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Top of the Morning: “Mercenary Army” Causing Havoc in Darfur

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

“Mercenary Army” Causing Massive Havoc in Darfur

A 6,000 strong force is looting, burning villages and stretching an already fragile aid system to capacity. The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said it had reports of villages burned, looting and civilian casualties. The official SUNA news agency reported that the RSF ‘work to protect the citizens and their properties from the rebel forces.’ RSF are ‘almost like a mercenary army’, said Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute. He said the unit includes many ex-members of Darfur’s rebel movements but has been run by former South Darfur government security adviser Mohammed Hamdan Dalgo.”  (AFP  http://yhoo.it/1dvi9NJ)

A First: WHO Issues Guidelines on Contraceptives and Human Rights

For International Women’s Day (on March 8) the WHO issued new guidelines saying women’s human rights must be respected when they seek contraception. Dr. Marleen Temmerman is an obstetrician and director of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research. ‘It’s the first time that there is a guidance from the WHO where human rights is actually in the title – and not only in the title, but also in the content of the guidelines. We have guidelines for contraceptive use from the medical perspective looking at what is safe – what are the medical eligibility criteria – what [are] the contraindications and so on. But now we have worked towards ensuring human rights in the contraceptive guidelines,” she said.(VOA http://bit.ly/P5BH2X)

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“The resources we have are entirely insufficient” — CAR’s Epitaph

“The resources we have are entirely insufficient.” — Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees briefing the Security Council today on the crisis in the Central African Republic.

Top officials from the UN, including the head of UN Peacekeeping, the top humanitarian official and the High Commissioner for Refugees briefed the Security Council today on the crisis in the Central African Republic.  They shared a common message: the UN does not have the financial resources it needs to do its job and serve the people of CAR.

So far, donors have only committed about one-sixth of the UN’s $552 humanitarian appeal for CAR.  Funding for the current African Union-led peacekeeping mission is about $100 million short.

They also carried the common message that the security situation needs to be addressed first and foremost. Valerie Amos, the UN Humanitarian coordinator, said agencies could not reliably use a land route from the Cameroon to Bangui because the road was insecure. The problem is, flying in relief items is about eight times more expensive. She described how armed groups were changing the demographics of CAR by effectively forcing whole populations to leave the country or face violence.

When the security situation improves, the UN’s humanitarian and development agencies can effectively provide for the basic needs of displaced people and help rebuild state institutions and the economy. Without security, none of that is possible.

Providing security should not be prohibitively costly. Earlier this week Ban Ki Moon recommended a relatively large peacekeeping mission of 13,500 to supplant the 6,000 African Union peacekeepers already on the ground. This is a step in the right direction, but one that needs at least $800 million to sustain for a year.

It’s not that donors can’t commit the relatively modest resources to stabilize CAR. It’s that CAR is a low priority. Compare this to Ukraine. In just a few days, Kiev secured billions financial pledges from the United States and Europe. But CAR is a landlocked country in the middle of Africa. It’s geopolitical and strategic value to the world’s major donor countries is basically nil, so the funding is very slow to materialize.

Guterres’ lament to the Security Council may well become CAR’s epitaph. Everyone knows what is required to stem the crisis, but countries have not yet been willing to pony up the funds to get the job done.

 

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via wikimedia

The Danger of Diabetes

Rashida was 33 when she was diagnosed with diabetes. Her father had the disease, so when she found herself needing to use the bathroom frequently and having inexplicable thirst, she recognized the symptoms. Still, the Teaneck, New Jersey resident was surprised. “I never thought this would happen to me,” she wrote. She continued to ignore the signs until the day she fell asleep while driving. When she went to her doctor, she was immediately sent to the ER. “I could have died,” she said. “This is when my life changed.”

Rashida is one of 382 million people living with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is the name for the group of metabolic diseases where someone develops high blood sugar, either because the pancreas doesn´t produce enough insulin or because the body develops insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes, where cells fail to use the insulin the body naturally produces, is  frequently believed to be caused by lifestyle choices.

But last month, a new study by the University of Oxford found that genes play a sizable role in the development of type 2 diabetes. DNA from 48,000 patients and 139,00 non-diabetics were analyzed, and for the first time, the study group included a sizable population of Asian and Hispanic descendants. By looking at these 300 million DNA variants, the researchers at Oxford were able to determine that just the risk factors found to date don´t explain the differences between diabetes rates in ethnic groups. “The risk regions we have found to date do not explain the clear differences in the patterns of diabetes between those groups,” Professor Mark McCarthy said.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, over 80 percent of people wtih diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries, where it can be difficult to maintain a diet low in sugar and fat. A study published in Diabetologia explains that rural-urban migration and the trend towards “Westernized” lifestyles are associated with a dramatic increase in the rates of diabetes. Even in developed countries, there´s a significant difference in diabetes rates between socioeconomic groups, and prevalence rates have been inversely associated with levels of education and income.

In September of 2011, the U.N. issued a policy statement on non-communicable diseases like diabetes. Since then, global targets have been set to try to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases 25 percent by 2025. Diabetes, like many other non-communicable diseases, can be tricky to prevent, because the most effective solutions involve lifestyle changes rather than medicinal approaches – and lifestyle changes can be prohibitively expensive. But the costs of this pandemic, while difficult to precisely calculate, are clear. According to the International Diabetes Federation, direct costs of diabetes may be as high as $241 billon dollars.

As the post-millennium development goals are set, it will be important to keep in mind the words of Paul Farmer, an outspoken advocate for health-care for the underprivileged. “There is nothing wrong with underlining personal agency,” Farmer said, “but there is something unfair about using personal responsibility as a basis for assigning blame while simultaneously denying those who are being blamed the opportunity to exert agency in their lives.”

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Top of the Morning: Another Huge Scientific Breakthrough on AIDS

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Second Baby Cured of HIV

A clinical trial to test this procedure is set to being. “When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with H.I.V. had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had ever been infected in the first place. But on Wednesday the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference here, leaving little doubt that the treatment had worked. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1f9B9xT)

Survey of Rape in Europe Reveals Startling Statistic

The survey is released in time for International Women’s Day. “A survey of 42,000 women across the European Union suggests that about one in 10 have been the victims of sexual violence, and half of them reported being raped. Described as the largest of its kind, the survey released Wednesday by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights is the most ambitious effort yet to gauge the extent of sexual violence and harassment experienced by the 187 million women in the bloc’s 28 nations.”(AP http://yhoo.it/1f9BujY)

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Meet Robert Serry, the UN Diplomat Trying to Solve the Crimea Crisis

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Meet Robert H Serry, the career diplomat from the Netherlands who the Secretary General tapped to lead the UN’s efforts to mediate the crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea.

On paper, he looks to be the perfect person for the task.

Serry has worked in the UN system since 2007. Prior to that he served as the Dutch ambassador to Russia and Ukraine. He even wrote a book about it!

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Serry currently serves as the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, meaning he is Ban Ki Moon’s representative to the “quartet.” The other three members are Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.  Theoretically, that should mean he has developed a diplomatic acumen in dealing with the United States and Russia on a high stakes political dispute.

Serry left Kiev for Crimea yesterday. He will be the highest ranking international diplomat to visit Crimea since the crisis erupted.  I would imagine that we’ll be hearing a great deal more from — and about — Robert Serry in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: It didn’t take weeks for Robert Serry to become the news. More like hours. According to various reports, UN Envoy Serry was blockaded inside a coffee shop by armed men. Journalist James Mates, who is traveling with him, just Tweeted this.

UPDATE II: Serry received a police escort out of Crimea. He’s now en route to Istanbul and tomorrow will brief the Secretary General on what transpired. Yikes.

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Top of the Morning: Record Number of Women Serving in Parliaments Worldwide

Record Number of Women Serving in Parliaments Worldwide

Rwanda has the greatest percentage of female parliamentarians. “A survey finds a record number of women are serving as members of parliament worldwide.  The report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) shows last year, women occupied nearly 22 percent of parliamentary seats.  That is an increase of 1.5 percentage points – double the average rate of increase in recent years.  A 1.5 percent increase in the number of women who are members of parliaments globally may not sound like a lot.  But the Inter-Parliamentary Union says if this trend continues, it could lead to gender parity in parliaments in 20 years.”  (VOA http://bit.ly/1eSpuYO)

Big Scientific Breakthrough on AIDS

Not quite a vaccine, but it’s an injection that provides long lasting protection. “Two studies by different laboratory groups each found 100 percent protection in monkeys that got monthly injections of antiretroviral drugs, and there was evidence that a single shot every three months might work just as well. If the findings can be replicated in humans, they have the potential to overcome a major problem in AIDS prevention: that many people fail to take their antiretroviral pills regularly.” (NYThttp://nyti.ms/1cAnXSv)

Venezuela on the Edge for the One Year Anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s Death

 The country is as polarized as ever. “The first anniversary of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death does not come at an opportune moment for his protege and successor in office, Nicolas Maduro. Since early February, there have been daily protests against insecurity, record inflation and shortages of some basic foods, medicines and toiletries. The largest protests to rock Venezuela in a decade, they have become the toughest test yet for Mr Maduro since he was elected in April following Mr Chavez’s death from cancer.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1cAkUtC)

Record Number of Women Serving in Parliaments Worldwide

Rwanda has the greatest percentage of female parliamentarians. “A survey finds a record number of women are serving as members of parliament worldwide.   The report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) shows last year, women occupied nearly 22 percent of parliamentary seats.  That is an increase of 1.5 percentage points – double the average rate of increase in recent years.  A 1.5 percent increase in the number of women who are members of parliaments globally may not sound like a lot.  But the Inter-Parliamentary Union says if this trend continues, it could lead to gender parity in parliaments in 20 years.”  (VOA http://bit.ly/1eSpuYO)

 

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