“Local Governments at the Forefront in the Fight against Climate Change in Africa”

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

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Conference of CoM SSA (https://CoMSSA.org/), Accra, under the theme, “Towards the institutionalization of Local Climate Action and Access to Finance,” begins today as part of the Climate Chance Summit, Africa 2019. The conference will be opened by the Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Ghana.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on global warming confirms unequivocally that the implementation of the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will not be sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. Sub-national actors are key to bridging the gap between national climate targets and the concrete action required on the ground.

The Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Sahara Africa (CoM SSA) is an EU funded initiative that supports Sub-Saharan cities and municipalities to develop and implement sustainable climate and energy actions. This year, the CoM SSA is the headline initiative featured at the Climate Chance Summit Africa 2019. CoM SSA is the regional chapter of the Global Covenant of Mayors, the largest coalition of cities committed to local climate and energy action. 

The direct link that we (mayors) have with our citizens and the impact cities can have on people’s daily lives make it one of the most relevant levels of action to fight climate change,” Mayor of Accra, Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah

Launched in 2015 at the COP21, the CoM SSA is an initiative shaped by local governments to reflect the importance of climate and energy action at local level while highlighting the context and specificities of the Sub-Saharan region. More than 200 municipalities from 36 Sub-Saharan countries have made the political commitment to join the initiative and develop a long-term vision to tackle access to energy, climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

The Conference of CoM SSA on 16 October will showcase key achievements and outcomes as well as provide lessons learnt from the cities engaged in the initiative over the last four years. From the 750 cities and municipality staff trained in the mapping of climate financing mechanisms accessible to local governments, the network of implementing partners, led by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, will share its key results. The partner organizations include: ADEME, ADENE, Association Internationale des Maires Francophones, Enda Energie, Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, ICLEI Africa, ICLEI World Secretariat and UCLG Africa.

Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Ambassador of the Global Covenant of Mayors and Mayor of Accra, has been recognized, along with Accra, amongst the 2019 ‘World's Seven Best Climate Projects’ for its Informal Waste Collection Expansion project.

“Accra is committed to continuing its urgent action on climate change and being a proactive player in partnering with local and international partners to implement bold local initiatives that impact globally,” Mayor of Accra

Other dignitaries and speakers will include:

  • Mr. Ronan Dantec, Senator, President, Climate Chance Association
  • Mr Bismark Baisie Nkum, President, NALAG
  • Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, UCLG Africa
  • Mr. Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General, CEMR
  • Mr Zoltan AGA, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Ghana

Participants will reflect on

  • The lessons learned from the CoM SSA pilot cities and partners.
  • How we scale-up the successes of CoM SSA signatories;
  • How we ensure access to climate finance for local governments;
  • How we move from the Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plans’ (SEACAPs) process to Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) in order to foster the Paris Agreement;
  • How we can boost the implementation of SEACAPs through decentralized cooperation.  

The Press are cordially invited to an official Press Conference on 17 October from 10.00am in the VVIP Press Room, Accra International Conference Centre, Castle Road, Accra, after the official opening ceremony of the Climate Chance Summit, Africa 2019 that will be open by his H.E President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.

If you want to attend, your registration is mandatory. Send an e-mail with names, phone number and media to press@climate-chance.org

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of CoM SSA.

Media Contact:
Em Ekong
Tel: +44 7801 701 675/+233 509 333 000
Email: eekong@uclga.org
Website: https://CoMSSA.org/

Source: Apo-Opa

The Ambassador of Kazakhstan presented letters of credence to the President of South Africa

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan
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Kanat Tumysh, new Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Republic of South Africa, presented his letters of credence to Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa during a solemn ceremony held in the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse.

During the course of this event, Ambassador Tumysh conveyed to the Head of State sincere greetings and warm wishes from Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, especially for the RSA’s outstanding UN Security Council Presidency, commending the high level of Kazakh-South African political, economic, cultural and humanitarian relations aimed at strengthening interstate cooperation across the entire spectrum of ties. 

The Ambassador confirmed the adherence of Kazakhstan’s leadership to further building-up efforts to improve mechanisms of mutually beneficial cooperation and updated about the key areas, outlined by President Tokayev in his this year’s most important speeches, in particular, the Inaugural statement and the State of the Nation Address. Yet, he mentioned Kazakhstan’s measures to diversify its economy, promote transit and transport potential and attract investment, and updated on the modernization of his country’s development in the political, social and economic spheres. This go in tune with the new initiatives of President Ramaphosa, elected in May 2019.

Tumysh also focused on the need to deepen cooperation in the international organizations, where both sides have repeatedly proved their reputation as promoters of the principles of multilateralism and supporters of anti-war and anti-nuclear policies. In particular, on the UN Security Council seat, with the tenure of Kazakhstan in 2017-2018, and South Africa in 2019-2020. He also voiced important initiatives of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the First President and Leader of Nation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in particular, to create a new geopolitical reality based on three dialogues, as well as to free our planet from the scourges of terrorism and WMD.

He pointed to the ideas of tolerance, as well as inter-ethnic and inter-confessional peace and harmony, promoted by his country. Kazakh diplomat also added, “Our countries have much in common. Both South Africa and Kazakhstan boast a diverse population with different ethnicities, religions, and traditions – a diversity that strengthens and enriches us”. 

As President Ramaphosa highlighted: “It is friends like you with whom we seek to work to protect and strengthen the rules-based multilateral system of global governance… as well as to address poverty, inequality, war, terrorism and climate change. These challenges are inter-related and mutually reinforcing. We should work together to discourage unilateralism in matters of international trade and security. We must work together to defend the integrity of our multilateral institutions by ensuring that they are effective, inclusive and truly democratic”.

Touching on economic issues, the head of the host country called for the development of mutual tourism and investment: “To this effect, we will be hosting the second South Africa Investment Conference next month, from the 5th to the 7th of November. We welcome investors from your country to attend this Investment Conference and to see for themselves the potential for opportunities that exist in South Africa.”

The President also emphasized the commitment of the government and the people of South Africato deepening economic partnership, political dialogue and cooperation with Kazakhstan on matters of mutual interest, conveying warm greetings to the leadership of this friendly country. He wished to Ambassador K. Tumysh enjoyable and meaningful stay in South Africa.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Source: Apo-Opa

On World Food Day, Government and United Nations highlight healthy diets in South Sudan

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

World Food Programme (WFP)
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The United Nations has called for action across sectors to make healthy diets affordable and accessible to everyone in South Sudan.

Joining the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in celebrating World Food Day, which falls annually on 16 October, three UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) also encouraged recognition of contribution of women to food security and nutrition.

This year’s commemoration is being held in Yambio under the theme ‘Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World. The focus is on the importance of healthy diets and the contribution of smallholder farmers, including women towards achieving “zero hunger” and fighting malnutrition in their communities.

“Zero Hunger is not just about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people while nurturing the planet. Far too many South Sudanese don’t have the option to access healthy and nutritious foods in an extremely fertile country, blessed with natural resources and rich in local nutritious food,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan. “We need to act fast and make sure South Sudan produces its own healthy food utilizing its full production potential, so that more people can live healthier lives.”

Although the food security situation has slightly improved in the last few months, hunger persists in South Sudan with some 4.5 million people – struggling to meet their food needs between now and the end of the year. The number of people in need is projected to rise to 5.5 million people in January 2020 driven by localized conflicts, climatic shocks, prolonged depletion of household assets and economic hardships.

“Conflict is the most destructive of all the factors affecting food stability in the country, disrupting livelihoods and increasing displacement,” said Mary-Ellen Mc Groaty, WFP’s acting Country Director in South Sudan. “A Zero Hunger world starts with a peaceful one. With peace and stability, South Sudan could quickly recover from the crisis, boost agricultural production and access its healthy and nutritious food.”

Some 16 percent of children in South Sudan suffer from acute malnutrition in 2019, caused by inadequate access to healthy and nutritious food, and by a lack of access to health care, water, sanitation and hygiene. About 1.3 million children are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2020.

“Every child has the right to a healthy life and therefore every effort in preventing malnutrition needs to be taken,” said Dr Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. “There is need to combine both treatment and prevention activities to combat malnutrition and healthy diets are crucial to bring the much-needed change.”

World Food Day marks the anniversary of the founding of FAO in 1945. The main objective of the day is to heighten public awareness about the nature and dimensions of long-term global food challenges, and to develop further national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

As Hon. Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, concluded “Our vision is food and nutrition security for all the people of South Sudan. It is time to renew our commitment towards a South Sudan free from hunger and all forms of malnutrition. Safeguarding food security and nutrition of our people is a shared responsibility.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).
Source: Apo-Opa

Defeating Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo motivates a community to confront other diseases with handwashing

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

WHO Regional Office for Africa

“These hands are our most important tools of work but can also be a source of disease and death,” the Nyiragongo Health Zone director, Dr Dan Kapuku, tells the Kiziba community members who have gathered to learn better handwashing practices in the era of Ebola and other infectious diseases.

The mood among the Kiziba residents who have gathered outside their health clinic is of confidence. When Dr Boniface Hakizimana, the Team Lead for Infection Control and Prevention of the World Health Organization (WHO), tells them that “Ebola came here but you defeated it by mostly washing hands,” a celebratory cheer erupts from the group. Thanks to awareness campaigns by the Government and WHO, they also know what else it takes to guard against the spread of the Ebola virus disease. A sense of pride, even a sense of empowerment, comes charging from the crowd of people who have lived with the threat of one of the most feared diseases in the world for almost a year.

After the first Ebola patient was confirmed in Goma, a massive campaign was launched to encourage communities to practise better hygiene, especially handwashing, to stop transmission of the virus. The effort bore results – the spread of the virus was curtailed.

Now this success is being accelerated by the Ministry of Health with WHO support to not only stop Ebola but other diseases, like cholera and typhoid, which are prevalent in the area.

“We fought Ebola together and eliminated it in our community. Let’s do it again to all other diseases,” hollered Dr Kapuku. “Let’s do it the same way because it is unacceptable that we are losing people because of cholera.”

“I want to live a long life, but being sick all the time will not make that happen,” says Riziki Bindu, a pregnant woman waiting for a check-up at the Kiziba Health Centre. “We now wash hands to prevent sickness, and I insist that my family do the same.”

It is not enough to just wash hands. The point is to eliminate all germs that cause disease and create new hygiene habits in the community. This message, says Dr Hakizimana, has failed to take root in the country in the past.

“There is no culture of handwashing here, and people do not link the spread of disease to it,” he adds. “But we are showing them how it affects families when a loved one gets sick and how it affects education when children are unable to go school because of sickness.”

For the Kiziba community, the message seems to be sinking in. Around the corner from the health centre, school children line up for a tutorial from a health worker on how to properly wash hands. They take turns following the prescribed steps to apply water, soap and scrub.

These children will grow up in this era of improved hand hygiene practices, which will give them more assured freedom from communicable diseases and longer healthy lives.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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WHO Regional Office for Africa
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Source: Apo-Opa

Ambassador of Belarus Sergei Terentiev presented copies of credentials

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to the Arab Republic of Egypt
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On October 15, 2019 the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Arab Republic of Egypt Sergei Terentiev handed over copies of credentials to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Hatem Tageldin.

During the meeting the parties noted the achieved high level of Belarusian-Egyptian cooperation and mutual readiness to work on its further intensification, briefly discussed main issues of bilateral agenda.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Source: Apo-Opa

Crystal clear signal: You can now listen to Radio Miraya in Tonj

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)

At 101.5FM, about 75 per cent of the over 400,000 inhabitants of the Tonj area are now listening to Radio Miraya, run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

“Now we can listen to Radio Miraya and we will be able to participate in the phone-in programmes so that we can also make our contributions to the peace process in our country,” Deng Madut, a local fan said as he listened to the Miraya Drive Time show on his mobile phone.

Transmission via the 300-kilowatt equipment, which is part of Radio Miraya’s expansion project in South Sudan, currently spans a radius of about 30 kilometers across the Tonj area.

“This is a very good idea and it’s coming at the right time because we are about to form a new government in South Sudan,” said Peter Alor Gok, a local trader. “Radio Miraya will help us to know what the new government will look like and we will know our leaders,” he said.

Thanking the UN Mission for extending its broadcasting services to Tonj, Governor Matthew Mathian Mathiang Magordit said his citizens would now be able to listen to fair and balanced information about the peace process in the country.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

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United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
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Source: Apo-Opa

UN official lauds Zambia for efforts to ensure everyone has legal identity

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

United Nations (UN)
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The United Nations Resident Coordinator to Zambia, Ms. Coumba Mar Gadio, on Wednesday lauded the southern African nation for how it is seriously dealing with civil registration and vital statistics issues by updating legislation and policy and making the process more accessible to citizens.

Speaking at the Press Conference on the 5th Conference of African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration, Ms. Gadio said it was no accident that Zambia was hosting the important meeting.

“It is a tribute to how seriously the government takes civil registration and vital statistics. For despite the importance of identification and ongoing efforts to improve these processes, many African governments still lack adequate, viable, complete and digital registration systems,” she said.

Zambia has been updating its policies and making registration more accessible. The country has also built an integrated and digital national registration system that covers Zambians from birth to death.

Ms. Gadio said the UN system was readily available to help Zambia in perfecting this process.

“I know in the area of birth registration, UNICEF, with funding from the European Union, has been a key partner. And UN agencies have been working closely with the ministry of Home of Affairs, notably the Economic Commission for Africa, IOM, UNFPA, UNHCR and WHO, which have helped with technical and financial support both nationally and through the African structures,” she said.

“To ensure sustainability of these efforts, Zambia should take strides to find sustainable financing mechanisms for CRVS. The UN stands ready to accompany you in this endeavour, including through exploring innovative funding mechanisms and expanded partnerships.”

Ms. Gadio said the conference provides an opportunity to African governments and stakeholders to sensitize and raise awareness among the people on the importance and use of civil registration, adding the meeting will also provide a useful platform for resource mobilisation to supported continued CRVS reform.

The UN Resident Coordinator said it was unfortunate that half of the children in Africa were not registered at birth, which should be the foundation for any civil registration system.

“These are the citizens that are frequently most exposed to poverty and other vulnerabilities. Not being registered renders them unseen, uncounted and excluded. By extension, this affects their ability to enjoy universal human rights and social protection benefits,” said Ms. Gadio.

She added that migrants, refugees and those displaced through humanitarian crises were ‘particularly vulnerable when they lack identity and travel documents. Incomplete civil registration systems mean millions of African people have come into this world and left without leaving a trace on official records’.

For his part, Mr. Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics at the Economic Commission for Africa, explained the importance of the conference and importance for Africa to modernize and build a comprehensive civil registration and vital statistics system for the betterment of its people.

He said over the past eight years the UN and its partners have noticed tremendous improvement in the registration of African children at birth. More still needs to be done, however, he added.

Mr. Chinganya said the ultimate goal of the conference was to ensure Africa meets sustainable development goal target 16.9 that seeks to ensure everyone on the continent has a legal identity, including free birth registration by 2030.

The high level conference provides an ideal platform for the sharing of experiences, policy guidance and lessons learned among countries and governments.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations (UN).
Source: Apo-Opa

Civil Registration Conference to Benefit African Nations Seeking to Address ‘Scandal of Invisibility’

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

African countries are expected to continue strengthening their civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems as a foundation for robust and sustainable legal identity systems on the continent following the ongoing fifth conference of African ministers responsible for civil registration.

This was said Tuesday by Zambia’s Home Affairs Minister, Stephen Kampyongo, during a ministerial media briefing on the conference that opened in Lusaka, Zambia, Monday.

The conference is a standing regional forum of the African Union which was set up to provide policy directions for the transformation and accelerated improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems in Africa.

The ministers conference is preceded by a three-day expert meeting that focuses on technical deliberations of various aspects of CRVS in Africa, culminating in draft resolutions and recommendations that will be discussed in the ministerial forum.

Mr. Kampyongo said some African countries had made progress in their institutional capacities to deliver legal identity but added more needed to be done to address the continent’s ‘scandal of invisibility’ where half of the continent’s children are not registered at birth.

At least 1.5 billion people lack proof of legal identity the world over. Half of them are in Africa, exposing them to vulnerabilities, including lack of access to services.

“This entails formulating and implementing appropriate policies and having guiding principles focused on our aspirations according to the sustainable development goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063,” Mr. Kampyongo said, adding African ministers were expected to support interventions that seek to integrate CRVS and digital identity management systems.

On advances made so far, the Minister said; “This progress includes ensuring that all member States have country owned action plans which are informed by comprehensive assessments of their CRVS systems, as part of the Africa Programme for Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics systems.”

The theme for this year’s conference is; “Innovative Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System: Foundation for Legal Identity Management”.

“This theme is timely for all African countries including Zambia. This is so because all African countries are striving to achieve the aspirations of sustainable development goal target 16.9 which seeks to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030,” said Mr. Kampyongo.

The main objectives of the conference are to:

–  Identify key challenges in the implementation of the Africa Programme for Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at regional and national levels.

–  Reaffirm the commitment of governments and development partners to CRVS and identity management through a holistic approach that strengthens institutional mechanisms for accelerated improvement of civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems on the continent; and

– To review and share best practices from African countries on CRVS and identity management system digitization processes, using appropriate information technology infrastructure and improving innovative business processes, to ensure that universal CRVS systems are interoperable with national identity management and various government functions.

“As a country we are looking forward to learning best practices on the optimal use of technology in enhancing CRVS systems especially that Zambia is working towards implementing an integrated national registration information system – a platform which will use a unique identifier from birth to death,” the Home Affairs Minister said.

Zambia’s Health Minister, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, said the nation was prioritizing CRVS and collection of reliable and accurate data to help the country in mapping out its health policies.

The conference will be attended by Ministers responsible for civil registration, national identity, health, ICT and e-governance from all AU member States, heads of civil registration, heads of national identity, heads of national statistics, and several developmental partners among other actors in Africa’s CRVS space.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
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Source: Apo-Opa

Cholera – Republic of the Sudan

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

World Health Organization (WHO)
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On 8 September, Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) notified WHO about a cholera outbreak in four localities in the Blue Nile State (BNS), south-eastern Sudan, bordering Ethiopia and South Sudan. The first case was detected on 28 of August 2019.

From 28 August through 12 October 2019, a total of 278 suspected cholera cases, including 8 deaths (case fatality ratio: 2.88 %), have been reported from four localities in Blue Nile State including Al Roseries (113), Ad Damazin (55), Wad Almahi (3) and Baw (5), and five localities in Sinnar State including Abu Hugar (80), Singa (4), Alsoky (14), Aldaly wa Almzmom (3) and Sennar (1) . One hundred seventy two cases were female (62%), and 238 (93.1%) were over 5 years of age.

As of 2 October, 28 out of 42 (67%) samples tested from affected States were confirmed by culture as Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa in the National Public Health Laboratory.

Public health response

The following public health response measures have been implemented:

  • With the support of WHO, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) activated the national Cholera Task Force on 10 September;
  • WHO has deployed a technical team to assist FMoH with coordination of response and development of response strategy on the ground;
  • Surveillance and reporting system have been strengthened by the distribution of case definitions and case investigation forms, active case finding and maintaining the line list;
  • Activation of 14 Cholera Treatment Centres by MoH, 4 in Blue Nile State and 10 in Sinnar State, and standardization of case management protocols;
  • FMoH, WHO, and partners have provided cholera kits (enough to treat 200 people) with three additional kits (enough to treat 300 people) in the pipeline;
  • WHO is supporting the water quality surveillance system, water sampling, and testing, and infection prevention & control activities;
  • State Ministry of Health in Blue Nile State, with the support of partners, is implementing the water chlorination activities and health promotion in the affected areas;
  • WHO,with the support of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), has launched an Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) campaign with an aim to target 1.6 million people in Senner and Blue Nile State. Doses of OCV have been released from the WHO global stockpile.

WHO risk assessment

Sudan is facing a continuous surge of suspected cholera cases since 2016. The current outbreak was reported following recent severe rainstorms and flooding in 15 out of 18 States. With the ongoing flooding and widespread damage to infrastructure, there is a concern that cases may further increase. Although Blue Nile State shares borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan, there is currently no evidence of cross-border spread of the outbreak. However,the risk of spread is of more concern in the areas situated down the river Nile (including Khartoum). The Government swiftly responded to the detection of cases and necessary control measures are being implemented by national authorities, with support from partners, to contain the outbreak

WHO advice

WHO recommends proper and timely case management. Improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as improving hygiene practices and food safety in affected communities are the most effective means of controlling cholera.

Key public health communication messages should be provided to the population. Vaccination should be considered to complement the core prevention and control activities and help prevent the spread of the outbreak.

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions on Sudan based on the currently available information.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO).
Source: Apo-Opa

UN High Commissioner for refugees and SA government discuss refugees and asylum

16.October.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

UN Information Centre in Pretoria (UNIC)
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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, concluded on Tuesday a two-day visit to South Africa. He met with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Home Affairs Minister Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi, and other senior Government representatives, with whom he discussed the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

Grandi commended South Africa's commitment to protecting people fleeing countries affected by conflict, violence and persecution. He noted that many South Africans had themselves experienced exile in the past, and the return of South African refugees from abroad was part of the country's journey from apartheid to democracy.

“South Africa's progressive laws and policies have provided a safe haven to many vulnerable people in need of protection and support,” Grandi said, noting that UNHCR was ready to support Government efforts to reinforce and streamline the asylum system, and to improve access to documentation for refugees and asylum-seekers.

During his visit, the High Commissioner held a range of discussions with refugees and asylum seekers in Johannesburg and Pretoria, and had a videoconference with some in Cape Town. They shared fears relating to personal security, and concerns regarding the length of the asylum process, and growing problems in accessing and renewing documentation – that in turn impact their access to health services, education and jobs. He conveyed UNHCR's commitment to working with the authorities to help address these concerns and find suitable solutions.

“We appreciate South Africa's challenges of hosting refugees at a time of economic uncertainty and social tensions,” explained Grandi. “We will continue to support the government in its efforts to build social cohesion, and appreciate the President’s call for tolerance and dialogue,” he added.

Grandi noted that resettlement to third countries is a very limited option for refugees worldwide, as the number of resettlement places available globally is unfortunately dropping. For most refugees here in South Africa, resettlement is not an option. He also said that refugees opting for voluntary repatriation should be helped to return to their countries of origin.

UNHCR recognizes that, like many other countries, South Africa is confronted with the challenge of addressing increasingly complex population flows. Asylum systems have come under immense strain as conflict and persecution drive more refugees across borders, while migrants resort to asylum channels in the absence of other safe, regular migration options.

“This is a global challenge,” said Grandi. “Preserving fair and efficient asylum systems is vital. But to function effectively, they must be accompanied by safe, regular migration channels and other stay arrangements”.

Grandi noted South Africa’s leadership role across the continent and beyond, and the importance of its advocacy in addressing the root causes of refugee flows.

The UN Refugee Chief also met with civil society organisations and business leaders to explore how they can help support the vulnerable, and create opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in the country and across the region, as well as for the local communities hosting them.

South Africa is hosting 268,000 refugees and asylum seekers according to government statistics, mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Information Centre in Pretoria (UNIC).
Source: Apo-Opa