Child Mortality Highest in Sierra Leone

Poliodrops
Jan. 30, 2014 – More children are living beyond school age than ever before but child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa remain high with almost 10 percent of children dying before their fifth birthday.

The under-5 mortality rate globally has decreased from 75 deaths for every 1,000 children born in 2000 to 48 deaths for every 1,000 children born in 2012, according to UNICEF’s 2014 State of the World’s Children in Numbers report. This progress is still not enough to meet MDG4 which calls for a two-thirds reduction by 2015.

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest under-5 mortality rate with 198 deaths of children under-5 for every 1,000 children born. Angola, Chad, Somalia and Democratic Republic of the Congo all have rates of about 150 deaths for every 1,000 children while sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has a rate of 98/1000.

India (56/1000) and Nigeria (124/1000) account for more than one-third of all under-5 child deaths globally.

The under-5 mortality rate is considered a principal indicator of a country’s development as it is the result of a number of factors including the health of mothers, the level of immunization, availability of maternal and child health services, income and food availability, availability of clean water and safe sanitation and the overall safety of the child’s environment.

The countries with the highest rate of under-5 child mortality are:

1. Sierra Leone 182 (deaths before the age of five for every 1,000 children born)
2. Angola 164
3. Chad 150
4. Somalia 147
5. Democratic Republic of the Congo 146
6. Central African Republic 129
7. Guinea-Bissau 129
8. Mali 128
9. Nigeria 124
10. Niger 114

Other countries with high child mortality include Afghanistan (99/1000), Pakistan (86/1000) , Haiti  (76/1000) and Bangladesh (41/1000).

The 2014 State of the World’s Children in Numbers report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: child in Bangladesh receiving polio vaccine/wikimedia

Homs Aid Convoy Still Stalled as Geneva Talks Stumble On

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Jan. 28, 2014 – A humanitarian aid convoy waiting to enter Homs remains stalled at the perimeter of the besieged Syrian city.

Lakhdar Brahimi announced on Sunday that armed groups had given assurances that the convoy would not be attacked if it entered Homs. However, government approval is holding up its entry

“The convoy is ready and still waiting to enter. The authorization has not been given yet,” Brahimi said at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday.  “We haven’t given up on that.”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to the city since late 2012.

There is also no progress on evacuating civilians trapped in Old Homs. On Sunday, Brahimi said the Syrian government would allow women and children to immediately leave but concern for their male kin as well as a desire for aid to enter before they leave is reportedly holding up their departure from the city.

Meanwhile, negotiations for a political solution between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition  – their first face to face talks – have produced no tangible outcome so far. Brahimi, the UN-Arab League special representative mediating, acknowledged the difficulty of his task as the talks in the Swiss city enter the final three days.

“You know, I think I will repeat again that these are not easy negotiations and they haven’t been easy today, they haven’t been easy these past days and they will probably not be easy in the coming few days,” he said. “But, I am glad that you have been told by representatives of the two sides that they intend to stay and continue these discussions until Friday, as originally planned.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: Homs, April 2012/Wikimedia

Geneva Syria Talks Yield Progress on Humanitarian Issues

Montreux Conference in Geneva
Jan. 26, 2014 –  The Syrian government will allow trapped women and children to immediately leave the old city of Homs, Lakhdar Brahimi said on Sunday.

He was speaking after the second day of face to face talks between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva, Switzerland.

Aid agencies have for months called for a pause in fighting to allow trapped civilians to leave the city which is partially rebel-held.

Pro-Assad forces have bombarded Homs for almost three years and the government has also reportedly blocked electricity, water and phone service while families are living without heat and adequate food.

“With regard to Homs, there is an agreement now from the armed groups inside that they will not attack a humanitarian convoy if it enters Homs,” Brahimi said in Geneva, according to a transcript provided by the UN. “What I have been told by the Government side is that women and children in this besieged area in the old city are welcome to leave immediately.”

He said “other civilians are also welcome to leave, but the Government needs the list of their names first.” Asked by a reporter who recalled the Srebrenica massacre of men and boys if this list could be used to perpetrate a similar massacre, Brahimi answered: “We don’t have that fear. I don’t think we have that fear. Horrible things are happening in Syria, we don’t want anything like Srebrenica in addition to all of that. “

While the talks are aimed at finding a political solution to the crisis which will enter its fourth year in March, there’s little indication that progress has been made on this front, but Brahimi did note there is “mutual respect” between the negotiators and an awareness that the dire humanitarian situation had to be part of the talks.

“I think we all felt, and the two parties felt also, that you cannot start negotiations about Syria without having some discussions about the very, very bad humanitarian situation,” the Algerian diplomat said.

Talks are set to resume on Monday and are expected to turn to the heart of the matter: finding a political solution based on the Geneva Communique which calls for a mutually agreed transitional government with full executive powers.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Ban Ki-moon Disinvites Iran to Geneva II Talks

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Jan 20, 2014 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rescinded his invitation to Iran to participate in the Geneva II Syria talks on Wednesday.

In New York, Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, reading from a prepared statement, said Monday: “In a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.

“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment.  He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.  Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.”

The text of the Geneva Communiqué, which calls for a transitional government with full executive powers, is here.

(photo/UN photo)

Iran’s UN Envoy: No Preconditions for Geneva Syria Talks

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Jan. 20, 2014 – Tehran’s envoy to the United Nations in New York on Monday stated that Iran will not participate in the Geneva II Syria talks if it has to accept the Geneva communique.

Here is the response by the mission’s spokesperson, Alireza Miryousefi: “Regarding to the inquiry of the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the participation of Iran’s Geneva II Conference, the response of permanent representative of Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, Amb. Khazaee is as follows: The Islamic Republic of Iran appreciates the efforts of the UN Secretary General and his special envoy, Mr. Brahimi in finding a political solution for Syrian crisis. Iran has always been supportive of finding a political solution for this crisis.
“However the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept any preconditions for its participation in Geneva II conference. If the participation of Iran is conditioned to accept Geneva I communique, Iran will not participate in Geneva II conference.”

The text of the Geneva Communiqué, which was agreed on at a similar but smaller conference in June 2012, is here.

Top 15 Donors at Pledging Conference for Syria

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Jan. 15, 2014 – Host country Kuwait topped the list of donors at the pledging conference for Syria on Wednesday with the Gulf country announcing a $500 million contribution.

The United States followed with a $380 million donation. The European Commission pledged $225 million; United Kingdom, $164 million; Japan, $120 million; Germany, $110 million; Norway, $75 million; Saudi Arabia and Qatar both pledged $60 million.

Rounding out the top 15 donors at the conference in Kuwait City were Italy, $51 million; Denmark, $37 million; Sweden, $35 million; Switzerland $33 million; France, $27 million; and Ireland, $27 million.

A total of $2.4 billion was pledged towards a total of $6.5 billion required to support nine million Syrians in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria in 2014.

UN Security Council permanent members China and Russia were not among the 37 countries that made pledges. Nor was Canada, traditionally a strong donor. The United Arab Emirates was also absent, as too was Bahrain.

Iraq was the fourth largest Arab country donor, pledging $13 million.

Among emerging donor countries, South Korea announced a $5 million contribution; Mexico $3 million and India, $2 million.

Non-traditional donors making pledges included Estonia, $552,000; Romania, $100,000 and Botswana, $50,000, according to figures provided by UN OCHA.

A full list of the countries that pledged funds is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

List of Humanitarian Assistance Pledges at the Second International Donors Conference for Syria

 

Thirty Countries to Get Invites for Geneva Conference on Syria But Not Yet Iran

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UPDATED: Jan 19, 2013: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to the Geneva II talks, saying on Sunday that Tehran must be part of the solution and indicating that it supports the Geneva 1 communique which called for a transitional government with full executive powers. “They (Iran) said that they are committed to play a very constructive and important positive role. And they said that they welcome the Geneva Communique,” Ban said. “So based on my conversations, several times with Iranian delegations, then I am convinced that they will be in support of this Geneva Communique and they will play a very important and positive constructive role”  

In addition to Iran, Ban has invited nine more countries to the talks bringing the total number of countries participating to 40. The new invitees, in addition to Iran, are Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Mexico and South Korea.

Jan. 6, 2013 – The UN is inviting thirty countries to participate in the Geneva II conference on Syria but opposition from the US is holding up a decision on Iran’s participation.

Spokesperson Farhan Haq announced on Monday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was sending invitations to the list of countries agreed on Dec. 20 at a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Besides representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, the invitees include the permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – as well as Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

High Representative of the EU, Cathy Ashton, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil ElAraby, and Organization for Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Iyad bin Amin Madani are also invited to the conference to be convened by Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 22 in Montreux.

At a Dec. 20, 2013 press conference in Geneva, Brahimi told reporters that the UN favored Iran’s participation “but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing to do.”

John Kerry said on Sunday in Jerusalem that Iran needs to accept the Geneva I communiqué, which called for a transitional government with full executive powers, before it gets an invite.

The first Geneva conference was held in June 2012. An estimated 15,000 people had died in the Syrian conflict at that point. At least 100,000 more have been killed since.

The text of the Geneva I communiqué is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN photo/JC McIlwaine

China Says Abe’s War Shrine Visit Challenges Outcome of World War II

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Jan. 2, 2014 – China has accused Japan of seeking to clear the name of war criminals after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a shrine that honors the country’s war dead including senior officials convicted of the gravest war crimes.

Beijing’s UN mission in New York sent an email to reporters on Thursday stating China’s position on Abe’s visit, describing it as “a brazen challenge to all the victimized people in the Japanese militarist war of aggression and to the outcome of World War II and the post-war order.”

“Abe’s action is leading Japan down an extremely dangerous path and has gravely undermined regional peace and security,” the statement said.

It adds that the visit to the Yasukuni shrine “honors 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II as ‘heroes.’” Class A war criminals were those convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of the planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression.

China, as one of the victors in World War II, was awarded one of the five permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Articles 53 and 107 of the UN Charter still refer to Japan and the other axis powers, Germany and Italy, as ‘enemy states.’

The full statement sent by China’s UN mission is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(image/wikimedia)

China’s position on Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.