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Gold Rush Luring Kids out of school in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, 30 August 2012 (IRIN) – A boom in Burkina Faso’s gold mining over the past three years has made the country one of Africa’s leading producers, but it is also luring children – some as young as six – out of school.

The exact number of children abandoning schools nationally for the mines is still unclear, but many schoolchildren are known to work mainly in artisanal mines where they crush stones, sieve dust, transport water and cook. Others go to the mines during school off-days on Thursdays and Saturdays, said Moussa Ouedraogo, the Ministry for National Education and Literacy director for the country’s northern region.

“This does not mean they have given up school, but it is an indication that they could end up abandoning it altogether under the influence of parents and others who have made money there,” Ouedraogo told IRIN. He said 900 children skipped exams in the region this year and 3,300 others work in the mines during school off-days.

“We are sensitizing parents to curb the trend,” he said, but admitted that rewarding parents and children with bicycles, books and cash for abandoning the mines was having little effect.

According to the Ministry of Finance, gold has become the top export commodity. In 2011, it earned Burkina Faso 127 billion CFA (US$247 million). Between 2007 and 2011, it brought in 440 billion CFA, accounting for 64.7 percent of all exports and 8 percent of GDP. Production rose from 23 tons in 2010 to 32 tons in 2011. Gold mines are spread across the country’s northern, western, southwestern and central regions.

The government in 2003 revised its mining laws to encourage investors. Between 2007 and 2011 seven industrial mining sites opened in the West African country, where cotton was the main export cash crop.

Some 800 traditional mining sites, where most children work, have also opened, according to Terre Des Hommes, an international NGO promoting children’s rights and which is working with Burkina Faso’s Education Ministry to curb the negative effects the mining boom is having on education.

“This is an opportunity in the village and I don’t want to miss it. If I make money I will not need to go to the capital [Ouagadougou] to look for work if I fail in school,” said 13-year-old Ousséni Sawadogo. He is paid one-third of what he produces, with the mine owner taking the rest. In the past four months, Ousséni said he has earned some about $400, but that his friends have earned more.

Patchy school attendance

Primary school enrolment in the country is 57.8 percent, but only 33.9 percent of pupils complete school nationally, and just 24 percent in the rural areas. Children as young as six and older ones up to 17 can be found working at the mines, the government’s National Institute for Statistics and Democracy found in a recent study.

“We need to hold national debates on the issue because in five years, we won’t have schools in some areas of the country,” said Hassane Sankara of the Cadre de Concertation des ONG pour l’education de Base, a coalition of local NGOs working for the improvement of primary education and enrolment.

Sankara expressed concern that all the investment made in recent years to boost school attendance could be lost. In 2001, the government launched a 62-billion CFA ($118 million) project aiming to increase to 70 percent the number of children enrolled in primary school by 2010, and 100 percent by 2015.

“It is a total failure of the national policy because [mining] is taking children out of schools, empties learning centres and only old people remain in the villages,” said Sankara, whose own cousin abandoned Advanced Level secondary school for a mining site in Kalsaka in the north.

“The mining impact goes beyond the education sector,” Education Minister Koumba Boly told IRIN, voicing worry that the country’s overall development could be undermined if education is badly affected. The minister said a decree will be issued when schools re-open in mid-September banning all children from mining sites.

In Burkina Faso’s central Pousguin region, the population has surged to 35,000 from 10,000 in one month after a new gold mine was discovered there recently, said Herman Zoungrana of Terre Des Hommes.

“We are witnessing the birth of new villages and the new settlers come along with their children,” Zoungrana said. He explained that it is difficult to completely take children out of the mines because they often migrate with their families whenever new mining sites are discovered.

“You can take 100 children back to school today and the next day they have moved to another place because there is a new site,” he said. “The mining sites are the only [economic] opportunity for these people who move there with their families. More and more mining sites are becoming villages on their own. And even if the children do not work, they live there.”

Abdoul Moumouni Kaboré, 17, said many children work at the mines to support their families.

“I came for holidays and I have never gone back to Ouagadougou because around us a lot of boys are caring for their families with the money they are making from the site,” said Kaboré, who has been working at a mine in Pousguin for the last two months. “You need to work hard and wait for your luck. I can’t go back home until I get something because people will laugh at me.”

Poverty

According to Moussa Ouedraogo, the regional director of education in the north of the country, the Education Ministry this year distributed food to schools in the region known for its poor harvests to prevent children from joining the mining sites.

“But we were able to cover only part of the school year with food distribution,” he said. Poverty and hardship relegate the importance of education and many people have taken up mining for their economic survival.

Terre Des Hommes’s Zoungrana said they have also distributed cereals and other foods to school canteens and to some families to dissuade parents from sending children to mine.

“We also try to make school a pleasant place with games and sports,” Zoungrana added.

Mining companies also need to act

The Ministry of Education says the strategy to stem school dropouts depends on the local administrators such as mayors, but Zoungrana said the problem cannot be resolved at the local level alone.

“The communes [local authorities] are committed, but there is no government legislation to back their actions so that the mining companies can also be compelled to contribute financially to strengthen their actions.”

IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis

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Investment in Children Must Be a Priority-UNICEF

Posted by Kwabena Amponsah

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for the rights of children to be made a priority, stressing that they are vital for the young nation’s growth and stability.

“The foundation of a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan can be strong only if we invest in the country’s youngest citizens,” UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, Yasmin Ali Haque, said in news release. “They need to be everyone’s priority so that the next generation can play an active and meaningful part in building this new nation.”

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July last year, six years after the signing of a peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and south. Half of its population is currently under the age of 18, yet the country has very poor social indicators, including high maternal and infant mortality, high rates of illiteracy and malnutrition, and very limited infrastructure, making it one of the riskiest places in the world for a child to be born.

“The measurement of progress must be in terms of concrete results for children,” said Ms. Haque. “We need to improve children’s chances to survive beyond their fifth birthday, to have a chance to go to school and to be protected from violence and conflict.”

According to UNICEF, 70 per cent of children between six and seventeen years of age have never been to school, and the completion rate in primary schools is barely ten per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Girls, in particular, remain disadvantaged when it comes to education and are vulnerable to social practices such as early marriage and early child bearing.

In addition, the multiple crises in the country have left many children without basic services, with only 13 per cent of them having access to adequate sanitation.

UNICEF, in conjunction with the Government and development partners, has worked on establishing essential water and sanitation sources, as well as education infrastructure. In five years, there has been a 40 per cent increase in access to improved sources of drinking water, and over the past year, efforts have been intensified to ensure that children in some of the more disadvantaged schools have a friendlier learning environment.

UNICEF noted that outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan continue to have an impact on children. Since South Sudan’s independence, the peace between the two countries has been threatened by clashes along their common border and post-independence issues, including the ownership of the Abyei area which straddles the two countries, causing the displacement of thousands of hundreds of people.

The ongoing flux of refugees, the continued threat of conflict and severe food insecurity make it more pressing to address their needs, UNICEF added.

UN News

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UNICEF Warns of Increasing Violence Against Children in Northern Mali

 

Armed conflict in northern Mali has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Niger. Photo: OCHA/Nicole Lawrence

6 July 2012 –The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced “grave concern” over the situation in northern Mali, warning of increasing evidence showing children being killed, injured or recruited into armed groups.

In a news release, the agency reported that since the end of March at least 175 boys have been recruited into armed groups, at least eight girls have been sexually abused, two boys have been killed by explosive devices in separate incidents and 18 more have been injured.

“These numbers are reason for alarm especially because they represent only a partial picture of the child protection context in the north – an area where access for humanitarian workers is limited,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Mali, Theophane Nikyema. “Children in the north are witnessing or becoming victims of violence and they must be protected.”

Fighting resumed in northern Mali between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in January this year. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, and a crisis due to a coup d’état in March, have uprooted nearly 320,000 people, with many of them fleeing to neighbouring countries.

On the humanitarian front, the western part of Africa’s Sahel region – which includes Mali – has deteriorated dramatically through 2012 owing to drought and sporadic rains, poor harvest, rising food prices, displacement and insecurity. The United Nations and its partners have appealed for $1.6 billion to provide vital humanitarian aid to people in the crisis-stricken region.

In its release, UNICEF noted that the closure of the vast majority of schools across the region isa further cause for concern, with children being at higher risk of recruitment, violence and exploitation. Currently, school closures are affecting some 300,000 children in basic education alone.

UNICEF is working with local partners in the conflict-affected regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, as well as the border region of Mopti, to strengthen communities’ ability to identify and support separated children, raise public awareness about risks for children, including recruitment into armed groups, and promoting education.

UNICEF stressed that funding for its activities is critical, as just 21 per cent of the agency’s $58 million appeal for Mali for this year has been met, and just 10 per cent of the child protection target has been reached.

In addition to child protection, UNICEF is concerned about the severe nutritional crisis across the Sahel region, where some 560,000 children are at risk of acute malnutrition this year, including 220,000 that require life-saving treatment.

While the majority of the malnourished children in Mali live in the country’s south, conditions in the north have sharply reduced access for families to food, water and basic health care. UNICEF has provided emergency health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and household supplies to partners working in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, and is reaching children with vaccinations, nutritional supplements and deworming medication wherever possible.

More than 70,000 children have been treated for acute malnutrition since the beginning of the year, and in the past week UNICEF and partners supported the national health authorities in reaching almost six million children with polio vaccinations, vitamin A supplements and de-worming medication.

UN IRIN NEWS

 

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Ready To Ship To Ghana

This is an exciting time for the Foundation.

As a result of the kindness of many individuals like you, including kindergarten kids, GBAF is ready to ship over 10 boxes of assorted school supplies to Ghana in November of this year. The picture above shows some of the items that are ready to be shipped to Ghana later this year.

But our message is not complete with these books alone. Because some of the kids in the communities were targeting walk several miles to school, we will like every child to have a backpack.

Again, because GBAF is a small organization run by volunteers, GBAF needs your help to pay for the shipping cost and the cost associated with port duties in Ghana

We ask to you support us in one of these areas.

To help with the shipping cost, please make your donation through PayPal. You will be able to enter the amount you want to donate. Every amount will be appreciated and you will receive a receipt from us for tax purposes.


To buy a backpack for a school kid, select the number of backpacks you will like to donate and pay through PayPal. We will send you a receipt for your donation for tax purposes.

Select the number of Backpacks you want to give

 

 

 

Education is the Solution to Early Marriage and Sex Among African Girls

A new statistics from the East Africa’s demographic and health survey points to something we may all be familiar with through sketches or stories: the longer a girl stays in school, the longer she is likely to delay marriage, and the fewer children she is likely to have.

The conclusion form the survey is simply: In most all African societies, education is the number one factor that will influence when a girl gets married and when she starts having children.

Early marriage and childbirth have been linked to higher maternal mortality, as young mothers are more likely to die during childbirth; and with higher fertility rates, as women who start having children young tend to have many children

Samples Demographic Housing Survey shows that the median age of marriage increases with advances in education —

Kenya

Girls who have no education will get married at about 17.5 years

Girls with at least a secondary education will tie the knot at 22.4 years, almost a five year delay.

Tanzania,

Girls who have never been to school will be married by 17.7 years of age, but

Girls who have a secondary education or higher are likely to postpone marriage till 23.1 years.

 

In communities where educating the girl child is not a priority, Give Back Africa Foundation will work with the local communities through our Community Outreach Educational Programs to communicate the importance of educating the local girls and offer assistance to select students when needed.

Are Mosquitoes Being Eradicated Or Merely on Vacation?

A research reported in Malaria Journal indicates that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are on their last legs in some parts of Africa, but the scientists were not sure as to why.

Figures presented showed that controls such as anti-mosquito bed nets treated with insecticide are having a significant blow on the incidence of malaria in some sub-Saharan countries. But the data also showed that mosquitoes are disappearing from areas with even less controls.

The question is whether the mosquitoes are being eradicated or merely on vacation? The later is a scary scenario because if that were the case, we should expect them to return with renewed vitality.

Africa’s Young People Vital to Sustainable Development, Says UN Chief

25 May 2011 –One of Africa’s greatest untapped resources is its young people, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today, urging the continent to take advantage of the skills and talents of its youth to promote sustainable development.
Mr. Ban spent Africa Day today in Ethiopia, the final leg of a three-country, five-day visit to the continent that has also taken the United Nations chief to Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
In a statement marking the Day, whose theme this year is “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development,” Mr. Ban warned that “despite advances in education and economic growth, progress remains fragile, inequalities are widespread and young Africans face major difficulties in finding decent jobs and participating in decision-making.”
He noted that in North Africa this year, where protests led to the downfall of long-term regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and open conflict in Libya, a lack of basic freedoms “was among the factors that led young people to take to the streets demanding change and fulfilment of their legitimate aspirations for better lives.
“Empowering youth is essential for sustainable economic growth and sustainable management of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; the clear challenge for many countries now is to pay just as much attention to sustainable political progress.
“As Africans strive to overcome threats to peace and development, the continent will continue to need strong and dedicated support from all its partners. On Africa Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to work in partnership with Africans of all ages to realize their potential by building an environment conducive to prosperity, democracy and peace.”
He underlined the need for Africans “to realize their right to choose their own leaders and ensure that elections are a route to peace, not violence.”
Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (the predecessor of today’s African Union) on 25 May 1963. During his current visit to the continent, Mr. Ban has been trying to mobilize “global support for reducing child and maternal mortality rates.
“Progress in this area has been slower than it is on all the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, “despite proven policies, practices and technologies.”
Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today presented its new Africa Water Atlas that details the state of the continent’s water resources.
The 326-page atlas uses more than 100 satellite images, 225 maps, 500 graphics and 250 ground photographs and provides a brief profile of the water situation and progress towards the MDGs in every country.
“The publication makes a major contribution to the state of knowledge about water in Africa by synthesizing water issues by looking at them from the perspective of challenges and opportunities,” UNEP said in a statement.
For its part the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is holding events throughout the week, including screenings, art exhibitions and thematic debates. Special attention will be paid to the themes of the role of women and youth in the African Renaissance and the construction of peace.

UN News Center

Mosquitoes Are Smarter and Ruthless Than You Think

A research published in scientific journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, suggests that new strategies are urgently needed to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of insecticide resistance on malaria control in Africa.

The research conducted by a group of researchers from Senegal has found that there is growing resistance to a common class of insecticide by Anopheles gambiae, the species of mosquito that is responsible for transmitting malaria to humans in Africa.

 

The introduction of artemisinin-combination therapies (ACTs) and widespread distribution of insecticide-treated bednets have resulted in major reductions in malaria transmission in Africa.

The researchers also found that 37% of A gambiae mosquitoes were resistant to deltamethrin insecticide in 2010, and that the genetic mutation conferring resistance to pythethroid insecticides increased from 8% in 2007 to 48% in 2010.

Mosquitoes also ‘developing resistance to bed nets’

While insecticide-treated bed nets have contributed significantly in reducing the prevalence of mosquito in many part of the world and have become a leading method of preventing malaria, especially in Africa, the study suggested that mosquitoes can rapidly develop resistance to bed nets treated with insecticide.

This is the reason I think mosquitoes really suck!

Chase for Profit Hampers Malaria Drugs Subsidy

On the streets of Nairobi, James Odhiambo goes from one pharmacy to the next in search of anti-malarial drugs marked with the Global Fund’s logo of a green leaf. He is looking for this specific brand because he understands that it is more than 10 times cheaper than the same drug produced by different manufacturers.

He finally buys it from Nila Pharmacies along Accra Road – the sixth outlet he has visited this morning.

“My brother was yesterday evening diagnosed with malaria at a private clinic in Dandora suburb upon his arrival from a two week holiday in the lakeside city of Kisumu. That is why I have come to town to search for drugs,” says Odhiambo holding a prescription from the Samaritan Health Clinic – where his brother was diagnosed.

However, Odhiambo says his brother could not buy anti-malarial drugs from the clinic where he was tested because the available drugs were expensive costing Sh400 (five dollars). This is the average price of anti-malaria drugs in Kenya.

“We have always seen these subsidised drugs being advertised all over in the media. We were not going to waste the entire Sh400–equivalent to two days’ wages – on a similar dose,” said Odhiambo, who works as a casual labourer in the city.

The drugs Odhiambo is referring to are subsidised through the Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm). All drugs manufactured under the scheme have the logo of a green leaf. It is managed by the Global Fund with support from the United Nations, the UK Department for International Development and related donors.

Kenya was one of the very first countries in Africa to implement the scheme in August 2010, where a dose for an adult was supposed to retail at 50 cents, and a dose for children under the age of five would cost Sh10 .

However, many pharmacies across the country took advantage of the subsidy to maximise profits.

“Two months ago, we requested our reporters from different parts of the country, including rural areas, to check on retailing prices of the subsidised anti-malarial drugs. As a result, we discovered that pharmacists sold them at varying prices ranging from Sh80 (one dollar), to Sh240 (three dollars),” says Gatonye Gathura, the chief science reporter at the Nation Media Group in Kenya.

A pharmacist at a private pharmacy in Buru Buru Estate in Nairobi told IPS that she had to inflate the price simply because if she sold the drugs at the recommended retail price, it would not make any economic sense to her – considering her costs of transporting it from the distributors, and other inputs.

According to Harley’s Ltd, the distributor of one of the brands recommended for subsidy, a dose for an adult should be sold to retailers for Sh26 to be sold to consumers at the recommended price of Sh40 (50 cents).

But like many other pharmacists, Linda Atieno’s pharmacy did not stock the subsidised drugs. “If I sold a dose of unsubsidised Coartem drugs for example, I make a profit of up to Sh200 (over two dollars). This compares poorly with the profit I would make from a dose of the subsidised version of Coartem – which is Sh14,” she says.

Inflating costs

In order to reduce instances where pharmacists are inflating the cost of the subsidised drugs, the Kenyan government has embarked on awareness campaigns through the media to inform Kenyans of the availability of the drugs, and the recommended prices per dose.

According to Dr John Logedi, the deputy programme manager at the Division of Malaria Control, the awareness campaign will help consumers make an informed choice and enable them to seek outlets that sell the drugs at the right price.

Technically, the government of Kenya does not have control over drugs sold in pharmacies in the private sector because the pharmaceutical market in the country is based on “a willing seller, willing buyer” concept.

So far, the subsidised drugs in Kenya are distributed through both the public and the private sector.

However, despite difficulties in searching for pharmacies that stock the subsidised drugs and sells them at the correct prices, Odhiambo admits that the subsidy programme is a great relief to many people with a meagre income like his. “Most of us cannot afford the unsubsidised drugs that cost up to Sh600 (over seven dollars). The subsidy is therefore good news to most of us,” he said.

In marginalised rural areas such as Turkana, private pharmacies are yet to begin stocking the subsidised drugs, despite the launch of the programme several months ago.

“We have the subsidised drugs in public health centres within Turkana Central. But not in private pharmacies,” said Dr Gilchrist Lokoel, the Turkana Central Medical Officer of Health at the Lodwar District Hospital.

Phase one of AMFm is already under implementation in nine pilots in eight countries. They include Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania (mainland and Zanzibar) and Uganda.

 

Progress Against Malaria in Africa Is Real but Fragile

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Robert B. Zoellick

On this past Monday, April 25 — World Malaria Day — the news from Africa was good.

Over the past decade, 11 African countries have seen the number of confirmed malaria cases, malaria-related hospital admissions or deaths drop by more than 50%, according to 2009 data. When 2010 figures become available we expect to see similar progress in even more countries.

The good news stems in part from the fact that approximately three-quarters of the people at risk of contracting malaria in Africa, which bears the disease’s heaviest burden of death and debilitating illness, were using insecticide-treated mosquito nets by the end of 2010. That suggests that the goal of protecting the whole of Africa’s population with bed nets and effectively preventing the fevers and crushing headaches of malaria appears within reach. (See how malaria has crippled one town in Uganda.)

More welcome news: global deaths from malaria have fallen from nearly a million a year in 2000 to 781,000 in 2009. But even while we mark what may be a turning point in our effort to eradicate the disease, we cannot overestimate our progress. It is fragile.

Malaria continues to exact a great toll, killing three-quarters of a million people a year, more than 90% in Africa, which accounts for about one in six child deaths. The consequences of losing our focus now would be deadly. Mosquito bed nets last about three years, and a failure to replace the more than 300 million nets blanketing Africa over the coming three years could lead to resurgent malaria illness and deaths. Just this past year, Zambia faced a resurgence of malaria in a few provinces when mosquito nets were not replaced in time. Deaths and illness increased within months. Rapid action to address this increase has since been taken by the Zambian government, together with the World Bank, U.N. Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stanbic Bank, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), and the U.N. Special Envoy’s Office. (See photos of the most malarial town on Earth.)

While funding is important, it is really the partnerships that have been built with citizens, governments, and health-care providers as well as the increasing reliance on and use of science, technology and the body of medical evidence that can accelerate progress in this area. For instance, beyond the wide distribution of mosquito nets, ending malaria deaths will require making sure that effective diagnosis and timely treatment become available to every patient. Health authorities need to keep better track of where malaria still exists and which drugs produce the best health outcomes. We want funding to be targeted and effective, not a simple throwing of money at the problem.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, we face difficult choices with limited resources. Liberia, for one, has made it a priority to end deaths from malaria above many other pressing needs, for both health and economic reasons. As a result, Liberia is on track to protect its entire population by year’s end. But Liberia is not alone. Thirty-nine African countries have united against the disease under ALMA, chaired by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. This cooperation is the only way we can overcome the disease. No country is an island when it comes to malaria; mosquitoes do not respect borders.

In mobilizing the money, the bed nets and the treatment, and in strengthening supply chains for lifesaving medicines, our bedrock guiding principle must be stronger accountability. ALMA’s flagship accountability initiative is a simple tool, commonly employed in the private sector: a scorecard. (See TIME’s special report on the battle for global health.)

Currently under development with our partners in the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the scorecard will track progress, identify what is working and what is not and highlight where intervention is required. We will further expand the use of new technology platforms, such as texting and Twitter, to reach hundreds of millions of people to create positive pressure at all levels, and to encourage demand for transparency, accountability and results by citizens.

Africa’s partners, including the World Bank, are committed to ending deaths from malaria. In 2010, the Bank pledged $200 million to anti-malaria efforts in Africa, largely to provide bed nets to families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zambia. This helped to close emergency gaps. Consistent with the priorities of African countries, we expect new financing, mobilized from the latest replenishment of the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, to be committed to the fight against malaria, including through our work on helping African countries build stronger health systems.

So as we take inspiration this week from African countries that now have malaria in retreat, we also need to recommit to finish the job. Allowing hard-won gains to be reversed cannot be an option.

Zoellick is president of the World Bank Group. Sirleaf is President of Liberia and the incoming chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, whose members — African heads of state and government — are working to end malaria-related deaths in Africa.