Category Archives: Africa

UN ‘horrified’ by killing of five aid workers in Nigeria

Aid groups provide a vital lifeline for some 7.9 million people who, the United Nations says, need urgent assistance in the region [File: AFP]

The United Nations has said it is “utterly shocked and horrified” by the killing of five aid workers by unknown armed groups in northeastern Nigeria.

The statement late on Wednesday by Edward Kallon, UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, followed the release of a video showing the murder of the humanitarian workers who were kidnapped last month in Borno state.

The Nigerian government identified the victims as employees of the country’s State Emergency Management Agency as well as international aid organisations Action Against Hunger (ACF), International Rescue Committee and Rich International. 

“They were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence,” Kallon said.

The aid workers were abducted while travelling on a main route connecting the town of Monguno with Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

Kallon said he was troubled by the number of illegal checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along the region’s main supply routes.

“These checkpoints disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance and heighten the risks for civilians of being abducted, killed or injured, with aid workers increasingly being singled out.” 

Northeast Nigeria has been ravaged by a decade-long armed campaign led by the armed group Boko Haram that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about two million from their homes.

Last year, fighters from a Boko Haram splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province, abducted a group of six humanitarian workers – including a female ACF employee – in the region.

Five of the hostages were later executed and the ACF worker remains in captivity.

Aid groups provide a vital lifeline for some 7.9 million people in the region who the UN says are in need of urgent assistance.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/horrified-killing-aid-workers-nigeria-200723081635932.html

During pandemic, Nairobi nuns expand their reach

Sister Grace Njau, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Precious Blood, is being helped with food and hygienic items during a June 12, 2020, collection for poor and needy families in Nairobi, Kenya. (CNS/Francis Njuguna)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Normally, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood feed about 200 children in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kawangware and Riruta.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the sisters are expanding their reach.

“We are using the telephone contacts of the children to reach these poor and needy families,” Precious Blood Sister Grace Njau told Catholic News Service during a mid-June distribution.

The sisters set up distribution tents outside Amani Rehabilitation Center/Primary School, where the children normally go for breakfast and lunch.

When a name was called out, a parent or guardian would step forward to collect the packaged assorted items, gathered from donors. About 14 families received food that day.

Esther Njeri, a single mother, told CNS upon receiving her share: “I am happy with our sisters … through our children, they have fed the entire family. May the good Lord bless where this has come from.”

Hassan Kariuki Warui, a Muslim and teacher at the school, told CNS the system was designed so “that every ‘grain of wheat’ goes to the intended poor and needy family.”

Kenya’s bishops anticipated that the food needs would be great with the lockdown. In late May, they predicted the pandemic would hit the nation’s most vulnerable people the hardest, including the 2.5 million people living in informal settlements.

They asked for donations of money, food and nonfood items “to support and save the lives of the affected population. In-kind donations (dry food and nonfood items) can be channeled through our parishes, diocesan and national offices and other church institutions,” the bishops said.

By June 29, Kenya had reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, but fewer than 150 deaths.

“We hope we shall go back to our system of feeding these families via their children in our rehab center and primary school when the current coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown finally come to an end,” Njau said as she helped coordinate the distribution.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/coronavirus/during-pandemic-nairobi-nuns-expand-their-reach

Families sleep in water lines as drought grips Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo

More than 200 residents wait in line for a water delivery truck in the Pumula South area of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, May 22, 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, – Twice a week, Nothi Mlalazi joins a long line with dozens of other people – some of whom have slept there overnight – and stands for hours waiting for water in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.

As the parched southern African country endures its worst drought in years – a problem scientists link to climate change – ongoing water shortages in Bulawayo have left residents in some suburbs without running water for more than three months.

The tankers that the city council sends to deliver water every few days are often the residents’ only hope for clean water.

Many will spend the night at the delivery point to make sure they can fill their buckets before the tankers – or bowsers – run dry.

“Receiving water from bowsers is a huge challenge for many residents. We spend most of our time in long, winding queues, impatiently waiting to fill up our containers,” said Mlalazi, 45, who lives in the poor, crowded suburb of Pumula South.

“You will find (people) as early as 1 a.m. already there,” she added, as she stood in line with two of her daughters, who watched to make sure nobody stole their water buckets.

LOW RESERVES

After several years of drought and patchy rains, reservoir levels have fallen dangerously low, pushing the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to limit water supplies in an attempt to conserve the resource until the rainy season starts in October.

Last month, city authorities began shutting off piped water six days a week, reporting that the three dams acting as the city’s primary water sources were at less than 30% of capacity.

The city had already decommissioned three other dams due to the water dropping below pumping levels.

Some residents have resorted to drawing the water they need for washing from unprotected sources such as ponds and leaking water pipes, or tapping into sewage gutters for water to flush their toilets, said Pumula South resident Charles Siziba.

Siziba said the situation is made even more dire by the coronavirus pandemic, as the lack of running water increases the risk that people will catch the illness and infect others.

It is almost impossible to practice the regular handwashing that health experts say is one of the best weapons against the virus, he noted.

“And there is also no social distancing to speak of, because when the bowser comes through, residents push and shove in the water queue to fill up their buckets,” Siziba said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200617011613-mlzha/

A look at a home for the elderly in Kenya during pandemic

An elderly man washes his hands with soap to protect against coronavirus infection at the Cheshire Home for the Elderly located in the Kariobangi slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. (Doreen Ajiambo)

Phylis Nyambura sits on a plastic chair, pensive and alone in the shade of a tree at Cheshire Home for the Elderly in the Kariobangi slum northeast of Nairobi. With an effortless click, Nyambura shoots a jet of saliva through the gap between her two front teeth, before she begins to lament how her social life has changed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’m told it’s a bad disease that kills old people in minutes,” the 80-year-old said in Kikuyu, her native language. “Everyone here is avoiding me. They cannot even allow me to see my daughter and grandson when they come to visit me here. My life has completely changed.”

Nyambura, who arrived at the home four years ago, suffers from dementia (loss of cognitive functioning)  and behavioral disabilities to such an extent that it interferes with her daily life and activities.

She has been experiencing increased feelings of confusion, paranoia and delusion during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in 2,862 cases, 85 deaths and 849 recoveries, as of June 9 in Kenya, according to Worldometers, a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics.

“I don’t know what’s happening nowadays,” said Nyambura, gasping for breath as she struggles to lean on the chair. “We are told to wash our hands all the time, even when we are not eating. I feel very bad, isolated and confused.”

The home, run by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, used to be a hive of activity. More than 300 men and women of advanced age would meet their relatives and lifelong friends every day. They would share meals and pray together.

But the place is now empty since Kenya has adopted strict measures to counter the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The government has suspended travel in and out of the country, banned religious and social gatherings, and imposed a nationwide curfew between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.

In the countrywide fight against the pandemic, the sisters have rolled out a series of strict measures and supportive human services to safeguard the elderly from the virus.

This is because the new disease presents specific risks for older people. Preliminary research from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, based on more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19, showed a mortality rate of 2.3% for the general population, rising to 8% in those aged 70 to 79 and nearly 15% in those 80 and over.

“Strict isolation is the only way to protect these elderly men and women,” said Sr. Lydia D’sa, who is the administrator of the home. “We have already made changes to provide for social distancing. We told them they could not watch television inside the hall because of space, so they usually watch from outside. Prayers are done outside as well for the sake of distancing.”

The home was built in 1980 with the help of HelpAge International to cater for the destitute and homeless elderly members of society. In recent years, however, the home has come under pressure from those who have families but want to be admitted.

Currently, the home is a permanent residence for 40 elderly men and women and has a day care program for about 300 people from the neighboring slum areas, mostly suffering from leprosy, post-polio paralysis and blindness. It provides a two-pronged care program: Those who are weak and feeble who require nursing care reside in the home and those who capable of carrying out their daily personal care taking part of the day care program.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/people/look-home-elderly-kenya-during-pandemic

Electric motorbike gives women in rural Zimbabwe a path out of poverty

Employees charge lithium ion batteries for a Hamba electric motorcycle at a solar-powered recharging station in Wedza, Zimbabwe, 22 May 2020. REUTERS/MacDonald Dzirutwe

WEDZA, Zimbabwe, – In the rural Zimbabwe district of Wedza, a new electric-powered motorcycle is helping bring income to poor women and easing the burden of looking after families.

The three-wheeler, known as Hamba (Go), powered by a solar-charged lithium ion battery, is being piloted by start-up Mobility for Africa, which leases the motorcycle to women in groups of up to five.

The women can now carry farm produce to markets further away from home, offer transportation services to villagers and use the motorcycle for domestic chores.

Mary Mhuka, a 58-year-old mother-of-six who is leasing the Hamba with her daughter-in-law and a neighbour, said the motorcycle had eased the strain of domestic work.

She could now sell her vegetables at a business centre 15 km away for more money than she would get locally.

“We used to carry firewood on our heads for very long distances … but now it’s much easier as this motorcycle has taken away that burden,” she told Reuters after a trip to the community water borehole.

Fadzai Mavhuna, the Hamba pilot coordinator since February 2019, said women paid an equivalent of $15 a month as a group to lease the Hamba, which has a maximum range of 100 km.

It costs between $0.50 and $1 to change the motorcycle batteries, which are charged at a solar-powered station.

Mobility for Africa is now in the second phase of the pilot project before it can go commercial. The Hamba is assembled in Harare with kits made in China and will be sold for $1,500.

“Some of the women have increased their income because they have embarked on … projects like baking, tailoring and horticulture,” said Mavhuna.

Pamhidzai Mutunya, a farm health worker, said before the arrival of Hamba, many women gave birth at home while others had to walk 12 km to the nearest clinic because there was no transport.

“We now have fewer cases of pregnant women giving birth at home,” the 35-year-old mother-of-three said.

She ferries an average of four people to the clinic a day and also collects medicines for patients.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200527101732-38x7z/

Nigeria’s tech experts step in to help those losing livelihoods under lockdown

Screenshot_2020-04-30 Nigeria's tech experts step in to support jobless during pandemic
Emmanuel Onyeahiolam, 30, a contractor, who is one of the beneficiaries of the We Are Together crowdfunding site speaks to Reuters during an interview in his home amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lagos, Nigeria April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

LAGOS,(Reuters) – Tech startup founder Ebun Okubanjo watched with dismay as his home city of Lagos entered a coronavirus-containment lockdown, knowing well that millions of Nigerians on the margins could be left with nothing.

So he and his team used their expertise to create a crowdfunding site, “We Are Together”, to distribute cash to those in difficulty who apply for help.

Others in Nigeria’s flourishing tech sector have also put their skills to use to help cushion the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

“The reality is to tell people to stay home, and not work .. you have to give them something,” Okubanjo told Reuters.

Africa’s informal sector accounts for more than 85% of employment across the continent and has been largely bypassed by limited support measures from cash-strapped governments.

An African Union study warned that the pandemic puts some 20 million jobs at risk in Africa, with the continent’s economies projected to shrink this year.

While Nigeria said the lockdowns will begin to gradually ease from May 4, it is not yet clear who will be able to go back to work, and the economic impact will be lasting.

Okubajo said his site, and others like it, are effectively a DIY economic stimulus, allowing those with cash to prevent people from falling into destitution.

Emmanuel Onyeahiolam, 30, an electrical equipment contractor, got 10,000 naira ($27.78) from We Are Together.

He said he was abruptly unable to work when Lagos locked down, and his last client was not able to pay him immediately.

“It’s not too convenient for me to stay for a long time without working,” he said, adding that food costs had gone up fivefold. “It’s just scary.”

We Are Together raised more than 17 million naira ($47,222) and distributed it to 1,739 recipients.

Justin Irabor, a tech worker with Nigerian startup Eden Life Inc, founded “Angels Among Us” with a team of volunteer software engineers. The site matches donors directly with recipients, and has enabled more than 2 million naira in donations.

Both platforms are primarily online – a fact that puts them out of reach to the poorest Nigerians.

Both sites must also to an extent take applicants at their word, although Angels Among Us tries to vet its recipients and volunteers call to verify their stories. The site tries to use bank-issued biometric identification numbers to prevent graft.

We Are Together uses location technology to ensure that recipients are in the parts of the country under federally mandated lockdown, and not in wealthy parts of those states.

Okubanjo conceded the system is not perfect – and that some who do not need cash could get it. But it is a risk worth taking.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200430091923-4vulw/

Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka uses social media during lockdown to help abused women

Screenshot_2020-04-23 Mandela's granddaughter uses social media to help abused women
Ndileka Mandela speaking at her book launch in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 2019. George Elize/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

JOHANNESBURG, – Ndileka Mandela was at her home in Johannesburg, South Africa, just before the start of a national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, when she got the call.

A container filled with 10,000 sanitary pads for rural South African girls would not be able to leave Geneva due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a donor told her.

“My heart was so sore. These girls are stuck at home, there is no income to buy food let alone sanitary pads. Their dignity and their health are at stake,” she said in a phone interview.

Ndileka, 55, Nelson Mandela’s oldest grandchild, has committed her life’s work to tackling the challenges South African women face – mainly violence and period poverty – and fears the coronavirus pandemic will heighten inequalities.

Since the lockdown started on March 27 she has been using social media to communicate with women stuck indoors with abusers, to let them know they are not alone, and to encourage them to call police hotlines for help.

A few days into South Africa’s lockdown, local media reported that a 14-year-old was raped and murdered in Soweto township in Johannesburg with her body so badly brutalised that her family could only identify her by her clothes and birthmark.

“What makes men like this?” asked Ndileka.

Ndileka’s own experience of surviving a rape in 2012 further catapulted her towards advocating for women’s rights.

“I wanted to show people that even your partner can rape you,” said Ndileka, who shared her story about being raped in her own bed on Facebook in 2017 as part of the #MeToo movement and was messaged by hundreds of women sharing similar stories.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200423110334-of0jz/

 

Kenya faces new health risk as floods, mudslide displace thousands

NAIROBI, KENYA — Catholic leaders in Kenya are appealing for humanitarian support in regions where landslides and floods have displaced thousands, as the country battles increasing cases of the coronavirus.

Church sources said the disasters had left a trail of death and destruction in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya regions, while introducing a new twist in the COVID-19 fight.

At least 4,000 have been displaced in the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties in the Rift Valley in mudslides that have also killed 12 people. In Nyando, part of Kisumu County, an estimated 1,600 people are trapped in villages by floods, according to the sources.

“The parish center, a convent and nearby school are now submerged in water following days of heavy rainfall. The parish priest and nuns had to be evacuated, but the people are still trapped in their homes. They are crying for help. With a canoe, we can evacuate them to safer zones,” Fr. Joachim Omollo, an Apostle of Jesus priest in Kisumu Archdiocese, told Catholic News Service.

“I think all the attention is on COVID-19, but these people need emergency aid. If we don’t act quickly, waterborne disease will soon strike, adding to the burden when the health systems are on the alert over COVID-19,” he said.

The mudslides swept away a main market, a school, a police post and villages. With their homes and houses destroyed, the displaced families have camped in schools and other places on safer grounds.

The government, the Red Cross and churches — including the Catholic Church — have moved to provide some relief, including some food and clothes. County governments are promising to help the displaced people fight COVID-19 by providing water, soap and encouraging social distancing.

Before the landslide, the communities had been observing church and government COVID-19 guidelines, but concerns have emerged that these measures may be difficult to keep, leaving the people exposed to the disease in the new camps.

“We have been discouraging the people from congregating in one place due to the current situation in the country (COVID-19). Many of them have since moved in with relatives,” said Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Eldoret. “We are also there, providing relief to the displaced persons.”

The East African nation’s Catholic bishops and clergy have been urging the people to observe the government’s guidelines. By April 23, Kenya confirmed 320 cases of COVID-19, but the numbers were increasing daily.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/kenya-faces-new-health-risk-floods-mudslide-displace-thousands

‘My hands are my tractor’: Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg

Screenshot_2020-03-23 'My hands are my tractor' Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg
Refiloe Molefe smiles with friends at her inner city farm in Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 February 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kim Harrisberg

JOHANNESBURG, – Whenever people walked by the overgrown bowling green in Johannesburg’s working-class Bertrams neighbourhood, they saw an eyesore.

But Refiloe Molefe saw a chance to feed her community.

The 60-year-old former nurse has been farming on the 500-square-metre (5,380 square feet) bowling green for more than a decade, after she asked the city for food for the creche she was running for 15 children.

The authorities had none to give her, so she requested the land to grow her own instead.

“We may not have money, but we have land and food. And to garden here is our therapy,” Molefe said, crushing a piece of rosemary between her fingers before smelling the leaves and smiling.

Seed by seed, Johannesburg – a city known for high crime levels and rapid urbanisation – is becoming home to a crop of urban farmers fighting concrete to grow fruit and vegetables so they can feed their families and neighbours.

The United Nations estimates two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from 56% today.

And Africa is the continent urbanising the fastest, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city with a population of more than 4.4 million according to the most recent census data, has grown nearly 40% since the previous census in 2001.

“There are people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria and Malawi here. We have the opportunity to grow food together, to live together and to eat together,” said Molefe.

“But we need land to do this.”

There are about 300 urban farms in Johannesburg, according to Nthatisi Modingoane, spokesman for the City of Johannesburg.

And more are sprouting up, said food security researcher Brittany Kesselman.

“We are seeing farms in schools, churches, clinics, rooftops and backyards,” said Kesselman, who is also a raw food chef.

“It is a challenge, but urban farmers are bravely fighting hunger in Johannesburg.”

According to the South African Cities Network, an urban development think tank, more than 40% of Johannesburg households are food insecure, meaning they are unable to access affordable and nutritious food.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200320052234-jaoqg/

 

Nigeria’s roads: ‘My son died in a car accident – now I control traffic’

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Monica Dongban-Mensem (centre) received training from authorities to qualify as a traffic officer

During her free time, Nigerian Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem controls traffic in the capital, Abuja, eight years after her son was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

On the day I met her she was clad in her blue traffic vest, feet spread apart, sweaty arms slicing the air at a frantic pace, as she directed cars in 38C (100F) heat fuelled by the idling cars.

Around her was the busy chaos of the Berger roundabout in the city’s central area.

The cars that were not moving were hunched on their front axles, horns blaring, impatiently waiting for her to say “go”.

She was clearly in charge.

“Many Nigerians are impatient and it shows in their driving,” Justice Dongban-Mensem told me.

She did not know who was responsible for her son’s death but wanted to tackle some of the poor driving she witnessed.

She started going to bus stations to speak to drivers about road safety in Nigeria.

What she found shocked her.

Most of the drivers had not received proper training and were not familiar with the traffic rules.

Such ignorance might have caused the death of her son and she was determined to change that.

The 62-year-old has set up a non-profit organisation named after her late son – Kwapda’as Road Safety Demand – to educate motorists about safety and she also plans to establish a driving school for potential commercial drivers, where they can receive training free-of-charge.

Not content with that, Justice Dongban-Mensem wanted to play a role in controlling the traffic herself. After weeks of training with the road safety commission she qualified as a traffic warden.

It was not until 2016, five years after the accident, that she felt able to visit the scene of her son’s death in the central Nigerian city of Jos.

“My mission was to find someone who could just tell me or describe to me how my son died.”

But once she got there, she was left terrified, sad and angry by the chaos she saw.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50728800