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Pakistan Garment Factory Fire Calls International Safeguards into Question

The US-based non profit Social Accountability International is being criticized for improperly certifying a Karachi garment factory after a fire killed nearly 300 workers.  “A prominent factory monitoring group heavily financed by industry gave a clean bill of health to a Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors. In August, two inspectors who visited the factory, Ali Enterprises in Karachi, to examine working conditions gave it a prestigious SA8000 certification, meaning it had met international standards in nine areas, including health and safety, child labor and minimum wages. The two inspectors were working on behalf of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit monitoring group based in New York that obtains much of its financing from corporations and relies on 21 affiliates around the world to do most of its inspections. Weeks later, a fire swept the plant on Sept. 12, trapping hundreds of workers in a building with barred windows and just one open exit, resulting in one of the worst industrial disasters in history — one that killed nearly twice as many workers as the landmark Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 in New York. The Karachi tragedy is a huge embarrassment to the factory monitoring system, in which many Western garment and electronics companies rely on auditing groups to provide a coveted seal of approval to their low-cost suppliers in the developing world.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/UgNdrK)

Funding for Maternal and Child Health Drops for the First Time Since 2003

A new report uncovers a potentially worrying trend. “Spending on maternal and child health has stalled, according to an expert analysis, raising concerns that efforts to cut deaths in poor countries to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) may falter. Figures from the Countdown to 2015 Group, a World Health Organisation and Unicef collaboration that is tracking progress on the maternal and child health MDGs, show a downturn in the total amount of overseas development aid earmarked for these goals between 2009 and 2010 – the latest year for which there is data. ‘We have been tracking aid for maternal, newborn and child health since 2003,’ said Justine Hsu, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, first author of the Countdown study published by the Lancet. ‘Every year we have seen a steady increase. This is the first time that we have seen a slight decrease, of 0.5%. It is a very slight decrease, but it equates to $32m.’ The increase in funding in the previous year was largely due to a few new donors, says the report. ‘The 2008-09 increase, from $5,307m to $6,511m, was partly a result of six new donors in 2009 reporting disbursements and a large increase in contributions from the Gavi Alliance,’ it says.” (Guardian http://bit.ly/UgQaIK)

Turkish School Children Flee as Syrian War Threatens to Cross the Border

Yet another example that the Syrian civil war cannot be contained to Syria. “For the second time in a week, the civil war in Syria spilled across border areas on Wednesday as rebel forces were reported to have driven government troops from a northern frontier crossing in an apparent effort to expand resupply and infiltration routes in the campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Turkish schools in the region were closed for the day after intense overnight clashes as the rebels attacked the Syrian frontier post at Tal Abyad, south of the Turkish town of Sanliurfa, according to the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency. Television footage on Wednesday appeared to show members of the insurgent Free Syrian Army standing on the roof of the border post and hauling down the Syrian flag at Tal Abyad, which is less than a mile from Turkey’s Akcakale crossing. A private Turkish television channel said Syrian tanks were headed for the border post. The attack came two days after Lebanese officials said that Syrian warplanes and helicopters, pursuing opposition fighters, had fired on a Lebanese town near the two countries’ shared border.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/SCqBfj)

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