiful seeds.

One of the biggest challenges, he concedes, is reversing the course of U.S. foreign policy. Throughout his book, he discusses a rebalancing of economic power that will soon find its centre of gravity in Asia, rather than the United States. Such monumental transitions have been the bedfellows of political hostility and even wars in the past – all the more reason, he says, that the United States must jettison its unilateralist approach on the world stage and become a better global citizen.

Food Crisis in Haiti Continues

from Blog the Debt

In Haiti, people are starving because of the increasingly rising food crisis. Jacqueline Charles and Pablo Bachelet of The Miami Herald discuss the current conditions. As world leaders find ways to reduce the crisis, Neil Watkins of Jubilee USA stresses that the cancellation of its debt payments may help ease these challenges.

OAS leader outlines recovery plan for Haiti food crisis


The secretary-general of the Organization of American States says Haiti should expand its agricultural base and resume production of rice and other items to help resolve a deep food crisis.

José Miguel Insulza says rising world food prices present an opportunity for the poor Caribbean nation to increase crop production for local consumption and foreign markets.

The OAS said in a statement that Insulza visited Haiti briefly on Friday. He and leaders from several countries offered proposals on how Haiti can recover from the crisis.

At least seven people died in Haiti earlier this month during food riots that cost Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis his job.

Alarmed that Haiti's hard-won stability could be swept away by the food crisis, a broad coalition of international donors and countries is rallying to assist President René Préval with emergency grants and soft loans.

On Thursday, an international delegation led by the head of the Organization of American States and top officials from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina traveled to Haiti to meet with Préval, who is attempting to form a new government after his prime minister was forced out following riots over rising food prices. Officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are also in Port-au-Prince for discussions.

''The world community has an obligation to do everything it can,'' said Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, who on Wednesday sent President Bush a letter asking for more assistance. ``And even when it feels it's done enough, to dig deeper and do more.''
Haiti was supposed to be the venue for a donor's conference this week, but earlier this month at least five protesters and one U.N. peacekeeper were killed during riots, forcing the conference's postponement. The international delegation led by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza flew to Haiti anyway, reflecting the international community's concern that the country, after billions of dollars in international assistance and the presence of 9,000 United Nations security forces, could slip into chaos as Haitians grow angry over the soaring costs of rice, wheat and other staples.

The crisis also drew delegations from Cuba, Venezuela and France and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the leader of Rainbow/Push Coalition. Though Haiti will get an infusion of cash, Préval is renewing his calls for greater assistance, including more help to deal with drug-trafficking gangs, quick passage of a textile trade bill by the U.S. Congress and temporary protected status for its migrants in the United States.

Préval is also requesting fertilizer and other equipment to bolster agricultural production and wants about $60 million from the United States to help subsidize the purchase of rice, flour and cooking oil and maintain steady prices for the next six months.

The Bush administration has released $200 million for emergency food aid worldwide, though it is not clear how much will be for Haiti. Meek wants Bush to earmark at least $15 million for the Caribbean nation.

''We want to show support and hold discussions on how we can help in the emergency,'' Insulza said in a telephone interview just before boarding the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince.
Insulza called the Haitian situation ''sad'' given the country's recent progress after decades of instability and decay, but he considered the government to be stable. ''We have to show we support Préval,'' he said.

While some are pushing to erase Haiti's debt, Insulza said, ``there is a lot of debt that has been wiped out, and not being collected at this moment. No one is pressing Haiti to pay debt. It is not the most pressing problem Préval has today.''

Indeed Préval's biggest challenge is rebuilding the coalition government, and staving off political challenges from Haitian senators, who orchestrated the April 12 firing of Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

Gombe Launches Poverty Monitoring Fund

from All Africa

This Day (Lagos)

By Segun Awofadeji

The Development Exchange Centre (DEC) in collaboration with ActionAid Nigeria with the support of Britain's Department for International Development (DfID) have launched a Monitoring Virtual Poverty Fund (MVPF) of the Coalitions for Change (C4C) in Gombe, the State capital.

MVPF, also known as debt relief gains initiative, was set by Government to invest the proceeds of the Debt Relief Gains (DRGs) for the provision of projects that can lead to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The launch of above project, THISDAY checks reveal, signifies a fulfillment of a brand of partnership that ActionAid Nigeria advocates; being a partnership between Government, the civil society, community members and the private sector participating in making governance transparent, accountable and effective and for the good of all.

Speaking during the ceremony held recently in Gombe, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Abubakar Sule Bage, represented by Mr. James Pisagih, said the State Government has greater reasons than other States in Nigeria to welcome new initiatives in development; stressing that the State, which is young, has a lot of ground to cover in providing social services for the people.

Bage described development as the cardinal objective of the present administration, and added that the government manifesto that won the people's mandate was fundamentally rooted in responsive agenda of government to the needs and aspirations of the people of the State as articulated in the State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS).

He expressed the State Government's delight at the project launch and lauded ActionAid and its partners for their efforts towards eradicating poverty and stemming other social vices like corruption especially in the public sector.

The SSG reiterated the Governor Danjuma Goje administration's commitment in attaining the MDGs in the State, and called on the civil society to provide honest, constructive and timely feedback on the range of intervention funded under the debt relief gains initiative.

In a goodwill message, Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Dr. Otive Igbuzor said that the coalitions present an opportunity under the auspices of the Virtual Poverty Fund, to influence and monitor processes and systems that aim at accountability, and reasonable utilisation of the over $1 billion which will be invested in MDGs projects in Nigeria, including projects specifically meant to improve lives in Gombe state.

He assured that they are obliged to use the Fund in making real impact on the lives of target beneficiaries including over 50.4 per cent poverty stricken, under privileged pupils, persons living with HIV/AIDs, under five children who are dying of preventable diseases, and pregnant women who suffer maternal problems.

The Country Director appealed to governments, traditional institutions in the State, private sector, the media and other interest groups such as faith-based organisations to partner with the coalitions against corruption, lack of probity in the award of government contracts, abandonment of projects and non-involvement of the people in the development process.

Igbuzor commended the State Government for its laudable initiative, and stressed that collaboration between the State and the coalitions on MVPF is a good omen for the State. The IBP Project Manager of C4C, Mr. Martin Obono, in his remarks, said, "C4C will help establish coalitions of interest from the public, private, civil society sector and the media, sharing a common vision of the need for development and reforms to improve specific aspects of public resource management".

The coalition for change, he noted, represents a new departure for development initiatives in Nigeria, in that it places institution at the heart of endeavours to create an environment where government agencies and the public can relate better with each other.

Obono added that C4C is focused to work with development agencies and institutions which are directly responsible for public resource management in Nigeria; pointing out that the programme will work on core issues linked to accountability and resources management, where there is a marked convergence of interests from across civil society and the private sector into government.

Local agency takes over poverty services in Richland County

from the Mansfield News Journal


MANSFIELD -- The state has appointed a 20-year-old nonprofit group to be Richland County's new low-income services provider.

The 20-year-old Central City Economic Development Council, which builds affordable housing for low-income county residents, will now run federally funded programs designed to help area residents escape poverty. The Ohio Department of Development decision means low-income services will again be administered by a local agency.

The CCEDC expects to handle about $180,000 in poverty block grant funding for the remainder of this year and $240,000 next year. The Home Energy Assistance Program, home weatherization improvements, job training, education and transportation programs will be affected.

"We will be collaborating, partnering with a number of social service groups in the community, to help eliminate poverty, slum and blight," CCEDC director Leonard Dillon said.

Ohio Heartland Community Action Agency Program in Marion provided low-income services after the Ohio Department of Aging and Department of Development halted funding to Mansfield-Richland-Morrow Total Operation Against Poverty. Both state agencies had concerns about cash flow problems and accounting procedures at MRM.

"It will be basic programs that community action agencies offer -- job skills, job training, education, and emergency services when families hit a crisis," CCEDC administrator Pattie Luckie said. "We have to be frugal with these dollars. We want to be good stewards of the money."

CCEDC is a member of the Richland County Homeless Coalition. It works closely with the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Veteran Services, the Domestic Violence Shelter and other agencies, Luckie said.

The agency has also begun talks with the Area Agency on Aging, to see if it could be a designee for federal funding for senior citizens, which might get certain programs back up and running. Among the needs is a Mansfield-based senior center where retirees can meet and socialize. MRM's loss of senior funding resulted in the abrupt closing of the Friendship Center in downtown Mansfield at the close of 2005.

"Is there still a gap in services? Absolutely. We hope to fill some of that," Luckie said.

The Area Agency on Aging managed to keep some programs running, particularly medical programs and meals for shut-ins, CCEDC officials said.

Tension in Egypt shows potency of food crisis

from USA Today

By David J. Lynch, USA TODAY
CAIRO — Well before 8 o'clock on a late April morning, a line of about 30 eager customers forms at a modest bakery in this working-class neighborhood. With a global food crisis roiling countries from Asia to the edge of Europe, at least 11 people have been killed recently in such lines here, struggling to get their daily bread.

But today, the queue melts away within moments. Veiled women and men in worn shirts approach a small wooden shack at the end of a narrow alley, hand over the equivalent of a few cents and leave holding a plastic bag filled with nine flat loaves of bread. Over the next half-hour, until the bakery runs out of its only product, the line waxes and wanes.

There's no panic, no desperate scrambling for sustenance — a tentative sign of success for an emergency government plan that involves dramatic increases in spending on bread subsidies and the use of Egyptian soldiers as bakers.

"Now we're able to find bread," says Dalia Hafez, 40, seated on a nearby curb in a cappuccino-colored headscarf. "Thanks God, the crisis is over."

For now, anyway. But the aftershocks from the food trauma here are only beginning to be felt. Tensions are continuing to build in this key U.S. ally, evidence that the global food crisis — the product of factors ranging from unusual weather in producing nations to increased competition for grains from biofuels programs — is now about much more than food.

"This crisis threatens not only the hungry, but also peace and stability," the head of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Josette Sheeran, warned in a recent speech.

That's certainly true in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, recipient of $1.8 billion in annual U.S. foreign aid and a critical link in global trade sitting astride the Suez Canal. Its authoritarian government is faced with mounting labor unrest, profound public dissatisfaction over a yawning gap between rich and poor and questions over who will lead Egypt in the coming years.

In this deeply unsettled atmosphere, images of Egyptians scrapping for subsidized balady (bal-a-DEE) bread have left the government on edge. Proof of just how sensitive the issue remains could be seen in the response of Egyptian state security to a USA TODAY correspondent's visit to a second bakery later that April morning.

As the reporter and his translator left the bakery in the Rod El Faroq neighborhood, they were blocked by a plainclothes security officer. The man demanded the memory card from the reporter's camera, saying the images it contained — of men baking bread — posed "a threat to Egypt's national security."

The reporter and his translator were surrounded by at least seven policemen in white uniforms. Some threatened the bakery owner with prison for speaking with a foreign journalist.

The journalists were detained for five hours. Egyptian officials said no pictures could be taken in their country without advance government approval. The camera's memory card was returned, damaged.

That Egyptian officials regard photos of bakers at work as potentially incendiary is a measure both of bread's unrivaled importance in the Egyptian diet and of the government's concern that continued public discontent over food supplies could metastasize into something more threatening.

Officials here have good reason to be worried. In 1977, an abortive government effort to reduce the bread subsidies that are a lifeline for most Egyptians sparked widespread rioting, which led to dozens of deaths and forced the government to abandon its plans.

"People in Egypt may be considered passive or silent, but there's a limit to this. And when they reach that limit, one day there will be a popular explosion," said lawyer Esam Salam, interviewed at a cafe near Cairo's train station.

Former Pentagon official David Schenker, who lived in Cairo in the early 1990s and is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, returned here recently for a visit and was stunned at the sour public mood.

"I was shocked," he says. "I find it very scary."

An emergence of chaos

The Egyptian government has provided heavily subsidized bread for decades as a way to guarantee social peace in a nation where the nasbaseeta, or simple folk, have little control over the larger forces that buffet their lives.

The frustrating bread lines are mostly gone, but soaring prices for other foods are adding another burden to a population already under enormous stress. More than 40% of Egypt's 80 million people live on just $2 a day — what millions of Americans spend for a cup of coffee. Almost 20% get by on daily income of just $1.

On April 6, the latest in a string of mounting protests by disaffected workers seeking higher pay to keep up with double-digit inflation boiled over into riots in the textile capital of Mahalla.

Last week, in a rare show of public dissent, a Cairo University student heckled Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif during a speech.

The simmering unrest comes amid questions over Egypt's political future. President Hosni Mubarak — in office since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat — turns 80 on Sunday. He is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, but in this nominally democratic nation, many Egyptians resent the notion of what they regard as a "Pharaonic" succession. Opposition groups have called for Egyptians to stage a general strike on the president's birthday.

"We believe if the situation remains as it is, there will be the emergence of chaos in this country," says Ashraf Badr El-Din, a member of parliament from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

A worldwide threat

Bread plays a unique, almost mystical, role in Egyptian life. This is the only Arab country where people call the staple aish, or life, rather than khubz.

In the simple dusty villages far from the major cities, Egyptians developed 82 different types of bread, using corn, sorghum and barley as well as wheat, says Ahmed Khorshid, the government scientist known as the "father of bread" after a lifetime of research on the subject.

With the introduction of state subsidies in the 1960s, wheat bread became the standard. Today, Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world, placing annual orders of about 7 million tons, or roughly half its annual consumption.

Egypt's current predicament is just one facet of a global mosaic: 37 countries face a crisis over food, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Weak or embattled governments in some of the world's poorest nations could be pushed to the brink of anarchy or beyond by the life-or-death pressures of scarce or expensive food.

Already, Haiti's government has been driven from office by violent protests over prices that are 50% to 100% higher than last year. Seven other countries — Egypt, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Madagascar — have suffered food riots.

Global food prices have risen 73% since 2006, but the increase for certain products has been even more dramatic. Edible oils are up 144%; cereals, including wheat and rice, are up 129%; dairy products have doubled in price.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick says the developing world's higher food bill will erase the past seven years of progress in reducing poverty. And prices are expected to remain elevated at least through 2009.

In Egypt, soaring food costs are straining government budgets and threatening to undermine 4-year-old economic reforms. Those market-oriented initiatives have spurred economic growth to an annual rate of 7% but are predicated upon sharp reductions in Egypt's bloated public subsidy bill.

The government was preparing to reduce spending that keeps food artificially cheap, but the global crisis forced Mubarak to reverse course.

Now, instead of cutting subsidies, he's dramatically increased them, staving off public discontent at the cost of a larger government deficit.

A government-fed problem

The WFP has labeled the spreading food crisis a "silent tsunami." But Egypt's food problem is no natural disaster. It's been compounded by government policies that distort markets.

The government keeps bread almost free — one loaf costs less than a penny — by subsidizing the wheat used to produce it.

However, the system is vulnerable to widespread corruption.

In recent months, as the global market price of wheat rose steadily higher, bakers began selling their subsidized flour to private bakeries rather than using it to make bread for the poor. Fifty-pound sacks of flour purchased from the government at a steep discount could be resold on the black market for roughly 10 times the subsidized price.

Diversions of subsidized flour occurred even as rising prices at the private bakeries caused more people to switch from buying their higher-priced bread to the cheaper version sold at the subsidized stores.

Market-priced bread, which had cost about 4 cents per loaf, jumped to almost 10 cents apiece as world grain prices soared. With less flour available to make bread even as more customers demanded it, the result was scarcity and long lines.

In March, Mubarak ordered the army to begin baking bread and distributing it through hastily established kiosks. Officials promised an end to bakery lines by the end of April.

By last week, there were indications that the acute phase of the episode had passed. But with food prices rising across the board at better than 20% annually, grumbling remains.

"The people are angry with the increase in prices. We don't know how to make ends meet," says Om Hashem Shaban, balancing on her head a torn white sack full of fresh bread.

Like the poor elsewhere, Egyptians cope with higher food prices by cutting back on expenditures for education and health care, says Bishow Parajuli, WFP country director.

To cope with fast-rising prices, Shaban says her family, including five children, eats less and occasionally skips meals. Most days, the menu usually consists only of bread.

Rice, Shaban says, "is more of a luxury item."

About 60 miles north of the Egyptian capital lies the country's agricultural heartland. Less than 3% of Egypt's territory is arable land. The best of it is found in the rich farmland of the Nile Delta.

Under a broiling sun, farmers trade rumors of the next move in commodities prices. Despite high prices for their crops, farmers here feel beset on all sides.

Their irrigation systems lack adequate maintenance. The cost of seeds and fertilizer has skyrocketed. Many pay rich landowners ever-higher rents for the right to work their modest lands. Those who own their own simple farms end up with smaller and smaller plots as each generation's inheritance subdivides farms among several sons.

The friction between the fair-trade and local-first movements

from the Charleston City Paper


Food shopping has never been more political than it is now. Beyond the clutter of brands vying for consumers' attention in any grocery store aisle, deep social movements are at play, and marketers are keen to exploit their ideas to slap an additional 30 cents on a price tag. Eat organic. Buy local. Help children in Africa get access to clean drinking water. Support Lowcountry shrimp. The consumer is more powerful than ever, and at times, also more confused.

A few years ago, the concept of buying fair trade goods caught on. To be considered fair trade, a product has to meet the labor and environmental standards set by one of several international organizations. While the fair trade sales are still rapidly increasing, the public's concern has shifted toward global warming and eating local.

Now, the green movement is all the rage. Lowcountry Local First, an organization that promotes local food and agriculture, was formed six months ago and has quickly expanded its activities. The idea behind the "eat local" movement is to strengthen ties between local consumers and producers, increase awareness about where and how food is produced, and reduce CO2 emissions by encouraging people to eat food that doesn't have to travel thousands of miles to get to your dinner table.

But can today's moral standard be reconciled with the one from a few years ago? Is it possible to eat local and support farmers in developing countries? And should that be the goal in the first place?

In the United Kingdom, where both the fair trade and eat local movements are more established, tensions between the two movements have reportedly increased in recent years, but so far, that is not the case in the United States and certainly not in Charleston, where recently the city's one fair trade store, Global Awakening on King Street, had a flier from Lowcounty Local First on its front counter.

However, on some college campuses, a debate about how to approach these issues has begun. William Moseley, a geography professor at Macalester College in Minnesota, whose research focuses on agriculture in southern and western Africa, has first-hand experience.

Recently, Moseley began to notice that while many of his students were becoming more interested in eating local, they didn't have the same enthusiasm for fair trade. This concerned him because while the market for fair trade represents less than one percent of global agricultural trade, it is growing around 40 percent a year.

Moseley believes fair trade presents a way for small organic farmers and food cooperatives to become economically viable in the face of competition from large-scale plantation farms. He's seen this while studying a cooperative wine vineyard in South Africa run by about 60 black farmers. The cooperative provides its members with better health care and working conditions than the large-scale owner-operated vineyards and relies on wine exports to break even.

In November, Moseley wrote an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the local food movement for being too insular. He did not reject the idea of eating local, but argued that conscientious consumers had to balance localism with an international perspective, one that included understanding our connections to the developing world. The response he received on some websites was openly hostile, and he began to think that it was because he was pushing people outside their comfort zone. Buying local is, after all, a simple theory — you go to the supermarket and look for local goods — and he was asking people to take a more nuanced approach. Not everyone appreciated it.

"I think part of that frustration was that I was complicating things, and they didn't want it to be complicated, they didn't want to have to think more deeply about it," he says. "It pushes you to understand that you're part of a global trading system and that trading system isn't necessarily an even playing field."

Gawain Kripke, the policy director at Oxfam America, a global anti-poverty organization, is concerned about where this debate might be headed. He sees the local food movement as being driven by a mix of concerns — a sense of supporting one's community, knowing about how food is produced and its environmental cost. He says that we should understand what criteria we are applying when making decisions about the food we buy. Some fair-trade products, for instance, actually have a lower carbon footprint than their equivalent in the United States, even when the transportation costs are factored in.

"It's important to parse out what the motivations are, and I think there is a worry that the local movement might turn into protectionism or a me-first-ism about our economic relationships, and that could be devastating for poor people in other countries who are really looking for a first step on the economic ladder and trading the things they produce, like agricultural goods, is one of the ways they can improve their livelihoods," he says.

Perhaps no one is more responsible for bringing more fair-trade products into the port of Charleston than Raymond Keane, a trader with Balzac Brothers & Company, a coffee import company that has been in business since the early 1900s. Balzac imports roughly 50 million pounds of coffee beans into the United States a year. Within the last four years, the amount of those beans that are certified as having been produced under fair conditions for workers and with methods that are environmentally sustainable has more than doubled.

Keane says that the coffee industry is in the midst of a generational shift, as younger, more environmentally conscious leaders take the reigns. Much of the change, he says, is fueled by consumer interest. He realizes that producing and transporting coffee gives off CO2 emissions, but he doesn't see a way around it in the short term.

"It's our business, and it is an impact, but coffee is such a huge part of the life of all these people," he says. "To curtail that, if we as Americans say, 'If you don't produce it here, we really don't need to use it', so you are going to tell the 40 million Latin Americans who work in coffee that we don't want their product ... what would happen then?"

For Alan Moore, program director of the local and sustainable agricultural program at Lowcountry Local First, the key word is balance. He says that consumers can support fair trade, eat local, and buy organic because all three ideas come from the same root.

"All of these things hit on very important issues on being connected again with the land and what we eat, and I feel like they are equally important," he says.

It may not be so easy. Oxfam's Kirpke thinks that there is an unavoidable intellectual tension between the fair-trade and eat-local movements, and how progressives navigate that tension will help determine how the public as a whole sees the issue. He believes that for the foreseeable future, consumers will be faced with complex choices every time they make a grocery run.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Changing the world one purchase at a time

from the Daytona Beach News Journal

Imagine being able to help fight poverty by shopping. Members of the Fair Trade Federation have taken that idea and turned it into a network of businesses that offers products from sources that directly benefit workers in impoverished nations.

On May 10, people in 70 countries will mark World Fair Trade Day to highlight the importance and advantages of fair trade. The event will include an attempt to break the record for the world's biggest coffee break, a feat designed mainly to bring more attention to the cause.

Participating locally will be the Gifts With Humanity, a fair trade store at 2808 Hibiscus Drive (Units 4 and 5) in Edgewater.

"When 50 percent of the world's populations live on less than $2 a day, it really doesn't take that much to make a difference," said Kevin Ward, who co-owns the gift and craft warehouse with his wife, Renice Jones.

The couple met while doing volunteer work in Kenya, where they were exposed to the deplorable conditions common to millions of workers around the world. They also discovered great beauty in the crafts of the native people and wanted to help market those products in a way that would not cheat the artisans out of the profits they deserved.

"We are essentially trying to lift people out of poverty by their own labor," Ward said. "It is not charity. We're not giving anything for nothing. The money they receive is well earned.'

Gifts With Humanity is a brand name of Global Crafts, a wholesale Fair Trade Organization that has grown in Volusia County from a home business five years ago to a company with annual revenue of $1 million, helping 40 producer partners from 20 developing countries find markets in the U.S.

Ward and Jones started with a storefront on Flager Avenue in 2002, but after realizing they could vastly increase sales by devoting more time to marketing products on the Internet, they closed the shop and began expanding their business online.

"Since then, we have doubled in size," Ward said of the warehouse on Hibiscus. "We now have 6,500 square feet of space, including our new showroom area.'

The showroom will officially open to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., which will kick off the World Fair Trade Day celebration. The coffee break event will take place at 3 p.m. and participants must sign in to be counted.

"We believe the workers of the world should be able to have food and shelter and raise their families in a healthy environment," Ward said. "Part of this project is to hopefully get people to think very hard about the sustainability of our planet, as well as the people living on it."

Details about World Fair Trade Day can be found online at and Products offered by Ward and Jones can be seen at and

UMC gets $5 million for anti-malaria efforts

from the Dallas Morning News

The grant was announced at the UMC's General Conference, underway in Fort Worth. Details below:

United Methodists Receive $5 Million To Help End Child Malaria Deaths
Grant Announced On World Malaria Day

FORT WORTH: As it commemorates World Malaria Day, The United Methodist Church announced today it will receive a $5 million grant from the United Nations Foundation, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to help eliminate malaria and other diseases of poverty.

Bishop Thomas Bickerton revealed the grant at the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body meeting in Fort Worth through May 2.

"We hope to use this $5 million to support a fundraising and educational campaign to help end deaths of children from malaria. The goal is to raise $100 million over the next several years for programs in Africa to fight malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and to support the Global Fund," said Bickerton.

The United Methodist Church is embarking on a global health initiative aimed at combating diseases of poverty. The denomination has recently entered into an expanded partnership with the United Nations Foundation to help end malaria deaths.

"The United Nations Foundation's Malaria Partnership is proud to be working with The United Methodist Church to help eliminate malaria deaths," said Elizabeth McKee Gore, executive director of partnership alliances at the UN Foundation."The church's 11.5 million members have already been sending anti-malaria nets and saving lives through the Nothing But Nets campaign. We are looking forward to continuing to fight malaria through the Malaria Partnership."

The people of The United Methodist Church are founding partners in Nothing But Nets, a campaign to prevent malaria by sending life-saving insecticide-treated mosquito nets to children and families in Africa. More than $18 million has been raised to date and more than 700,000 nets have already been delivered to families in Africa.

Earlier this week, Bickerton joined philanthropist Ted Turner, sports columnist Rick Reilly, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and a host of religious, civic and business leaders representing more than 25 million people around the world to announce organizational commitments to end malaria, a disease that kills more than 1.3 million people each year.

Global Aid For Trade May Hit $25bn By 2010

from Leadership Nigeria

Total aid for trade disbursements from individual donors, international organisations and regional development banks which hit $15.4 billion in 2004 may increase to $25 billion by 2010, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has said.

According to the latest edition of 'developments', an international magazine that focuses on the development of Africa, the director general of WTO, Pascal Lamy, said that "together with our partner countries and other institutions, we aim to raise this figure to $25 billion in 2010".

Lamy further said, "we are establishing enhanced monitoring and evaluation mechanisms so that countries pledging funds for trade capacity are held to account".

According to the WTO boss, "We know, that openness can unlock wealth creation which, when distributed equitably through sound domestic policies, can be a powerful tool for poverty alleviation".

Stating that in the last 15 years China, India, Brazil and Vietnam - to name only a few - lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the WTO boss further said, "we've seen the extra-ordinarily rapid rise of these countries, and others, into important actors in the global economy, thereby changing the geopolitical landscape in ways we could never have imagined even two decades ago.

"We also know that in many respects, development activists were right when they said that the trading system did not adequately address the concerns of developing countries. A trading system which permitted rich countries to distort trade in agriculture through subsidies and high tariffs levied in rich countries were against precisely the sort of products in which the poorest countries were most competitive, was far from fair".

Humbly, the WTO boss agrees with the criticism against the body as the guardian of a system which permits trade distortions. "Yet, increasingly, development ministries and activists have come to see that WTO not only provides developing countries a voice, but hands them a tool for changing the rules of international trade to better meet their needs", he argues.

UN plans to establish food crisis task force

from CTV News Staff

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Tuesday that he will lead a task force to deal with the global food crisis.

The first priority is finding US$755 million to meet the funding shortfall for the World Food Programme, he said Tuesday in Bern, Switzerland.

"We anticipate that additional funding will be required," he said.

However, the task force wants to look beyond just providing emergency aid for crises, he said. For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has established a US$1.7-billion plan to give seeds to farmers in the world's poorest countries.

The price of food staples has shot up around the world. World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the development has left about 100 million more people in poverty in the past two years.

"This is not a natural disaster," he said.

So far, $475 million has been pledged in emergency relief, but Zoellick said that that more will be needed. "This crisis isn't over once the emergency needs are met," he said.

Jennifer Parmalee, a WPF official in Washington, told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday that her agency will be looking mainly to traditional donors, including Canada, "which was our third-largest donor last year."

The WPF's cost of obtaining food has gone up by 55 per cent just in the last nine months, she said, adding the world humanitarian community considers this the worst food crisis in 40 years.

Helping Afghanistan

World Food Programme officials inspected an emergency food distribution centre in Afghanistan and met with Afghan leaders on Tuesday. The WPF calls Afghanistan one of the countries in Asia most vulnerable to rising food prices.

In March, the WFP began a $77-million program to reduce suffering among members of high-risk groups:

* Households headed by women;
* Families with nine or more children;
* Disabled male heads of families; and
* Those internally displaced by the country's violence

The program helps 152,000 people in Kandahar province, where Canada's troops operate, and 317,000 across southern Afghanistan.

However, a total of 717,000 people receive some degree of food help in Kandahar, through initiatives such as food-at-school or food-at-work programs.

About one million Afghans live in Kandahar province.

Wheat is a staple in the area. In recent weeks, the price had doubled or even tripled, creating what the WFP calls "food insecurity," reported CTV's Paul Workman.

That essentially means children going hungry, he said.

"They've also noticed that prices have also started dropping -- by about 30 per cent -- since this program was initiated," Workman said by e-mail.

The WPF's Tony Bambury said Tuesday in Kandahar that Canada provided $25 million to his agency late last year and has donated $10 million to the emergency appeal, making it one of the larger donors.

Bambury worried what might happen when the program runs out in June.

Roots of the global crisis

On Sunday, the World Food Programme's John Powell told CTV's Question Period that skyrocketing food prices hurt poor nations the hardest.

"In Canada, Australia or here in Europe, typically, a family will spend 10 to 20 percent of their income on food," he said.

"If you're a poor person in a developing country, we're talking about 60 to 80 percent of your income being spent on food. That's a huge difference and a hugely difficult position that these people find themselves in."

To pay for food, people do the following, he said:

* Take their children out of school;
* Skip medical care;
* Cut back to two from three meals per day; and
* Shift to less nutritious food

These steps are particularly hard on the very youngest poor children in these developing nations, Powell said.

"It tips these people already on the razor's edge of survival right into the abyss," Parmalee said.

A variety of factors has been blamed for the crisis:

* Speculation by investors trading in food commodities;
* Unpredictable weather and climate change;
* Rising oil prices; and
* Growing demand from the increasingly affluent middle classes of China and India

The crisis has sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

Green relishes Tanzania mission

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Former Green Bay congressman gets word out on America's good works


Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Mark Green goes to work every day in a relatively new American embassy where a large stone sits under the shade of a tree. On the stone are the names of more than 200 people.

They were killed in twin suicide bomb attacks at the embassies here and in Kenya, Tanzania's neighbor to the north. And that's why the former congressman from Green Bay works in a new building as America's ambassador in this eastern African country.

Ten years ago this August, al-Qaida terrorists drove truck bombs into the embassies in carefully coordinated attacks. Kenya bore the brunt of the deaths. A water tanker truck prevented the attackers from getting close to Tanzania's embassy; 11 died, none American.

"We think about it all the time," Green, 47, said in an interview in his new office.

Green's service in Dar es Salaam follows an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006 and eight years representing northeast Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The U.S. Senate approved Green's nomination - which received strong bipartisan support from Wisconsin lawmakers - in August.

When some visitors remark about the new facility, Green tells them, "Good people lost their lives. It's sometimes easy to forget that this place has terrorism."

A man captured in 2004 in Pakistan and held at Guantanamo Bay was charged late last month with war crimes in the Tanzanian attack. Ahmed Ghaliani is accused of buying and delivering explosives as well as scouting the embassy with the suicide bomber.

Though the new U.S. Embassy is heavily guarded, staffers undergo terrorist drills, and the ambassador receives weekly counterterrorism briefings, Green said the best way to combat violence is by encouraging stability in Tanzania and addressing "the conditions that lead to despair and that can too easily lead to extremism."

Chief among those conditions are poverty and an exploding rate of AIDS/HIV infection and deaths from malaria. In a country with a population of more than 39 million, 100,000 people are expected to die in Tanzania this year from AIDS, Green said.

American aid to Tanzania will total more than $600 million this year with more than half spent on AIDS relief. That's one of the reasons why President Bush spent three days of his six-day visit to Africa in February in Tanzania, the first visit to this country by a sitting U.S. president.

Bush met with AIDS patients and toured a factory, partially funded by U.S. money, that makes chemically treated bed nets that help prevent the spread of malaria. The president's visit, along with the news coverage it generated, boosted the efforts of the U.S. Embassy staff and U.S.-backed non-governmental organizations and showed other African nations of America's commitment to improving the lives of residents and combating AIDS and malaria.

"It was the chance for a couple of days for the cameras to be focused on this country," said Green, who took over as ambassador in September.

Green has seen first-hand the devastation of AIDS here.

Recalling a visit in November delivering food to AIDS widows, Green's father, Jeremy, a physician who grew up in South Africa, was visiting to celebrate Thanksgiving and tagged along on the excursion. One woman told Green and his father that she had lost her husband to AIDS and she and two of her four children were HIV-positive. She told them that, with the little money she had, she could buy medicine for her two sick children or send the two healthy children to school - but not do both.

Green frequently encounters such heart-wrenching stories. Currently 1.4 million Tanzanians are receiving HIV treatment.

"It's hard to appreciate it unless you see it," he said of the scale of AIDS in Africa and the loss of so many lives.
Success story

Despite the poverty and AIDS epidemic, Tanzania is actually one of the continent's success stories. Unlike Kenya and Zimbabwe, there have been no disputed elections. Since Tanganyika gained independence from Britain in 1961 - and three years later merged with Zanzibar to form Tanzania - the country has largely avoided the rampant corruption and ethnic fighting that have plagued other African nations.

When he's not managing a staff of 320, Green spends much of his time traveling throughout the beautiful country that earns much of its income from tourists flocking to visit Serengeti National Park and other game preserves.

On a map in his office, where his desk sports a coffee mug coaster in the shape of a cheesehead, 18 pink Post-it strips pinpoint the areas he has visited to meet with Peace Corps volunteers, attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies, give speeches, present textbooks, preside over the start-up of a weekly radio program devoted to women's health, and visit schools and medical facilities.

Soon after the interview, Green was traveling to northwestern Tanzania to check out refugee camps. One of the first things he did was to print small cards outlining America's initiatives in Tanzania with figures on how much is spent on specific programs to hand out to people.

"I try to put a personal face on the good works that everyone here is doing. That's how we win in the long run," Green said.

Moving from Wisconsin to the ambassador's residence has been quite a change for Green, his wife, Sue, and their three teenage children.

After serving four terms in Congress and losing the November 2006 gubernatorial election to Democrat Jim Doyle, the Green Bay Republican worked as a lawyer and inquired in Washington about a job in Africa. He and his wife had spent a year teaching in a western Kenya village in the late '80s, and Green visited Africa twice as a congressman serving on the House International Relations Committee.

Last spring, he was offered the position in Tanzania and despite opposition from two Democratic senators - Chris Dodd and John Kerry - he was approved after lobbying from Wisconsin's congressional delegation.

Self-Driven Globalization Will Not Reduce Poverty- Lecturer Contends

from All Africa

Public Agenda (Accra)

By Ebenezer Hanson

A Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana, Dr. Amos Anyimadu, has argued that self-driven globalization per se will not automatically lead to poverty reduction unless conscious steps are taken in that direction.

As some of the measures, he proposes that developing countries should improve on good governance, protect their local spaces and take stock of their competitive advantage.

"Globalization has to be managed and not allowed to be self-driven, else the much-talked about poverty reduction will continue to remain a distant dream," he said in an exclusive interview with the Public Agenda at the six-day UNCTAD XII conference which ended last Friday in Accra.

The conference was under the theme "Addressing the Opportunities and Challenges of Globalization for Development"

Dr. Anyimadu agrees with speakers at the conference that globalization has certain harmful effects, including gender and social aspects. " Globalization has reinforced the existing gender gap between males and females. It has deepened inequalities," one participant earlier said during a debate on "Globalization, Development and Poverty Reduction".

UNCTAD Statistics reveals that developing countries are losing out massively in virtually all fronts in the globalized world. For instance, the world gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average rate of 3% a year between 2000 and 2006, and world trade in goods by 6.6%. The recent phase of globalization has resulted in wider distribution of gains, with real GDP per capita in developing countries increasing from $812 in 1980 to $ 1621 in 2006.

However, the facts sheet notes that despite the improvements, the relative gap in living standards between the developed and developing countries remains large. In 2006, the per capita income of the developed countries was 18 times that of developing countries. In 1980, it was 23 times higher. The recent progress mainly reflects rapid economic advances in East and South Asia.

Again in the last five years, annual economic growth in African countries has averaged between 5 and 6%. However, the difference in average income between Europe and Africa continues to increase. GDP per capita was $1160 in Africa in 2006, $ 914 in Sub-Saharan Africa and US $31,622 in Europe.

Global foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows totaled $1,306 billion in 2006, rising more than 38% from 2005 and nearly reaching the record level of 2000.

Food costs rise as White House rivals talk poverty

from Reuters South Africa

By Jeff Mason

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., With food prices rising and economic woes dominating the U.S. presidential race, White House candidates are focusing attention on an issue that does not usually grab campaign headlines: poverty.

Republican John McCain, the Arizona senator who has wrapped up his party's presidential nomination, spent last week touring "forgotten places in America" to highlight his commitment to helping the poor.

Among Democrats, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton promised earlier this month to create a "poverty czar" as president while Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called last weekend for rich nations to increase their food aid dramatically.

Though all three have drawn attention to the issues, they disagree along traditional party lines.

McCain argues that cutting taxes and reducing wasteful government spending could free funds for training programs for the unemployed. He has proposed a program for better Internet connections for poor people in small towns.

On the other hand, Obama and Clinton have laid out programs that include raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 from $7.25 in 2009, investing in early childhood education and boosting affordable housing.

University of Virginia historian Guian McKee said despite McCain's trip, the Democrats' proposals were harder hitting, especially in the area of job creation.

"The connection between fighting poverty and creating jobs is something that has been ignored for way too long by both Republicans and Democrats," said McKee, who is affiliated with the university's Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Environmentalists often link climate change and poverty prevention and all three candidates have made proposals to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Asked about the growing worldwide food crisis on Sunday, Obama stressed the impact of climate change on food supplies.

"We've got to examine long-term how do we make sure that our food supplies keep pace with a growing population," he told reporters. "Part of that, I think, is global warming."


The candidates' policy proposals, both domestic and international, have drawn praise from activists.

"Sens. McCain and Clinton have both made strong commitments to fight and ultimately eradicate malaria while Sen. Obama's overall platform to fight poverty is the most comprehensive," said Kimberly Cadena, of the anti-poverty group ONE Campaign.

The Democrats welcome such endorsements but what they really want is votes, especially from supporters of former presidential rival John Edwards, who made poverty the signature issue of his campaign.

Clinton and Obama are campaigning in his home state of North Carolina this week ahead of the May 6 primary election. Edwards has not endorsed either candidate.

Hoping for that valuable endorsement, both have lavished praise on Edwards. Clinton "admired his focus on issues surrounding poverty throughout the campaign," said Neera Tanden, Clinton's policy director.

She said Edwards had praised the former first lady's proposal to appoint a "poverty czar" to report to the president on programs across the government.

"The idea ... is to have a cabinet-level official who is really focusing attention on this issue," Tanden said.

Obama, who often talks about his experience helping poor people as a community organizer in Chicago, also praised Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth.

Social services chief: Fees could push NJ poor to skip care

from Newsday


The state human services commissioner Monday said it was a "valid concern" poor people would avoid medical care if Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposal to charge them new fees for prescription drugs and some hospital visits is approved.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed co-payments for Medicaid recipients to raise $7.55 million for the cash-strapped state budget.

Legislators fear the payments could prompt poor people to forego health care, especially senior citizens, the disabled and mentally ill.

"I do think it's a valid concern," Jennifer Velez, the state human services chief, told senators during a Monday hearing. "I couldn't tell you that it's not."

New Jersey is among eight states that don't charge Medicaid co-payments for prescription drugs.

Corzine proposes a $6 co-payment on emergency room visits that aren't a true emergency to raise $550,000, and a $2 co-payment on prescription drugs to raise $7 million. The prescription drug co-payment would be capped at $10 per month per person.

Corzine proposes spending $33 billion next fiscal year, but legislators and advocates for the poor fear the co-payments, even if small, could be too painful for people with little margin for extra expenses but serious medical problems.

"They obviously will make a choice, whether it's food, clothing or shelter, as opposed to pursuing their meds," said Sen. Dana Redd, D-Camden.

Velez said the state has little choice. Corzine has proposed $2.7 billion in cuts amid chronic budget woes.

"There are very few, if any, really good options," Velez said. "This is not a particularly good option, but the reason why it's in the budget this year is the dire situation."

Mary Lynne Reynolds, executive director of The Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey, said 5,000 New Jerseyans with mental illnesses live in boarding homes.

She said most of those people receive Medicaid and Social Security insurance that pays for room and board and a $50 per month personal allowance to buy personal effects and amenities such as snacks and newspapers.

"Boarding home residents barely get by now," she said. "Forcing them to pay up to $10 a month will make their lives more difficult, and many will have to chose between medications and other important basics."

Legislators and Corzine must adopt a budget plan by July 1.

This is the third time the Democratic Corzine has proposed Medicaid co-payments since becoming governor in 2006. His fellow Democrats who control the Legislature rejected them the first two times.

New Jersey spends 11 percent of its $33 billion budget on Medicaid, which is jointly funded by the state and federal government and pays for health care for the poor, elderly, disabled and low-income families with children. It serves more than 1 million people.

Recent state audits found wasteful spending in the program, including allowing people earning as much as $295,000 per year to join, and equipment purchasing problems.

Velez told senators the department is fixing the problems and reported six people who may have committed fraud to the state Attorney General's office. However, senators remained skeptical that enough steps are being taken.

[Comment] The IMF's dwindling fortunes

from the Los Angeles Times

Thanks to disasters of its own making, the agency is losing money and influence.
By Mark Weisbrot

'The imf is back," declared the International Monetary Fund's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at its annual spring meeting earlier this month in Washington. And not a moment too soon either. To hear the organization's economists tell it (as they mingled in five-star hotels, long black limos and posh restaurants with bankers, businessmen and finance ministers from around the globe), they've arrived on the scene just in time to help solve the world's financial crisis.

But despite the bravado, the reality is that today's IMF is not what it once was. These days, the world's most famous deficit police force is running a whopping small-country-size $400-million annual deficit of its own and is being forced into some of the same kinds of "structural adjustments" it used to impose on indebted Third World nations. In just the last four years, the IMF's total loan portfolio has shrunk from $105 billion to less than $10 billion; over half of the current portfolio consists of loans to Turkey and Pakistan. To cut costs, the agency is reducing staff and closing offices.

The IMF's loss of influence is probably the most important change in the international financial system in more than half a century. Until just a few years ago, the IMF -- originally created at the Bretton Woods conference on international economic cooperation in 1944 -- was one of the most powerful financial institutions in the world and the major avenue of influence for the United States in developing countries.

This wasn't so much a result of the money that it lent -- the World Bank loans much more -- but because of its position at the top of a hierarchy of official creditors. Until a few years ago, a developing-country government that did not meet IMF conditions risked being economically strangled. The World Bank, regional banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank, rich lender governments and sometimes even the private sector would withhold lending until the government reached agreement with the IMF.

At the top of this powerful creditors cartel sat the U.S. Treasury Department, which holds a formal veto over many of the IMF's decisions and is an informal power within the organization that marginalizes even the other rich countries. Developing countries -- the ones that have historically borne the brunt of IMF decisions -- have little or no effective voice in the decision-making of the organization, where the majority of votes of the 185 member nations are assigned to the rich members.

But the IMF lost credibility after presiding over a series of economic disasters. Latin America, for example, suffered its worst long-term growth failure in modern history under the IMF's tutelage since 1980. The IMF's "shock therapy" program in Russia vastly underestimated the time it would take to transition from a planned to a capitalist economy in the early '90s. The result was a lot of shock and no therapy, and tens of millions were pushed into poverty as the economy collapsed.

The Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s was a tipping point. The IMF and the U.S. Treasury helped cause the crisis by pushing for the removal of important regulations on foreign capital flows. Then they made it worse with their policy recommendations, prompting economist Jeffrey Sachs -- now head of Columbia University's Earth Institute -- to say that "the IMF has become the Typhoid Mary of emerging markets, spreading recessions in country after country."

Some of these mistakes were because of incompetence; others were driven by ideological or special interests. But the result was that developing countries began voting with their feet, piling up international reserves so that they would never have to borrow again from the IMF cartel.

The IMF-supervised Argentine disaster from 1998 to 2002, which pushed the majority of Argentines below the official poverty line in a country that was previously one of the richest in the region, further sullied the fund's reputation. Argentina then defied the IMF, refused its conditions, got no international help and rapidly transformed itself into the fastest-growing economy in the hemisphere. This too was noticed.

The collapse of the IMF creditors cartel has been a huge blow to U.S. influence. It was most pronounced in Latin America, where most of a region that used to be referred to as the United States' "backyard" is now governed by states that are more independent of Washington than Europe is.

The problem is that poorer developing countries, especially in Africa, remain dependent on foreign aid from the IMF (and the World Bank and other sources) to fund their basic budget and import needs. This can be harmful to their development and their people. In recent years, the IMF -- insisting that such measures are necessary to hold down inflation -- has imposed conditions that limit their public spending and, according to the fund's own internal evaluation, have prevented these countries from spending aid money on urgent needs, such as healthcare and education.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. (

Mobile clinics to reduce maternal and child deaths

from IPP Media

By Correspondent Christopher Magola

At least 578 out of every 100,000 expectant women die of pregnancy-related complications in Tanzania every year while the number of newborns dying is 144 per 1,000 live births.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare every year 8,100 mothers die due to child birth related cases and pregnancy complications and that a total of 157,000 children die due to preventable conditions.

To address the situation the Government has launched a National Road Map Strategic Plan to accelerate reduction of maternal, newborn and child deaths in Tanzania (2008-2015).

The Plan was officially launched by President Jakaya Kikwete during a recent visit to Tanzania by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The plan includes introduction of mobile clinics to help bring health services closer to the people noting that 53 per cent of all newborns in the country are delivered outside conventional hospitals, dispensaries, clinics and health centres.

The mobile clinics system was earlier announced by President Kikwete during this year\'s White Ribbon Day whose theme was ``Stop needless maternal, newborn and child deaths during and after birth. It is possible``.

Under the mobile clinics system, pregnant women and children would have to report to nearby health centres, where they would be picked up by an ambulance, an ordinary vehicle or a motorcycle and rushed straight to hospital.

These mobile clinics stand to help reduce maternal and newborn deaths, as most pregnant women will give birth under the close supervision of medical specialists.

Launching the plan, President Kikwete said in order to achieve the objective of the plan, the government was committed to ensure the health sector received adequate funds in the next budget, which he said could increase to 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the present 10.1 per cent.

During this year`s White Ribbon Day, marked on March 25, the National Coordinator of The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood in Tanzania, WRATZ, Rose Mlay, called on the government to give the health sector a budget big enough to redress the awful situation of maternal and child deaths in the country, especially in rural areas.

The underlining causes of preventable maternal deaths are many, but there were three areas that stand out as critical problems.

These are lack of access to skilled attendance at birth and poor quality of essential obstetric care, poor referral mechanisms and lack of awareness of danger signs of obstetric emergence.

The government has made efforts to reduce maternal deaths and of newborns as spelt out in the country`s Poverty Reduction Strategy and a broader Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

As part of the efforts, Tanzania has adopted the national roadmap on reduction of maternal deaths and newborns from the grassroots to the national levels.

The plan aims at improving the quality of services in health facilities by upgrading the skills of service providers, provide essential equipment and supplies to health centres in Tanzania.

Minister for Health and Social Welfare Professor David Mwakyusa has said under the strategy, the government will improve family planning and clinic services, improve and expand services at referral hospitals, provide important equipment needed during delivery and increase the number of health sector graduates.

White Ribbon Alliance national co-ordinator Rose Mlay has explained that the acute shortage of specialists at most health centres in rural areas was causing havoc on the lives and health of mothers and newborns.

At the launch of The Tanzania Benjamin William Mkapa National HIV/AIDS Fellows Program in 2006, it was reported that human resources capacity has been identified as one of the most significant challenges in scaling up access to Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs) in Tanzania over the next five years.

Staffing levels at primary health care facilities in Tanzania are only 30 percent of requirement of qualified professionals.

``Total health staff requirement in regions and districts is 60,320 but only 39,206 are available, hence a shortfall of 21,114 health professionals`` reads part of a report issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare recently.

According to the report, the health workforce crisis in Tanzania needed a robust intervention in training, retraining and recruiting health staff accompanied with a conducive working environment for all medical staff.

WRATZ says that one woman dies every hour in pregnancy-related complications and that only 46 percent of women deliver with a skilled birth attendant.

President Kikwete, however, has stressed that the government would continue to build dispensaries and health centres up to the ward level, while it was also working out a plan to address the shortage of medical personnel.

Statistics show that although 90 percent of pregnant women attend clinics, only 47 per cent give birth at health centres.

Therefore, efforts should be done to offer education the best way of child delivery among expectant girls and women right from a household to community levels.