Oxfam Warns UN Against Attacking Rebels

International aid agency, Oxfam, has warned that the United Nations-backed plans to attack Hutu rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo will lead to civilian deaths and widespread suffering.

Oxfam believes the plan will lead to a repeat of the January situation in which civilians were killed and 250 000 displaced when Rwandan and Congolese troops joined forces to target the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

US NGO Warns Africa of Diarrhoea

The United States Coalition for Child Survival has warned that diarrhoea might wreak havoc in poor countries in Africa.

The organisation points out that the disease is already killing 1.6 million children a year in these countries.

It says millions of babies between birth and the age of five die, mostly from preventable diseases. It further estimates that over half a million women in poor countries also die from pregnancy-related diseases, due to unsafe drinking water and malnutrition.

Venezuelan NGOS Criticise Proposed Law

Prominent Venezuelan NGOs have warned that a bill being drafted by lawmakers loyal to President Hugo Chavez could be used to financially strangle groups that criticize the government.

Liliana Ortega, who leads the human rights group, Cofavic, points out that the bill puts in danger the existence of organisations that make the government uncomfortable.

TAC Welcomes New Health Minister

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has welcomed the appointment of new health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi.

However, TAC’s Rebecca Hodes points out that, “... Motsoaledi has to work hard to be able to deliver on the national strategic plan which aims to provide 80 percent of people living by 2011 with HIV with treatment.”

Hodes says Motsoaledi must eradicate the antiretroviral (ARV) waiting list because people are dying of opportunistic infections as a result of low immune systems.

SADAG Trains Traditional Healers

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) has trained about 20 traditional healers on subjects such as mental illness, depression and suicide.

SADAG says 72 percent of black South Africans consult traditional healers before seeing medical doctors for conditions such as schizophrenia and HIV and AIDS.

“If traditional healers understand mental illness it will be easier for them to refer their patients to doctors or counsellors,” says SADAG manager, Lefate Makunyane.

UN Humanitarian Chief Visits Sudan

The United Nations humanitarian chief, John Holmes, has kicked off a five-day trip to Sudan to assess relief programmes in the south of the African country and its war-stricken Darfur region.

Holmes, under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, is expected to review living conditions for the local populations in areas affected by the expulsions of international NGOs in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

An estimated 300 000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since 2003 in that region.

Zimbabwean Activists Granted Bail

A Zimbabwean court has approved bail for 17 Zimbabwe opposition activists, a day after they were re-imprisoned for planning to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Elinor Sisulu, Director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, has been quoted as saying that although the activists have been granted bail, next month’s trial will still go ahead.

The group of arrested activists includes members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and prominent human rights activist and director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina Mukoko.

NGOs Pay Tribute to Skweyiya

Civil society groups have praised outgoing Social Development Minister, Zola Skweyiya, for playing an important role in creating a support network for poor and unemployed people in the country.

In a press statement, the National Working Group on Comprehensive Social Security Reform, points out that Skweyiya, who announced his retirement from parliament, played a pivotal role in directing debates and proposals towards a more progressive comprehensive social security system.

New Trial Date for Zimbabwean Activists

The trial of the 18 Zimbabwe human rights activists, whose bail was revoked after prosecutors filed a formal indictment, is set to begin on 4 June 2009.

Prominent human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko and the 17 others were taken back into custody, just two months after their release on bail over an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Three of the activists are still in hospital recovering from injuries they received at the hands of security forces.

ANC a Class Act – Idasa

The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) says the results of the national election show that the African National Congress (ANC) has lost support among minority groups and could be alienating the country’s middle class.

In its latest report on the elections, the think tanks points out that “The ANC has continued to attract the support of voters in predominantly lower-income earning black African areas.”


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