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Africa in the news

Some say the devastating famine in Somalia fell by the wayside as media turned its attention to other news. Somalia relief groups ask, ‘Where is everybody?’

(GIN) – Relief organizations often chalk up their biggest fund raising successes during major humanitarian crises.

But some say the devastating famine in Somalia fell by the wayside as media turned its attention to other news scoops – including the protracted Congressional fight over the debt ceiling, the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal, and the recent massacre in Norway.

“It’s even slower for us than Pakistan was,” grieved a spokesman for Mercy Corps, a U.S. relief and development group.

“I’m asking myself where is everybody and how loud do I have to yell and from what mountaintop?” asked Caryl Stern, chief executive of the United States Fund for Unicef, the group’s fundraising arm. “The overwhelming problem is that the American public is not seeing and feeling the urgency of this crisis.”

Funds to provide care and food for the children affected by the famine have totalled $5.1 million — out of $300 million that Unicef estimates it will need over the next six months to address and prevent starvation in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Another relief group, Oxfam, is seeking to raise more than $70 million. It has raised about $36 million so far, mostly in Europe, where donors have been more responsive.

Sierra Leone leads way for maternal care

(GIN) – Women have been spilling out the doors of rural health clinic in Sierra Leone since the government eliminated fees for pregnant women and children.

The subsidized clinics have eliminated the need for births performed by the light of cellphones and flashlights. Trained medical staff oversee the deliveries, ensuring a higher level of protection for the new moms.

By waiving the fees, the government sharply reduced the mortality rates for pregnant women and deaths from malaria for small children.

Robert Yates, British senior health economist, called the results “nothing short of spectacular.” His UK group, the Department for International Development, is paying for almost 40 percent of the $35 million program, with the rest coming from the World Bank and other donors.

Since waiving the fees, Sierra Leone has seen a 214 percent increase in the number of children under five getting care at health facilities, a 61 percent decrease in mortality rates in difficult pregnancy cases at health clinics, and an 85 percent drop in the malaria fatality rate for children treated in hospitals, according to figures Yates supplied.

Meanwhile, a U.S.-based group is addressing the unreliability of electrical power with a portable solar electric system that fits in a suitcase. The “WE CARE Solar Suitcase” powers overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones or two-way radios, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries.

The group is currently working in Northern Nigeria, where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world.

(For more information, visit: http://wecaresolar.com/mission)

Home-grown armies looming threat to new African presidents

 (GIN) – New presidents in Guinea, Niger, Ivory Coast and Benin may be looking down the barrel of a gun as home grown armies in their countries are reported to be coup plotting, marauding and even attempting murder.

President Alpha Conde was the target of the assassination attempt last month. He narrowly survived the bazookas and rocket-propelled grenades aimed by soldiers at his bedroom window. Last week, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger ordered the arrest of coup-plotters said to include a major and a lieutenant.

In the Ivory Coast, human rights groups are warning that security forces and militia fighters allied with President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast are intimidating and killing members of ethnic groups perceived to be against him.

Speaking to Radio France, President Conde confirmed the challenged of a military “who once made $40,000 to $60,000 a month… There was a bizarre $2 million fund I canceled. Obviously, there are some who are unhappy. But you can’t keep on killing the country.”

In Niger, an official speaking off the record said: “There are still elements inside the army that think they can do a coup d’état and promise democracy, then fill up their pockets and go.”

Pierre Englebert, a specialist in African politics at Pomona College, speaking to The New York Times, said, “The military (of Niger) has been the self-anointed referee of politics for 20 years.”

Last month, at a meeting with the four West African presidents, President Barack Obama said, “These leaders have shown extraordinary persistence in wanting to promote democracy in their countries despite significant risks to their own personal safety and despite enormous challenges…the U.S. will stand with them every step of the way.”

(The Global Information Network distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada.)

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