Tuesday, May 30, 2006

[Guyana] Poor nutrition, poverty may be affecting HIV patients - govt welfare subsidy in the works

from Stabroek News

By Iana Seales

In the last decade nothing has grabbed more attention as far as health issues go in Guyana than HIV/AIDS and given its far-reaching implications and devastating impact, international funding continues to come in as the fight against this epidemic endures. But there is a side of HIV/AIDS we hardly hear about.

Perhaps it pales in relevance to the successes we have had locally in making adequate treatment and drugs available free of cost, in manufacturing our own antiretroviral drugs, in commencing viral load testing and in getting more infected persons to join the treatment programme at the Genito-Urinary Medical (GUM) Clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

But the story we are still to know is just how many infected persons are getting the proper nutrition they need and how many are wasting away because of inadequate meals. It is of concern because poverty is part of the lives of many infected persons, particularly those living on the streets and in run-down sections of the city, who eat perhaps one meal a day or none at all.

This is troubling since in order for the antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to be of effect, those using it must have regular meals. In fact, infected persons who are homeless and without family support and who have no access to regular meals are not offered ARV treatment.

Deficiencies of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals severely affect the body's immune function and studies have shown that this coupled with the destructive effects of HIV on the immune system, increases the risk of infected persons contracting opportunistic infections and dying.

Not on ARV treatment

There are a number of reasons why some infected persons do not qualify for ARV treatment. Firstly, their CD4 count is above 350 in which case they are considered to be doing okay but they could be placed on treatment if they have an opportunistic infection. Then there are tuberculosis patients who are at a high risk of dying faster.

Some infected persons who default on the treatment programme, by missing doses and not taking their drugs on time also do not qualify for ARV treatment.

Dr Jadunauth Raghunauth who now heads the GUM Clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital recently explained that it is absolutely necessary that certain requirements are met before infected persons are placed on ARV treatment because some persons run the risk of developing resistance to the treatment.

"We have to be assured that persons on treatment are taking the drugs and doing so on time when they are required to. This is important and though 95 percent adherence is somewhat acceptable, we expect patients to have 100 percent," he related.

In the years that he has worked with HIV infected persons, Dr Raghunauth said he has not known any specific case whereby persons could not be placed on ARV treatment mainly because of their nutritional status. But he admits that there may be many infected people out there who are poor and are not getting help in terms of regular meals.

Dr Emanuel Cummings, Assistant Dean within the Medical Faculty of the University of Guyana was part of a team that recently studied the nutritional status of infected persons who attend the GUM clinic.

Of the 150 patients studied, the majority, 55.17% were unemployed and 44.83% were employed. Some 59.31% said they do not earn a salary (some did not wish to disclose their income). While 10.34% earned between $10,000 and $20,000 (US$50-US$100); 8.97% earned more than $80,000 (>$US400) and 2.07% earned less than $10,000 (

On average, more than half of the participants ate beef, ham, luncheon meat, salmon, pork, shellfish, soy protein, hot dogs and sausages, pepperoni and bacon less than once per month. Of the protein group, the most common foods eaten on a fairly regular basis were fried chicken 32.39%, 1-2 times per week; eggs - 30.99%, 3-4 times per week; legumes - 37.32%, 1-2 times per week; white fish - and chicken - 32.39% - more than 5 times per week.

The study also found that 66.52% of patients thought that their nutritional intake was satisfactory; 33.10% thought that it was unsatisfactory and 69% did not know whether it was satisfactory or not and 65.52% were unable to respond to the question.

It said that 15.17% attribute their lack of proper nutrition to the lack of money; 6.90% attributed this to a lack of appetite; 4.83% attributed this to their lack of knowledge; and 3.45% attributed it to a lack of access to food.

Government subsidy


A street dweller who walked into Stabroek News a few months back begging for something to eat aroused much curiosity because of his deteriorating physical condition. Sickly is a mild way of describing how he looked and though he did not initially say that he was HIV positive, people who saw him concluded that almost immediately.

"I ain't gat nobody to give me food and de condition I in right now people ain't even wan give me a dollar when I beg. Is na me family alone turn from me is everybody I know in me life," the street dweller said.

He looked about ten years older than his stated age of 27 years and his physical condition was bad. When he spoke with Stabroek News he was covered in ulcers from head to toe and frothing at the mouth.

The man said he was not on ARVs because of his economic situation and though he had been treated for opportunistic infections many times he always slipped back into a deteriorating state.

Several years ago he recalled living a reckless life in Cayenne, French Guiana. He summed up his life then in three words: drinking, money and sex. In his late teens he came back to Guyana with nothing and had no place to go but on the street. He later learned that he was infected with HIV.

He said dying was not something he feared. For him, it would be "a way out of the endless days of hunger". But he said while he was waiting to "close his eyes and go wherever," it would be nice to get a plate of food each day.

What then could be done for infected persons like the street dweller who is thankful if he gets one meal a day?

Perhaps soup kitchens in the city and a few other areas that are open to anyone who is in need of a meal would be the answer. That way, there would be no stigma attached and those really in need could benefit. But even this appears too demanding an effort in the long term, which is why the idea of government offering a subsidy to infected persons is a more welcome initiative.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy when contacted on this said it is something that government is planning. He said they are trying to put together funds at the moment to introduce such a programme.

"We are trying to make the resources available and if I am to project when such a programme would come on stream I would say some time in 2007 providing everything is in place," the minister added. But in the meantime a few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have begun providing meals to persons in need regardless of their status. These include the Network of Guyanese Living With and Affected by HIV/AIDS (G+) and Comforting Hearts, which is based in New Amsterdam, Berbice.

Free Hot Meals

Early this month, Comforting Hearts started its UNICEF-sponsored Hot Meals Programme, which has become very popular. Free meals are offered to children and adults in the area who are in need and among them are HIV/AIDS infected and affected children and adults.

Beaming boys and girls flocked the Comforting Hearts building at Coopers Lane, New Amsterdam when Stabroek News visited around midday last week, awaiting lunch. And when wafts of delicious frying fish floated on the air, one boy happily announced, "Fish today".

Shawndelle Charles-Gouveia, Project Coordinator at the NGO related that the programme was initiated for orphans and vulnerable children in the area but they are also providing meals for their shut-in clients (those who are really ill) and other adults. When it started earlier this month, she said, they were catering for around 60 persons but as word spread that number quickly climbed to 100.

She said Comforting Hearts handed out hampers in the past to persons infected and affected by HIV but it was not long before they realised that the children were not benefiting.

"We embarked on this new project after we found that the children were still in need and that many of them were not going to school because of [a lack of] meals. A lot of them could not attend school because they had nothing to eat," Charles-Gouveia said.

According to her, the programme is going well and though UNICEF funding is only for one year she is optimistic it will continue to receive support because of the impact it has already had in the Berbice area.

Comforting Hearts has already received a request from the New Amsterdam Hospital to provide meals for a few shut-in patients. They also have plans to take meals home to persons who are in need and do not want to go to the NGO.

A nutritionist has joined forces with the NGO so balanced meals are being prepared, Charles-Gouveia related. She said they had sessions with their clients before the Hot Meals Programme started and persons were educated on how to prepare healthy low-cost dishes.

Comforting Hearts also offers home-based care, counselling and voluntary counselling and testing. There are 12 full-time persons on staff, 20 mentors who work with the children and other volunteers.

Charles-Gouveia who has been a volunteer since her early teenage years has been at Comforting Hearts since 2002, four years after the organisation started operating in the Berbice area. She said bringing a smile to a child's face does a lot in terms of job satisfaction and she also loves working in a field where she is able to help people on a daily basis.

She added that the people she works with have an unwavering dedication, which makes it easier to get things done. "Sometimes we are here until eight at nights and no one ever complains because this is what we do," she said.

Dusilley Cannings, President of G+ said their nutritional programme will commence some time next month since they recently got the okay that was required. She said that they have long recognised the need for such a programme and hence its provision in their recent proposal to the Ministry of Health.

According to her, this support effort will complement what the Ministry of Health will soon implement - a welfare subsidy programme for persons living with and affected by the disease.

Cannings said G+ hopes to distribute food hampers to persons in serious need on a regular basis. She said orphans and vulnerable children will also benefit from hampers. Since their work is also about empowering those affected with the disease, Cannings said, they will continue to provide basic needs, school materials for orphans and vulnerable children, support and home-based care as well as counselling.

Extending lives

According to the study, the nutritional status of the HIV+ patient is of utmost importance to their quality of life and relates to the ability of that person to live an extended and productive life. This is of utmost importance in Guyana as most of the persons affected by HIV/AIDS fall into the 15-44 age bracket.

"Extending the lives and the economic productiveness of these persons is crucial. Guyana has recently suffered from massive emigration, which has depleted the number of skilled and educated persons. Extending the life span of those affected by HIV/AIDS is of utmost importance in helping to maintain a steady and productive workforce and economy," it said. Further it stated that nutrition and AIDS operate in tandem, both at the individual and at the societal level. Nutritional deficits make people with HIV more susceptible to disease and infections of all sorts. Malnutrition is one of the major clinical manifestations of HIV infection.

At the household level, HIV/AIDS and food security are closely linked: an HIV-infected household increasingly risks food security and malnutrition via declines in work, income and time available for care of younger children, together with increased expenses for health care. Food insecurity may, in turn, further increase both the risk of being exposed to HIV and a household's vulnerability to its increasing impact as the disease progresses.

Nutrition is also linked to treatment, the study added, and as access to antiretroviral drugs improves, clean water supplies and adequate food must be made available as part of an overall treatment, care and support package.

[Papua New Guinea] "West not serious about free trade"

from National Nine News

Western nations are not serious about opening their economies to allow the fair trade of goods and services with developing countries, says Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Michael Somare.

Market access to developed countries was still restricted by non-tariff barriers such as prohibitive quarantine and legal requirements, he said in his opening address to the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) and European Union (EU) Council of Ministers' Meeting being held in Port Moresby this week.

Referring to negotiations over a new Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and ACP countries, Somare said the EU's requirement for countries to be World Trade Organisation (WTO) compatible in the new trading arrangement could be costly to some ACP states and undermine their fragile economies.

"Such a situation would certainly not address the fundamental objective of the ACP-EU partnership arrangement, which is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty.

"While the WTO system is proposing greater liberalisation and globalisation through the lifting of trade barriers, it appears that developed countries are not serious in opening up their economies for fair trade of goods and services."

Somare said the new ACP-EU trading arrangement was meant to be developmental in nature, requiring substantial development assistance to enable ACP countries to integrate smoothly into the international trading system.

"So we are all surprised by the position of the European Union on this important matter and I would, therefore, urge all ACP states to take a firm, united position on this critical issue."

[Ghana] Small loans, big difference in Ghana

from The charlotte Observer

Microcredit programs offer way to get ahead without being exploited
Chicago Tribune

ACCRA, Ghana - The sparkling new bank, down the street from Accra's bustling Makola market, looks like a financial institution anywhere: six busy teller windows, a new accounts desk, air conditioning holding the steamy heat outside at bay.

But for Ghanaians who have never had access to banking services before, it represents a revolution. After years of seeking small loans from loan sharks, family members and nonprofit microcredit programs, they now have what they never had before: a full-service commercial bank for the poor.

Borrowers -- primarily women -- can now seek loans for as little as $100 and open savings accounts with even smaller amounts of cash.

Microcredit programs, which offer poor borrowers small loans at low interest rates, have been achieving successes for decades now in countries throughout the world, including Ghana. But the World Bank estimates that only 2 percent of the world's poor have access to formal banks that offer a range of financial services.

In Africa, where many people live in rural areas and relatively few have enough savings or income to open an account, the lack of access to financial services is particularly acute.

Chicago-based Opportunity International, one of the world's largest microfinance organizations, is trying to change that by building a network of for-profit commercial banks for the poor in countries from Zambia to Ethiopia.

In Ghana, an initial three branch banks have attracted $2.1 million in deposits and established a $6 million loan portfolio in their first 18 months, said Benjie Montemayor, who heads Opportunity International's network of commercial banks in Ghana.

Ghana's legions of small traders are some of the bank's biggest customers. By banding together to co-sign on loans for each other, they can get credit without collateral.

Rebecca Anderson, 52, an auto spare parts dealer, said she had used her loans to amass a $5,500 stock of spare parts and now made enough profit to put her oldest daughter through medical school.

Montemayor said customers increasingly aspire not just to escape poverty but to become rich.

"We want to see them moving and crossing that poverty line," he said. "We want to see some millionaires eventually."

[Africa] Some African nations see DDT as solution to malaria

from The San Jose Mercury News

By Edmund Sanders
Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya - DDT is making a comeback here.

Concerns over environmental damage led to a ban on the pesticide in the United States in 1972 and subsequently in many parts of the world, including in several African nations.

But now, some leaders in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania say the ability of the chemical to kill mosquitoes is their last hope to stem the continent's No. 1 killer: malaria.

Although AIDS receives far more attention, malaria kills 1 million Africans annually, and the toll is rising. One African child dies every 30 seconds from malaria, three times Africa's toll from AIDS.

``DDT is the answer to our problems,'' said Dr. John Rwakimari, head of the national malaria program in Uganda, where malaria rates over the last 15 years have increased fivefold.

European Union officials recently warned Uganda it would be ``taking a risk'' if it reintroduced DDT. In Kenya, flower growers say Western supermarkets are wary of the chemical, putting the nation's $400 million horticulture industry at risk.

African officials complain of hypocrisy and double standards on the part of Westerners, who used DDT to eradicate their own malaria problems decades ago but now push Africa to rely on harder-to-implement methods such as mosquito nets.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his country would proceed with DDT spraying, despite the EU warning.

``Why should we look on and watch our people die, when it is within our means to make a difference?'' Museveni said during a speech in April on Africa Malaria Day.

The United States, where the international backlash against DDT started more than 40 years ago, has re-evaluated its stance. The Bush administration said recently that the Agency for International Development would provide money for spraying this year as part of its $99 million anti-malaria program.

[Effects on Health] Living In Poverty Associated with Increased Risk for Teens To Be Overweight

from E Max Health

Poverty and Overweight Teens

Adolescents aged 15-17 years who live in poverty are more likely to be overweight than those not living in poverty, according to a study in the May 24/31 issue of JAMA.

The number of adolescents in the U.S. who are overweight has more than doubled during the past 3 decades. As the prevalence of adolescent overweight continues to increase, so too will its associated consequences, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, poor quality of life, and increased illness and risk of death in adulthood, according to background information in the article. Whether the increasing prevalence of adolescent overweight is characterized by larger, smaller, or unchanged disparities in overweight status across socioeconomic strata is not known.

Richard A. Miech, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues examined trends in the prevalence of overweight among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years by family poverty status. The researchers used data from four cross-sectional, nationally representative surveys (U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys [NHANES] of 1971-1974, 1976-1980, 1988-1994, and 1999-2004).

The authors found that trends in the association of adolescent overweight with family poverty differed by age groups. There was a widening disparity among 15- to 17-year-old adolescents from poor families. This trend was similar among male, female, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic black adolescents, resulting in an overall prevalence of overweight in 1999-2004 more than 50 percent higher among adolescents in poor vs. nonpoor families (23.3 percent vs. 14.4 percent, respectively). In contrast, for 12- to 14-year-old adolescents, prevalence did not significantly differ by family poverty status in any of the surveys; although among non-Hispanic black adolescents, overweight prevalence increased faster in nonpoor vs. poor families.

Additional analyses suggest that physical inactivity, sweetened beverage consumption, and skipping breakfast may contribute to these disparities. The researchers found that among respondents aged 15 to 17 years, the increase in the proportion of calories from sweetened beverages across the last 2 NHANES surveys (1988-1994 and 1999-2002) was significantly larger in poor families (from 9.2 percent to 15.4 percent) compared with nonpoor families (from 11.1 percent to 12.6 percent). Among older adolescents aged 15 to 17 years, the absolute difference in the disparity across poverty status in the prevalence of breakfast skipping increased from 1.1 percent to 16.2 percent across the last 2 NHANES surveys.

"The observed differences across older vs. younger adolescents are consistent with the greater autonomy that comes with increasing age. Adolescents aged 15 to 17 years vs. those aged 12 to 14 years have more opportunities to purchase their own food and determine their own leisure time pursuits and also have more discretionary income with which to act on their preferences," the authors write.

"These results suggest that efforts to reduce health disparities in the United States require monitoring of population health, so that emergent disparities and their underlying causes can be detected and addressed at early stages of their development." (JAMA. 2006;295:2385-2393.)

[Pakistan] 25 per cent people living below poverty line: Govt

from The Pak Tribune

ISLAMABAD: Instead of 35 per cent, 25 per cent people are living below the poverty line in the country due to government’s policies.

This was told in a briefing given to media by the government about the targets of new budget and country’s economic situation on Monday.

Minister of state for Finance Ummar Ayub Khan, Prime Minister Advisor on Finance Dr Sulman Shah and Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani briefed the media men.

Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said that the government has decided to make this budget the budget for poor, in which all people would be included in developmental process.

He said that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz himself would talk with media about next budget on Wednesday at 5:00 pm.

Prim Minister Advisor on Finance Dr Sulman Shah said that GDP rate remained 6.6 while fiscal deficit remained 4.3 per cent including earthquake losses during current financial year.

He added that fiscal deficit without earthquake losses remained 3.5 per cent which was lower than 3.8 per cent target.

Shah said that inflation target was fixed at 8 per cent in current fiscal year but it decreased in the end of this year.

He noted that 35 million people were living below the poverty line.

Shah said that government wanted to fix 6.5 per cent inflation target for next financial year.

He said that the GDP target would be 8 per cent while the target for fiscal deficit to be fixed 4.2 per cent.

The security situation in the region may affect these targets, he said.

To a question about defence expenditures, Shah said that defence spending has been cut down from 6.5 GDP rate to 3.5 per cent adding, but we are not unaware from defence situation, as all the needs of armed forces would be met.

He said that armed forces would be modernized on latest pattern.

To query about price-hike, raise in sugar rates and investigation about ministers and sugar mills owners involvement in sugar crises, Shah said that investigation would be launched to know the reasons behind the small cultivation of sugar-cane and stocking of sugar.

He said that new NFC Award would be formed with the inclusion of the amended previous Award.

Minister of state for Finance Ummar Ayub Khan said that uplift programmes would be started in every district under Khushal Pakistan.

[Ethiopia] Suspended funding redirected to poverty alleviation

from African News Dimension

Six months after suspending direct budgetary aid to Ethiopia over governance concerns, the World Bank and Great Britain decided on Friday to transfer US$390 million of the funds to programmes to improve health, water and education for the country's poor during the next two years.

"The poor people of Ethiopia should not be made to suffer because of these political problems," said Paul Ackroyd, representative of Britain's Department of International Development in Ethiopia. "The political signal we want to send today is [...] we want you [the government] to continue your work on poverty while at the same time we have concerns on the human rights issue."

The World Bank board of directors has approved a decision to put $215 million in a basic-support fund, while Britain agreed to contribute 94 million pounds sterling ($174.8 million). "The programme reflects a determination to protect the country's poorest citizens from unnecessary setbacks flowing from the contested elections and the ensuing period of political uncertainty," said Isaac Diwan, the World Bank's representative for Ethiopia and Sudan. "This is not a blank cheque that we are signing now. This is a cheque we sign in the hope there will be some progress in reducing poverty and in the political and human rights situation."

The funding is expected to increase primary-school enrolment from 62 percent to 68 percent, with an additional 3.7 million children entering school during the next two years. Some 20 million more people will have access to clean water as new wells are constructed and existing ones repaired.

The government of Ethiopia has come under criticism for its suppression of opposition-sponsored demonstrations against alleged rigging of general elections in May 2005. In June and November 2005, at least 84 people died, many of them at the hands of the police, and thousands were detained. Some 111 people, many of them opposition officials, are on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.

[India] 'Poverty comes by birth, not caste'

from The Hindustan Times

Hitting out against the UPA government's reservation policy, doctor and singer Palash Sen on Monday said the government should rather focus on removing the huge economic disparity in the country than indulging in "vote-bank politics".

"Poverty is the major cause of concern in the country. It has created a deep divide in the society. This needs to be bridged by creating more employment opportunities than enforcing reservation. Poverty comes by birth, not caste," Sen, the lead singer of rock band Euphoria said.

After singer Rabbi Shergill and Art of Living proponent Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, Sen is another celebrity to extend his support to the anti-reservation campaign.

"It is appalling to see that the political leaders are leading the nation towards path of destruction," Sen said on the sidelines of his troupe's performance at a musical concert on Sunday night along with Pakistani rock band Strings.

"These politicians partitioned our nation on the basis of religion. Now they are dividing the country on caste basis. While we are trying to bridge the communal divide by having Pakistani rock band Strings perform with us," Sen, whose troupe members sported black arm bands to protest the Government decision, said.

He also objected to every political leader rushing abroad for medical treatment. "This shows that they themselves don't have faith in our doctors," Sen said adding, "they continue to harness vote bank politics."

[Ghana] Poverty Index identifies 18 poorest districts

from The Ghanaian Chronicle

The Social Enterprise Development Foundation (SEND), a non-governmental organization, has launched an intensive education programme in the Volta and Eastern regions to educate the public on the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy I and II, as well as projects funded by the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Fund.

To achieve its target, workshops would be organized especially for the people in the rural areas, towns and cities to drum home government’s efforts to make life more comfortable for the people.

The Field Officer for SEND, Daniel Dunya, made these known at a workshop of trainers of trainees for 19 participants, mostly district planners and members of civil society groups from the Volta and Eastern regions here recently.

The participants came from Krachi East and West, Jasikan, Ketu, Akatsi, North and South Tongu, Asuogyamang, Manya Krobo and the Afram Plains districts.

He said his outfit had identified food crop farmers, persons with disabilities, the youth and urban unemployed youth, as well as civil society organizations to appreciate this intervention of government and the need to embrace and support them to help improve their standards of living.

According to Dunya, six districts in the Volta, three in the Eastern, two in the Greater Accra, and seven in the Central region have been identified as the poorest areas based on the poverty index developed by the National Development Planning Commission.

He said Krachi East and West Jasikan, South and North Tongu, Akatsi and Ketu districts in the Volta region; Asuogyamang, Afram Plains and Manya Krobo in the Eastern region; Dangme East and West in the Greater Accra; and Twifu/Hemang/Lower Denkyire, Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abriem, Gomoa,Abura/Asiebu/Kwamakese, Asikuma/Odoben/Brakwa, Ajumako/Eyan/Essiem and Agona districts in the Central region as areas where their educational activities would be mostly concentrated.

A resource Person and Principal Development Officer at the Volta Regional Coordinating Council, (VRCC), E.K. Kanfra, said the Ghana Poverty Reduction I (GPRS I) has achieved stability and GPRS II would concentrate on growth to ensure accelerated development between 2006 and 2009.

He said Ghana’s development plans targeted one thousand dollar per capita income, which he said was a long-term vision, to be achieve by the year 2015, to make Ghana a middle income earning nation.

He pointed out that the failure of the country to achieve its development plans could partly be attributed to lack of monitory and evaluation of projects, adding that GPRS I and II had a mechanism to ensure a successful implementation of the programme.

One area of concern of the Principal Planning Officer was the fact that most Ghanaians had failed to live up to their civic responsibilities, noting that the bane of the country’s development could be attributed to unpatriotic attitudes of the citizenry.

Kanfra suggested that to improve on the 5% growth in GPRS I to 8% the country needed to be more focused, and stressed the need for attitudinal change towards issues that affect the country.

He also observed that to ensure accelerated growth, the private sector needed to be supported through an improved agriculture as the engine of growth.

The GPRS II, he stressed, would not encourage the youth to look for jobs in industries but rather take up agriculture as a business.

He hinted that during the registration exercise of the unemployed, 60 per cent of those who wrote their names were farmers, noting that farming needed to be divested from cocoa cultivation to other food and economic crop production such as mango, avocado pear, orange and cashew to help generate more income for the farmer.

For their part, the workshop participants expressed concern about the lack of education, especially at the grassroots, which to them culminated in the youth regarding agriculture as a preserve for the illiterate and hopeless in society.

They stressed the need to change that mentality through regular education programmes to make farming more interesting and rewarding.

They also suggested that educational institutions should tailor their syllabi to embrace agriculture so that the youth would understand at an earlier stage that it was a paying business.

[Canada] Anti-poverty Group Disrupts Opening night

from The Toronto Sun


STRATFORD, Ont. -- On the main stage here yesterday it was Coriolanus. Outside it was cops.

About 200 police officers from four Southern Ontario forces, including Toronto, Waterloo Region, Hamilton and London, held back about 40 protesters as they attempted to disrupt the opening night ceremonies of the Stratford Festival by chanting "make the rich pay" and other anti-poverty slogans at the tuxedoed and ball-gowned theatregoers.

The protesters, some from as far away as Kingston, tried to crash barriers set up by the police, but were prevented from doing so.

The action was led by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and was intended to the bring the "ugliness of poverty to the attention of the community," said organizer John Clark.

"This embarrassment at the Stratford Festival is only a small indication of the mobilization that will take place" by the poor as they press for improved benefits and a hike in the minimum wage from $7.75 an hour to $10, Clark said.

The protesters, competing with the sound of bagpipes that were playing to welcome the guests, chanted : "We're hungry, we're angry. We won't go away."

Local residents who watched the protest had harsh words for the protesters. Many were heard to complain about the attire, language and demeanour of the activists, some of them wearing bandanas to cover the lower half of their faces.

Some residents, like bed and breakfast operator Andrew Watson, came out to challenge the protest as wrongfully targetting a Stratford institution that provides jobs and a major boost to the city's economy.

"I'm just really upset," he said.

The play began at 7:30 p.m. as scheduled and after one last rush at the barriers, the protesters left.

[UK] End African poverty now, say stars

from The Belfast Telegraph

By Jude Sheerin

Ulster-born Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody and former Irish President Mary Robinson have joined forces with high-profile figures from the world of politics, music and showbiz to support a major new campaign for free healthcare in Africa, it emerged today.

Save the Children will this week call on world leaders to deliver now on promises they made at last year's G8 summit to eradicate poverty in Africa.

The charity will publish a shock report on Tuesday detailing how many children die in Africa every year because they cannot afford to see a doctor or nurse.

Former UN human rights commissioner Mrs Robinson, ex-ER actress Alex Kingston, Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and indie rockers The Kooks are among those backing the "Ouch" campaign.

Gary Lightbody said: "I can't imagine what it must be like for families having to choose between putting food on the table or seeing the doctor. In this day and age we have to put a stop to it."

Mrs Robinson, who was the Republic's first female president, said: "Health fees discriminate against the poor. But the right to health is universal and allows no discrimination."

Alex Kingston, who is appearing in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest on the London stage, said: "Many children die in Africa every year simply because they can't afford to see a doctor or a nurse.

"These children could survive if healthcare was free."

Save the Children is urging people across the UK to show support for the free healthcare campaign by texting the word "Ouch" to 88600 (standard rates apply).

The messages will be part of a petition to be presented to Tony Blair at Downing Street, before this year's G8 summit at St Petersburg in July.

Konnie Huq said: "If healthcare was free in Africa, children's lives would be saved. It's as simple as that."

Joe Barrell, from Save the Children, said: "World leaders made promises - and as Nelson Mandela recently said: 'Promises to children should never be broken'."

To find out more about the campaign or get hold of an OUCH sticker visit www.savethechildren.org.uk/ouch.

[UK] One-in-five children in poverty for long period

from The Irish Examiner

By Niall Murray
ALMOST one-in-five Irish children experience poverty for lengthy periods, according to the shocking findings of new research.

Despite our booming economy, the study for the Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) suggests that tens of thousands of our children are spending their formative years in very poor circumstances.

The findings of the research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) show that 17% of Irish children live in income poverty for five years or more.

The team of Richard Layte, Bertrand Maitre, Professor Brian Nolan and Christopher Whelan examined the length of time children spend in poverty, the factors which cause children to move in and out of poverty and the causes of inter-generational poverty.

Prof Nolan said a successful strategy to tackle child poverty includes child income support but must go beyond it.

“The education, employment and health of the adults in their household are key determinants of the persistence of poverty for children,” he said.

The research found that children in lone-parent households spend substantially more time in poverty than children in two-parent homes. It also showed that the age of children and family size affect the duration of poverty for children, while the employment, education and health status of parents are also critical factors influencing child poverty risk.

“Ensuring that at least one parent in a couple-headed household is in paid work should be a policy priority, as this is one of the most effective and efficient ways to end child poverty. Measures to ease the transition from welfare to work, such as tapered income supports, employment and education supports and accessible and affordable childcare are essential,” said CPA director Helen Johnston.

“We have also determined that education is a crucial factor in preventing the inter-generational transmission of child poverty so early childhood care and education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds is imperative,” she said.

The study has culminated in the publication of a report, Day in Day Out — Understanding the Dynamics of Child Poverty, being officially launched today by Social and Family Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan on behalf of the agency.

Ms Johnston said the research presents a clear indication of the direction which should be taken in formulating and implementing policies to effectively address the issue of child poverty.

“There is no single solution to the problem of child poverty,” she said.

“The response needs to be broader than simply providing child income support.

“Increased Government funding in this area is having an impact but investment must be complemented by a multi-dimensional approach if real success is to be achieved.”

Monday, May 29, 2006

[World Bank] chief discusses development, anti-poverty issues with Japanese officials

from Mainichi Daily News

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Monday met with Japan's foreign minister during his four-day visit in Japan to discuss development and anti-poverty issues with Japanese officials, a spokeswoman for the bank said.

In a statement issued on his arrival Saturday, Wolfowitz said that anti-poverty efforts for Africa would be a key agenda item during his visit, citing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's trip to Africa earlier this month.

Wolfowitz said he looked forward to discussing with Japanese aid officials how they could work together to support the efforts of African countries through encouraging investment and growth in the continent.

Monday morning, Wolfowitz met with Foreign Minister Taro Aso, bank spokeswoman Tomoko Hirai said. She declined to provide details of the conversation.

Wolfowitz also addressed the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics, co-organized by the World Bank and Japan's Ministry of Finance to discuss infrastructure and development, she said.

Also speaking at the conference, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki announced Japan's plans to contribute up to US$2 million toward a World Bank initiative to support development research on agriculture and climate change.

Wolfowitz was scheduled to meet Tanigaki later Monday on the conference's sidelines, Hirai said.

In July 2005, Koizumi reversed Japan's policy of slashing foreign aid to pledge new assistance to Africa, saying Japan would boost overseas aid by US$10 billion over the next five years.

During the Japan leg of his May 27-31 Asia tour, Wolfowitz will also meet with Koizumi as well as business representatives and non-governmental group leaders, the bank said in a statement.

Japan is the World Bank's second-largest shareholder.

Wolfowitz's next stop is South Korea.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

[Palestine] Economic plight of Palestinians worsening -ILO

from Reuters Alert Net

GENEVA, May 26 (Reuters) - The economic plight of Palestinians is deteriorating, with only 50 percent of men and one in nine women of working age in a job, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Friday.

Despite a slight improvement in the overall economy in 2005 after a sharp downturn the previous year, poverty and unemployment is getting worse in Gaza and the West Bank, the United Nations' agency said in a report.

Four out of 10 Palestinians in the territories under Israeli military occupation or effective border control were living below the international poverty line of $2.10 a day, added the report, drawn up for the ILO's annual conference opening next Wednesday.

"(The) report ... describes a situation that amounts to a daily affront to human dignity," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia wrote in a foreword.

International aid to the Palestinian government has been cut since militant group Hamas won power in elections in January. Hamas, sworn to Israel's destruction, has refused to bow to international pressure to soften its stand against the Jewish state despite the near collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

Unemployment in the 15-24 age group is 1.6 times the average in the territories.

Some 23 percent of workers are employed in the public sector, severely hit by the aid boycott which prevents the Palestinian Authority meeting its wage commitments in full, the labour body said.

The report said the movement of people, goods and services across the borders of the territories had become even more difficult in the second half of 2005 and early 2006, despite the Israeli military pullout from Gaza.

Getting rid of these barriers, together with a viable trade relationship with Israel and the rest of the world, were the most important steps needed to alleviate the social and economic crisis in the Palestinian territories, it added.

Friday, May 26, 2006

[Nigeria] NAPEP, 24 States Partner to Fight Poverty

from All Africa

NATIONAL Agency for Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), has entered into partnership with no fewer than 24 state governments as part of efforts to fight poverty nationwide.

National Coordinator of the agency, Dr Magnus Kpakol, explained that the collaboration was aimed at creating a pool of funds for establishing viable businesses and for providing basic community infrastructure service.

Dr Kpakol, who stated this during a courtesy visit to Champion House, the corporate headquarters of Champion Newspapers Limited in Lagos, yesterday, reiterated that the poverty level in the country had dropped from 70 per cent in 1999 to 54.4 per cent in 2005.

He attributed the drop to the measures taken by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

He said the measures included good governance, the fight against corruption and reform, among others.

Dr Kpakol also disclosed that arrangements had been concluded for the disbursement through commercial banks and microfinance institutions, the N2 billion Multi-Partner Micro-Finance Fund recently raised in Rivers State as part of efforts to combat poverty.

He said, the agency had since provided matching fund for the scheme stressing that those to benefit from it include artisans, women and youths.

NAPEP in collaboration with Rivers State government and Oceanic Bank International Plc had last January, pooled together a micro finance scheme of N2 billion.

The fund was mobilised to empower local entrepreneurs in the state.

Dr Kpakol, said the MP-MF programme in the state would serve as a model for other states stressing, that it emphasised NAPEP's strategy for integrating micro credit with infrastructure development for the attainment of sustainable economic growth and development at the community level.

He commended the media for its support for NAPEP's programmes even as he appealed to all Nigerians to join hands with the agency to eradicate poverty in the land.

On continuity of NAPEP's programmes, Dr Kpakol assured that they would outlive the present administration because of their positive impact on the citizenry.

He said perceived fear that a new government in 2007, may dismantle the entire scheme was therefore, unfounded.

"Nigerians know what is good and the basis for believing that there will be continuity is that we have a process that is working. For the first time in this country, we are seriously talking of anticorruption measures, in a very direct way. We have the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) we have the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), we have due process mechanism, we have the fiscal responsibility act, among others."

"It will be very difficult for any government to come and say it will not pursue anticorruption measures anymore because Nigerians have come to embrace these things," he said.

[Effects On Health] Poor kids put on pounds

from Health 24

Poor, older teenagers are more likely to be overweight than their well-off counterparts.

That's the conclusion of a new study that found the prevalence of overweight was more than 50 percent higher in older teens living below the poverty line, compared to those living above the poverty line. However, the study found no association between poverty and overweight in younger teens - those between the ages of 12 and 14.

The study also looked for important factors that might contribute to teen overweight, and concluded that physical inactivity, increasing consumption of sweetened beverages and skipping breakfast were important forces, especially in poorer communities.

50% More likely to be overweight
"Those who live in poverty are about 50 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those not living in poverty," said the study's lead author, Richard Miech, an associate professor in the department of mental health at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Not only that, but one of our key findings is that this difference has emerged recently. In the '70s and '80s, there was no difference at all," said Miech.

The study findings appear in the May 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Numbers are swelling
The number of overweight American teens has risen dramatically over the past 30 years. And, the number of adolescents considered overweight has more than doubled in that time period, according to the study.

With the rise in the prevalence of overweight, health-care professionals are concerned that diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnoea will also dramatically increase and begin to affect younger and younger people.

How the research was conducted
To get a better idea of how many teens are overweight and what populations are most at risk, the researchers pooled data from four different nationally representative surveys - the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 1971-1974, 1976-1980, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004.

The four surveys included more than 10 000 children between the ages of 12 and 17. Information was gathered on height, weight, physical activity, dietary habits and socio-economic status.

The researchers used US Census Bureau data to assess poverty level status. As an example, in 2004, a family of four with an income of less than $19,157 was considered to be living in poverty.

Clear differences in older teens
The researchers didn't find any significant difference in the prevalence of overweight in young teens (12-14) based on income levels. However, the difference was clear in older teens (15-17). The rate of overweight in older adolescents from poor families was 23 percent, compared to only 14 percent for older teens from more affluent areas.

Some factors that may influence that difference, according to the researchers, are sedentary lifestyles, skipping breakfast and drinking sweetened drinks, such as energy drinks, soda and fruit juices.

"In the past 10 years, the percent of calories that adolescents get from sweetened beverages has increased by 20 percent, and particularly among the poor," Miech said.

He said the recent voluntary withdrawal of soft drinks from schools is a step in the right direction, but added that schools and parents need to do more to encourage physical activity.

Exercise is essential
Cathy Nonas, a registered dietician and director of the diabetes and obesity programs at North General Hospital in New York City, agreed that physical activity is essential.

"Kids often end up with less gym time, to have more class time, so they can test better. We're trying so hard to get math and English scores up that we're destroying their health," said Nonas. "We're creating an environment for our children that is very unhealthy."

Plus, she added, in urban areas, the problem is compounded because there often isn't room for fields or gyms.

She recommends walking as much as possible, and added that the whole family should be walking. Additionally, she suggests that when teens are listening to music, they shouldn't just listen passively, but get up and dance.

Both Nonas and Miech said eating breakfast is important, and that numerous studies have shown that skipping breakfast can contribute to excess weight. Nonas said if you don't have time to sit down to a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit, grab a high-fibre, high-protein nutrition bar that's low in sugar.

[Somalia] Malaria Kills Dozens in Somalia Gedo Region

from All Africa

A number of children have been reportedly dead for malaria around Bardere district of Somalia's Gedo region and its' surroundings.

The matter is part of intensified poor health conditions in the region according reports by Shabelle correspondent in Bardhere Ahmed Omar Salihi.

Some villages under Bardhere district suffer from permanent poor health conditions since the region lacks enough health Care centres, our correspondent said.

The deadly disease of Malaria is the major cause of recent deaths in the region health sources said, adding that at least five people four of them children have been killed by malaria for the last two days.

Dr. Abdulahi Ali, a doctor in the district said that more people with Malaria are treated at the private Health centres in the town while some of them have been brought from place so far.

[Costa Rica] Poverty Causes School Exodus

from Prensa Latina

Costa Rican authorities recognized poverty as key cause of school drop-outs and announced the Money Transfer Program, a subsidy to help poor children complete their studies.

Official statistics show that last year, 12 of every 100 junior high school students dropped out, while national data indicate that each year 6.8 percent of all students, 64,459 children, quit school.

Education Minister Leonardo Garnier and Minister-Dean Fernando Zumbado, of the social sector and fight against poverty, announced the project and said it will benefit 3,500 students, beginning in July.

Conditions to enjoy the subsidy include remaining three years in the same education system, to prevent moving to other schools.

Costa Rica's population of 4.1 million consists of 206, 680 poor families, 5.6 percent living in abject poverty, and 53,941 families, mostly farmers, who are destitute.

[UK] Children hit by poverty lag behind in reading

from The Scotsman


CHILDREN in the poorest parts of Edinburgh are trailing an average of three years behind their most successful counterparts by the time they start high school.

The gaping education divide is exposed in a Scottish Executive report that warns of the huge difference in reading ability between pupils at different city schools.

The average 11-year-old starting secondary school in some of the most deprived areas has a reading age of a child a year younger. Many of them have the reading ability expected of an eight-year-old.

But the average reading age of pupils starting at some other city secondaries is 13.

City education leaders said they were working with children and their parents from before they started school.

But the depth of the problem today sparked demands for an even more intensive approach adopted elsewhere in Scotland.

Councillor Ewan Aitken, the city's education leader, said: "This is a challenge that begins long before children get to secondary school. That is why we run centres for children from nought to five years old, so we can intervene as early as possible."

Child and family centres have been set up in some areas to encourage parents of newborn children to pick up good habits, including reading. All pupils are assessed when they start school - and each following year - so they can receive extra tuition if they fall behind. That can involve one-on-one teaching, extra homework and efforts to involve parents more.

Cllr Aitken added that dealing with different abilities caused difficulties in some classrooms.

He said: "This creates huge challenges for teachers. They have to moderate their lessons to meet the needs of all children.

"They could have three or four children with a reading age of eight in their class. Putting pupils in sets is done at some schools but it is not a cure to all ills."

The problems were highlighted in an Executive report on the effects of deprivation across Scotland. In the report, a senior manager in the city council's education department wrote: "Reading age is, on average, three years better at some secondary schools' entrance level than others.

"There is a strong correlation between those secondary schools with low reading age levels and deprivation in the areas served by their feeder primary schools." The city council was unable to provide average reading ages for each secondary school in the city.

However, reports obtained by the Edinburgh Evening News using the Freedom of Information Act show that in recent tests, new pupils at James Gillespie's High School and Balerno Community High School achieved the highest scores, while the lowest were recorded by pupils starting at Castlebrae Community High School and Craigroyston Community High School.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council today urged Edinburgh to follow the intensive teaching approach of West Dunbartonshire. There, intensive, daily, one-to-one work with P6 and P7 pupils who are behind with their reading has led to rapid progress.

Within ten years, the number of functionally illiterate 11-year-olds has fallen from 28 per cent to virtually zero.

Judith Gillespie, the SPTC's development manager, said: "In West Dunbartonshire they've done very well in bringing everyone up to standard. They have identified who has fallen behind during primary school and put in a strategy to help them.

"That programme needs to be introduced in Edinburgh."

Fiona Hyslop, SNP education spokeswoman, called for more investment in schools in poorer areas. She said: "One thing we can do is put in more resources so they can recruit more teachers and decrease class sizes."

The Tories called for greater freedom of choice for parents to choose where they send their children, regardless of which catchment area they live in.grose@edinburghnews.com
'I want my daughter to get a flying start at secondary'

JACKIE BROCK, 43, of Marlborough Street, Portobello, intends to send her daughter Coldwell, ten, and son Corin, seven, to Portobello High School, where S1 pupils scored below the national average in recent reading tests.

She said: "My concern is that the children are doing well at St John's Primary and I don't want their progress to be hindered. I want my daughter to get a flying start when she goes to secondary school. Secondary schools should be focusing on individual needs and making sure that children of all levels are able to progress."

However, she added that she did not believe putting children in sets based on their ability is always the answer.

[Canada] Poverty protest targets Stratford

from The London Free Press

STRATFORD -- A coalition of anti-poverty groups is setting the stage for a large rally Monday at the splashy opening-night gala at the Stratford Festival.

Doug Trollope of the Perth County Coalition Against Poverty said his group will be joined by about 400 supporters from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Ontario Common Front and Ontario Needs a Raise Campaign for a protest at the renowned festival.

Protesters plan to gather on the field below the festival theatre, then march en masse to the theatre to shut it down for the evening, said Trollope.

"We have no intention of hurting the festival and I don't believe one night will hurt the festival," he said.

"This is just the beginning of a number of political targets around the province."

The protesters want social assistance rates increased and the minimum wage raised to $10.

Critics of the protest have noted the annual festival is a not-for-profit organization that provides about 1,000 jobs directly and 2,000 more indirectly.

Trollope said he wasn't concerned that hitting the festival could annoy locals and backfire.

"It doesn't matter where we hit for a target, we're going to step on somebody's toes and somebody will get upset," he said.

Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson said the city expects a peaceful and responsible protest.

Earlier this week, coalition members met with politicians from the federal, provincial and municipal governments to discuss their concerns.

Liberal MPP John Wilkinson agreed that social assistance and minimum wage rates are too low.

He said the province is looking at ways to raise social assistance and said the minimum wage is being increased every year until it "represents a reasonable standard of living."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

[Kuwait] ‘Fight poverty in Islamic world’; IDB plans to set up fund in Kuwait meet on May 30

from Arab Times Online

JEDDAH (KUNA): A fund for fighting poverty in the Islamic world is expected to be established during the 31st annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) group, due in Kuwait on May 30-31, IDB President, Dr Ali Mohammed Ali said Wednesday. In statements to KUNA, Dr Ali affirmed the importance of the Kuwait meeting as it is considered the first meeting for the IDB Board of Governors after the extraordinary Islamic Summit held last December in Makkah. He added the agenda of the Kuwait meeting consists of three important factors; signing an agreement for the establishment of the Islamic institution for financing the trade, increasing the bank’s capital and establishing a fund for fighting poverty.

He expressed his dissatisfaction at the volume of trade exchange between the Islamic countries, estimated at 13 percent, hoping that the institution would contribute to increase this trade to 20 percent. According to the official, Kuwait has already nominated a leading figure to chair this new Islamic institution, where its Board of Directors will select a new director-general. Meanwhile, Dr Ali praised Kuwait’s supportive and effective role towards the bank since its establishment 31 years ago. He added that Kuwait is one of the strong contributors of the bank, where its share in the bank is second largest after Saudi Arabia. He also praised Kuwait’s experience in Islamic banking, which started with the establishment of the Kuwait Finance House in 1977 and had a major role in establishing similar institutions in the Islamic state.

Kuwait’s charity institutions were also praised by Dr Ali, as they played a major role in supporting joint Islamic charity projects.
Regarding the Kuwaiti waqf experience, he said Kuwait is a pioneer in this field in the modern era, indicating that he constantly calls for benefiting from this vast experience and establishing waqf funds in fields such as health, environment, physically challenged and Holy Quran recitation. The IDB President expressed constructive cooperation between the bank, Awqaf General Secretariat, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait, in addition to the joint programs being carried out in several African states that aim at spreading the importance of endowments (waqf) in the Islamic societies.

He thanked Kuwait for hosting the upcoming vital IDB meeting which will witness various accomplishments for the welfare of the joint Islamic action. Dr Ali is expected to arrive in Kuwait on Friday to take part in the 31st meeting of the IDB Group which will be inaugurated under the patronage of HH the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Since its establishment in 1975, the IDB has been keen on contributing to the social and economic development of member countries and Islamic communities around the world. In another development, the IDB announced on Wednesday that it has signed two contracts for financing two electrical energy stations which will be pumping 750 megawatts in Syria at a cost of 180 million euros.

The bank said the first contract states it will finance 9.95 million euros for Deir Ali power station south of Syria. The amount will cover importing and setting up a gas power station supplying electricity which will transmit 250 megawatts. The second contract will obligate the bank to finance 1.84 million euros for Dier Al-Zour power station project east of Syria. The financing will also cover importing and setting up a gas power station with the same amount of transmitting megawatts. The bank also said the Syrian government has put a great deal of interest in building these two projects because it will serve the demand of the two most populated areas. The IDB contributions in developing projects for Syria has reached $548 million.

[Pakistan] Musharraf vows to use economic turnaround for poverty alleviation, sustainable socio-economic development of common man

From Online News Pakistan

RAWALPINDI: President General Pervez Musharraf Thursday reaffirmed his commitment for using Pakistan’s economic turnaround for poverty alleviation and sustainable socio-economic development of the common man.

Addressing a presentation on public sector development programme in Rawalpindi, which was also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz; the president directed optimal utilization of all resources for visible improvement in the life of common man through initiation of development projects attended the presentation.

The President said we must utilize to sources available to bring a qualitative change in the lives of people and ensure wider distribution of economic benefits. He expressed the hope that the government would touch a growth rate of seven per cent this year.

He was informed that in view of economic growth and inflow of investment the country is expected to materialize one point five million job opportunities each year.

President Musharraf said: "the federal Government would act as a catalyst in facilitating the provinces for generation of more and more job opportunities." He said we must strive for creating additional employment opportunities during the next financial year and added that mega projects, local development schemes and micro finance banks would help create more job opportunities.

He said while mega projects like construction of water reservoirs would produce tremendous business activity and create jobs, we must also encourage self employment in both rural and urban areas to step up socio-economic development at local level. The President directed for speedy progress on provision of safe drinking water, cost-effective energy, better health and education facilities all over the country.

He said improvement in these sectors will reduce poverty and bring people of remote areas into the mainstream of national development. He stressed the importance of equipping the youth with technical skills.

For this purpose, he directed to allocate higher financial resources for technical and vocational sector from the overall budget of education. for improved health facilities, the President said the basic health units and local hospitals must be provided adequate medicine and other facilities.

[Indonesia] Poverty, forgotten diseases weigh heavily

from Reuters Alert Net

By Tan Ee Lyn

JAKARTA, May 25 (Reuters) - In a squatter settlement at the heart of central Jakarta, half a dozen Indonesian children play as a few scrawny chickens flit amongst them.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed 33 people in Indonesia -- and as many as seven in a single family in north Sumatra this month -- but Suhadi, 71, could not be less concerned.

"I have reared chickens for the last 40 years and never been sick. We have traditional medicine and herbs," said Suhadi, who brought up his 11 children selling drinks from his ramshackle hut. He also supplements his income selling eggs and chickens.

His family kept more than 30 chickens until two months ago, when the government began cleaning up the city's backyard poultry. Although officials promised to pay 5,000 rupiah ($0.5) for every chicken turned in, Suhadi and his wife Hapsah gave most of their birds away to relatives. They are now left with six.

"I was very sad to give them away. It's always sad to see them killed because of bird flu," Hapsah said.

Since H5N1 made its first known jump to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, experts stress the best solution is to separate poultry from people. But that is far easier said than done.

Nearly 10 years on, out of simple economic necessity, 60 percent of China's estimated 14 billion chicken population and 30 percent of Indonesia's one billion are still kept in the backyards of homes, free to roam and play with children.

"We are poor. We sell some of our chickens sometimes, and sometimes, we eat them," said Hapsah, who says an egg fetches 1,000 rupiah and a hen as much as 35,000 rupiah.


Experts are now probing if there might have been occurrences of limited human-to-human transmission in the Sumatran family cluster, the largest to date.

This has spooked financial markets even though scientific evidence has shown that the virus has not mutated into one that can spread easily among people, a necessary precursor to a pandemic possibly happening.

But in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 17,000 islands where more than half of the 220 million population live on less than $2 a day, there are far weightier problems to worry about.

And poverty is just one of those, as the World Health Organisation underlined.

"What I want to put into perspective," said Firdosi Mehta, the WHO's acting representative in Indonesia, "is an estimated 300 people die every day from tuberculosis, 2,000 children die every day of acute respiratory infections, 30,000 people die annually from malaria, do people even bat an eyelid?"

The country was rocked last year when polio, which had been absent for 10 years, suddenly made a comeback.

"An importation took place from Nigeria due to migrant workers, Haj travellers. It came into Indonesia, very close to Jakarta and spread to several provinces. Up till now we have 304 confirmed polio cases in the country," Mehta said.

"The routine immunisation programme was very deficient in some areas. There were pockets of unimmunised children which let the virus come in and spread widely in such a large country."

International health agencies and the government have since conducted five nationwide vaccination programmes to try to interrupt the transmission of the wild polio virus. But authorities would have to monitor for the next six months to see if the efforts are successful. (With additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)

[Canada] Poverty groups to picket Stratford

from The Globe and Mail


A coalition of anti-poverty groups plan to picket the Stratford Festival's black-tie gala in Stratford, Ont., on May 29 and turn the opening night into a stage for their demands for greater public assistance for the poor.

The leading organizing group, the local Perth County Coalition Against Poverty, has invited the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Ontario Common Front to help bring in buses of protesters from Toronto and other cities to descend on what one activist described as "a showpiece of lavish consumption."

The intention is to create "the most visible and powerful" disruption possible "to make those who are involved in organizing the festival and the [Ontario] government that in many ways stands behind them as uncomfortable as they possibly can be," said John Clarke, an OCAP organizer.

OCAP plans to bring in a busload of protesters. Clarke wasn't able to say whether protesters would try to disrupt the opening-night production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus or whether they would remain outside the theatre. "Our intention is to be strong and as powerful as we can be," Clarke said.

The coalition of activist groups is seeking not only to mobilize the poor, but specifically to raise social-assistance rates by 40 per cent.

The festival reacted cautiously to the planned demonstration yesterday, issuing a statement expressing the hope that any protest would be peaceful. It noted the theatre festival welcomes 550,000 visitors annually, generates an estimated $125-million in economic activity and creates, directly and indirectly, 3,300 jobs.

"There's an absolute understanding of their cause," communications director Leanne Perreault added in an interview yesterday. "We are just hoping their means are peaceful and respectful.

"We support a lot of groups in the community," she added, citing the festival's work with the United Way and various local shelters and support networks. "So it's a bit ironic we are targeted." For example, the festival recently donated 100 preview-performance tickets to Coriolanus to a group that distributed the tickets to the unemployed.

However, OCAP's website describes the festival as a place where "poor and homeless people are swept from sight to make way for an annual playpen for the rich."

[Personal] Illness..

The reason for the long gap between postings is becuase I've been ill with some food posioning. I'll try to get well-rounded group of stories up this afternoon...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 19, 2006

[WTO Doha Round] Ticking clock could bring WTO deal, Australia says

from Stuff New Zealand

CANBERRA: The pressure of a looming July deadline could help breathe new life into stalled world trade talks, Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile said today ahead of crucial talks in Paris next week.

His comments came after Australian Prime Minister John Howard and US President George W Bush agreed to a new diplomatic push to lobby European leaders to clinch a deal from the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Doha round of trade negotiations.

The trade talks have stumbled, putting the WTO's 149 member states in danger of missing the deadline for a draft agreement on slashing farm subsidies and opening markets for industrial goods and services - but Vaile was optimistic a deal could be struck.

"It's still possible. And this organisation is renowned for making decisions under pressure, and mostly the pressure of time," Vaile told Reuters in an telephone interview.

Vaile, Australia's acting prime minister while Howard is overseas, said he would convene meetings with trade ministers on the sidelines of an OECD meeting in Paris next week to discuss progress on the Doha round.

The WTO talks could collapse after more than four years of negotiations if a draft agreement is not reached by the end of July, an outcome that could undermine the WTO and its ability to settle international trade disputes.

Vaile said that for the Doha round to succeed, the European Union would need to offer more cuts to its highly protected and subsidised agricultural sector, while developing nations such as China, Brazil, India and Egypt needed to offer better market access for manufactured goods.

Australia is a long-term champion of free trade. It argues that trade liberalisation could make the world better off by almost $US300 billion($NZ488.51 billion) and lift 32 million people out of poverty by 2015, with most of the benefits flowing to developing nations.

The EU has offered to cut tariffs on imports of farm goods to just over 12 percent, but wants to designate up to 8 percent of such goods as sensitive, cutting them out of the steepest tariff cuts.

France is leading the push within the EU to resist further cuts in tariffs and farm subsidies, worth $US56.18 billion a year. Vaile said the EU stand would limit the ability of developing nations to compete in world markets.

"The developing world just can't afford to be subsidising their agriculture to that extent," Vaile said. He said a cow in Europe receives an average $US2.20 per day in subsidies, which is more than the income of the world's 1.2 billion poorest people.

Australia's Howard, fresh from talks with Bush and the US cabinet in Washington, told Australian reporters in Chicago on Wednesday that he and Bush agreed to personally lobby European leaders to encourage a breakthrough in the WTO talks.

"We both are of the view that the European Union remains the principle stumbling block," Howard said. "And each of us in different areas will be, on a personal basis, speaking to leaders, encouraging them to do as much as possible to make progress."

While Vaile has campaigned for multilateral trade liberalisation, he has also led Australia's push to sign bilateral deals, with free trade agreements with the United States, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand.

Australia is also having free trade talks with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Malaysia, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Vaile said the bilateral deals did not undermine the chances of wider multilateral trade liberalisation, and said the two were complementary.

"We've championed both in recent years," he said, adding that issues such as farm subsidies in the United States or Europe could only be cut though multilateral negotiations.

[Washington] Panel discusses benefits of fair trade coffee

from The Spectator Online

by Kevin Himeda

Some would consider the idea of choosing a more expensive coffee simply because the label says “fair trade” to be ridiculous. But many people are doing just that, and a panel of speakers experienced in the coffee industry and fair trade came to Seattle University on May 10 to explain why.

The problem, according to Dr. Gareth Green, a professor of economics, is that with coffee being the second largest commodity in the world, its price can have a dramatic impact on the many people who produce it.

“Coffee is primarily produced in middle and South America and then taken to North America and Europe,” Green said. “But when prices go down, it has a dramatic effect on the small farmers who produce 50 to 70 percent of it.”

One such occurrence happened in 2001 when the price of coffee dropped to historic lows and farmers made as little as 15 to 25 cents per pound of coffee. With each farmer raising an average of 270 pounds per year, growing coffee as a livelihood became impossible for many farmers and the supply of coffee dropped as they looked elsewhere for income.

According to the panel, fair trade is needed to ensure that farmers in developing countries are not hurt financially by a fluxuating market.

“The fair trade coffee movement is designed to look at ways to remove the middle men in the market and guarantee small farmers a living wage,” Green said.

The theory behind fair trade is that by guaranteeing farmers a higher wage for their coffee than the average market price, the farmers will put the extra money into improving their farms and thus improving the quality of their coffee. Farmers are guaranteed a way of life and consumers are guaranteed a supply of coffee with developed countries no longer having to send financial aid to support them.

But the question still remains of how to get consumers to want to pay more for fair trade coffee.

“I think it’s a dilemma,” said Greg Forsythe, chief opperating officer of Pura Vida Coffee, a charitably owned company invested in fair trade and organic coffee. “Everyone wants to do good for the farmer, but there’s only so much people will pay for this.”

“SU seems to think that you’ll buy for more, but with less quality,” Green added. “In reality, the coffee is as good if not better than others, so we need to change the perception.”

While fair trade coffee has become the fastest growing segment of the coffee industry, demand for it is lacking.

“Starbucks does things a little differently,” said Andy Fouche, the program manager at Starbucks Coffee. “We aren’t 100 percent free trade. When you have 300 million pounds being produced for fair trade, and only one-third of it being consumed, there’s simply not enough demand to have it drip every day of the week.”

The panel asserted that the results of fair trade are promising, however. According to statistics reported by Francisco Gutierrez, director for Cooperative Development, a second-tier organization of 3,000 small-holder farms, the average daily income of a coffee farmer is 50 cents. With fair trade, that number jumps to 74 cents, and if it is organic as well, it lies just under a dollar.

“The first question I get from people is, ‘Does it work?’” Green said. “From my experience, the answer is ‘Yes.’ The fair trade market has made an incredible impact on those it’s reaching, and with only a one-half percent share of the market, there’s massive potential.”

The fair trade event was organized by SU’s Oxfam Chapter, part of the larger nonprofit organization for which it is named, which seeks to “end global poverty through saving lives, strengthening communities and campaigning for change.”

“You can see if you just buy fair trade coffee,” said Dr. Sue Jackels, a professor of chemistry who worked with farmers in a research team to help improve the quality of coffee grown in Nicaragua. “You will incur a significant cash increase for some farmer, and we’ll have a very positive effect in these developing countries.”

[Canada] Paradis wants poverty seen as human rights breach

from The Orangeville Citizen

By MANDI HARGRAVE Staff Reporter

Former Orangeville resident Emily Paradis is working to have homelessness and poverty viewed as a violation of human rights.

To do this she travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, to speak before the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with a group of homeless women from Toronto, where she now lives.

The UN committee this month reviewed Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as that of Monaco, Liechtenstein, Morocco and Mexico.

The treaty came into effect in 1976 and since then all countries who signed it are required to submit a periodic report to the committee.

Canada was grilled for two days because the committee hasn't seen improvements in poverty, homelessness, indigenous and migrant rights since its last review in 1998 when the they expressed grave concerns about welfare cuts in Ontario, women's poverty and high rates of homelessness across the country.

"At that time the committee was very, very critical of Canada because of the levels of poverty and homelessness here, because of the treatment of aboriginal people and especially because of the poverty levels among specific groups like aboriginal people, single moms and African-Canadians," said Ms. Paradis.

"So they made a number of strong recommendations in '98 about adopting a national coordinated strategy to deal

with homelessness and raising social assistance rates across the country, re-establishing national standards for social assistance rates, which had been removed in 1995."

She said Canada "essentially just didn't follow through with any of the recommendations that happened in '98."

She said Canada submitted two reports to the committee this year that were reviewed at the same time and a number of non-governmental organizations submitted parallel reports to provide the committee with a more rounded view of what's really going on in Canada.

Having completed her M.Ed., she is going for her Doctorate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and has been working in the area of homelessness and poverty for 15 years. She has even worked on the front lines at shelters and drop-in centres.

As part of her program she started a project called FORWARD (Feminist Organization for Women's Advancement, Rights and Dignity), a social action group of women living in poverty who have been or are homeless. It operates at a Toronto drop-in centre called Sistering.

The organization has been meeting for a year discussing social and economic rights. Women told how their stories related to these issues and out of the discussion and analysis they developed a report that they sent to the UN.

The group of women chose Doreen Silversmith to represent them at the UN, where she gave a speech and was accompanied by Ms. Paradis.

Ms. Silversmith told her story and the other women's stories and begged the committee to scold Canada on its human rights violations and to have their recommendations implemented.

While homeless and living in Toronto, Ms. Silversmith became pregnant and had her baby taken away from her instead of being provided with housing and support. She told of another women who was evicted from her apartment so her landlord could raise the rent and another who was fired when she asked for more shifts.

"We have grave concerns about women's poverty and homelessness in Canada," she told the UN committee. "Our rights are violated every single day. And any semblance to justice is based on Canada's unilateral laws of deception."

"But we stand up for the truth and are unafraid to reveal to the world Canada's dirty secrets. It has been our experience that when we tell the truth, Canada always tries to muzzle us. Well, we will not be silenced into submission. We are rightfully angry and you need to know that we are feeling tremendous pain," she said.

Ms. Paradis echoed her thoughts over the phone.

"One of the key messages of the presentation was that it's really important that the UN committee and also for the Canadian government to actually pay attention to the voices and knowledge of women who are poor and homeless."

"The knowledge of those women doesn't usually get listened to when it comes to making policies and even when it comes to talking about whether or not Canada is living up to its human rights obligations."

Ms. Paradis said Canada has an international image of being a place where human rights are respected, where there's great wealth and that everyone has a great standard of living. "People choose to immigrate here or seek refuge here on the basis of that reputation."

She explained that a woman she knows came from the Congo about six years ago. While still living there she was told that once you get to Canada you are given a place to live, a car and a job right away.

"Instead, the reality for her has been that she's been waiting since then to be reunited with her children. There've been incredible delays. She's missed the early childhood of all of her children, she's been separated from them and is struggling."

Ms. Paradis said this woman hasn't had regular employment and is struggling to pay her rent and to gather enough money to prove to the government that she can support her family.

"It's stories like that that people need to hear," she said.

"Not because we don't believe that Canada has the potential to be great and not because we're not proud. But because it's important for Canada to be held to account for what it's really doing in

relationship to people who are poor and marginalized."

She added, "The economic growth that Canada's been enjoying, the budget surpluses that we've had annually for the last eight years, the benefits of those things haven't been shared with everyone here. And we think that they should be distributed more fairly, so that everyone can enjoy the wealth that Canada has to offer."

Ms. Paradis is concerned that this next committee report will be ignored like the previous report. She said everyone has the responsibility to make sure Canada is held accountable to respond to the UN body and their recommendations and that it doesn't just drop out of sight.

"The reality is the hard work really starts now when we have to take these concluding observations and take our own report and just use them as much as we can to raise peoples awareness about what's really happening here and what peoples human rights are."

She said people need to know that adequate housing is a basic human right and that people who are not on social assistance don't understand how low it is. The current welfare rates are below the poverty line and after people living on it pay their rent they often don't have money for food or clothing.

"There's no reason for things to be this way," she said. "Social assistance rates in Ontario need to go up by 40 per cent and Ontario and Canada have the money to make that happen."

She also stated that in her opinion the Harris government was good at making it appear people on social assistance were lazy and didn't deserve to have a decent standard of living.

She stressed that people need to remember that having basic human rights is not something you earn by being a morally upstanding person. "In the same way that

we say people don't deserve to be tortured for being outside the norm, we should also agree that no one deserves to be homeless for being outside the norm," she said.

"People really need to look at those stereotypes that exist right now of poor people, homeless people and people on social assistance and really question them, and think about how they would feel if someone in their own family was being viewed that way or had to live under those conditions."

She said people know how it feels to struggle and think about when the money will be coming in, but that they need more empathy and compassion and to think about how it would feel to be treated like they were less than human just because of the fact that they are poor.

The UN committee will release its report tomorrow, giving Ms. Paradis and other FORWARD members a chance to react to it.

[Jamaica] Portia urges Caribbean to stem poverty, boost growth

from The Jamaica Gleaner

PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller says Caribbean countries need to work towards ensuring macro-economic stability and promoting sustainable growth.

Speaking at the start of the 36th annual meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank's board of governors in Montego Bay on Wednesday, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said new policies needed to be created in light of the Caribbean's entry into the "post-trade preference era."

She said governments must continue to promote macroeconomic stability and also "place greater emphasis on sustainable growth and development to raise the standard of living of those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder." She said they should also encourage the establishment of new industries and modernise existing firms that have long-term viability.


According to Mrs. Simpson Miller, there are clear policy prescriptions which must be put in place to secure the macroeconomic future of the Caribbean. She said the new policies must ensure a greater investment in human capital and take advantage of other underutilised resources across the Caribbean.

Drawing from the success of the tourism, entertainment, sports and food processing in the international marketplace, Mrs. Simpson Miller also suggested that financial assistance be given to the business sector.

"It is an indisputable fact that business persons and entertainers have gone much further in realising the benefits of integration than legislative arrangements," she said. "To enhance and support what has already taken place, there must be the availability of relatively cheap credit and a supporting framework for micro, small and medium size enterprises (as) it has been shown that in more developed countries it is this sector which will be the driving force for accelerated economic growth."

Noting that successful implementation also requires popular support, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said simpler communication methods need to be employed when disseminating information.

"I believe that the policy makers in the region have been found wanting in clearly articulating the benefits of the deepening regional integration process (and) as a result of this many people still have not made the transition of thinking in terms of a regional market and opportunities available," she said. "This needs to be communicated by way of a less technical campaign so that everyone in the region can understand."

[Louisiana] Race and poverty shape, change New Orleans

from The Detroit News

Wealth and distance of evacuees determine which communities will be part of city's future.

Blaine Harden / Washington Post

NEW ORLEANS -- Block by block, this city is springing back to life. Block by block, it is receding into the past tense.

With Hurricane Katrina nearly nine months gone and about 60 percent of New Orleans' pre-storm population somewhere else, the rebirth and the wasting away are closely tracking neighborhood patterns of race and poverty.

Disparities in wealth and in the distance of evacuees from their ruined houses are dictating, in many cases, which neighborhoods will be part of the city's future and which will be consigned to its history. For a city that was two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor before the storm, the uneven pilgrimage back to New Orleans has changed voter turnout and seems certain to transform the culture and character of the city, making it substantially whiter, richer and less populous than before.

This article examines an affluent white and a poor black neighborhood that appear to have reached their tipping points.

Lakeview comes to life

That point has clearly arrived for the 6500 block of Memphis Street in Lakeview, a white neighborhood hit hard by Katrina. It is roaring back to middle-class life, and most owners on the block have committed to coming home.

Landscapers are rolling out sod for new lawns. Granite countertops and commercial-grade stainless-steel stoves are being installed in rebuilt kitchens. There is electricity, water, gas, mail service, newspaper delivery and garbage pickup. Two neighborhood banks are up and lending. A post-Katrina restaurant, Touche, serves breakfast and lunch. Two blocks away, St. Dominic Catholic church has been refurbished and is open each morning for Mass.

"Every day and every week is better, and people need to know that," Bea Quaintance said. With the help of a trailer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is parked in her front yard, she and her husband, Gary, and their son, Steven, were the first family back on Memphis Street. "I think this country has done a wonderful job of providing for us."

Startling contrast

Across town, in a 98 percent black, mostly working-class neighborhood that was also wrecked by the storm, the 2500 block of Delery Street has tipped the other way.

Like much of the Lower Ninth Ward, the block is empty and silent, with no electricity, no drinkable water, no gas, no FEMA trailers and no signs of rebuilding on a street where many families owned their homes for generations.

No nearby churches, banks or restaurants are open, and no one, not even organizers from groups demanding the reconstruction of the Lower Ninth Ward, seems to have a list of residents with firm plans to come home. Throughout the spring, bodies were found in neighborhood houses.

A sign in the window of Daphne Jones' brick house at 2531 Delery declares: "No Bulldozing. We Are Coming Home." But Jones concedes that the sign is more wish than pledge.

Effort is fruitless

College students on spring break gutted her house free of charge in April, but she says she does not have enough money to rebuild. She has been trying for months to contact and mobilize her neighbors, dropping "Rebuilding Our Own Neighborhood" fliers in their abandoned houses. But such fervent, low-tech efforts have not worked.

"A lot of them are far away, and they don't know what is going on," said Jones, 55, whose two grown daughters and entire extended family have fled the Lower Ninth, mostly for Georgia. She evacuated to a shelter in Hammond, La., filtered back to New Orleans at the beginning of the year, and lives with a friend in a FEMA trailer across town. The lack of progress in re-creating her old neighborhood leaves her baffled and sad.

"If the levees are being rebuilt stronger than before, why can't we rebuild here?" she said. "It feels strange to me."

Evacuation differences

After fleeing the storm, black residents, especially poor ones from the Lower Ninth Ward and the city's public housing projects, were much more likely than whites to end up living far out of town, according to city, state and federal studies.

For these African-Americans, generations-old networks of kinfolk, church folk and friends have been obliterated or transplanted to another state where distance and the cost of travel undermine their ability to come home, even for short visits.

Middle-class whites fled in their cars and tended not to go so far, according to the studies. Many of them rented apartments, bought houses, or moved in with friends or relatives in the mostly white suburbs that developed as whites fled school integration. These New Orleanians have remained close enough to get building permits, deal with insurance agents, hire contractors and bird-dog the reconstruction of their houses.

"The people from Lakeview are not poor," said the Rev. Donald Dvorak, pastor at St. Dominic, the largest church in Lakeview, which is 94 percent white. "They all had the means to leave on their own terms and a place to go -- and the means to come back. That is the difference between us and the Lower Ninth Ward."

Out of 23 houses on the 6500 block of Memphis Street, three have been refurbished and are occupied. Owners of 10 others have firm plans to demolish and rebuild. Architects are finishing drawings for new and -- in some cases -- larger houses.

Whose voices are heard?

Election results -- and the results of a mayoral runoff on Saturday -- will "have a big effect on what neighborhood voices are heard by city politicians," predicted John R. Logan, a sociology professor at Brown University who has begun a long-term study of demographic change in post-Katrina New Orleans.

"Lakeview is going to be an increasingly important political constituency in the future," he said. "And the Lower Ninth is almost certainly going to have less clout in coming years, and that really puts its future on the line."

The prospect of increased political power is enticing homeowners back to Lakeview, said the Rev. Dvorak. There is a growing certainty among returnees to the neighborhood, he said, that they will shape the future of New Orleans.