BBC Report on Gaza…what will we do?

Gaza situation ‘worst since 1967’

Gaza girls protest at Israeli measures

The groups say a battered, starved Gaza cannot be peace partner

Gaza’s humanitarian situation is the worst since 1967 when Israel occupied it, says a coalition of UK-based human rights and development groups. They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

They criticise Israel’s blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

Israel says its military action and other measures are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

The groups’ report, Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, says the blockade has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and has led to deterioration in education and health services.

‘Disaster’

More than 1.1 million Gazans are dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 have now lost their jobs, the report says.

“Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed,” said Geoffrey Dennis, of Care International UK.

Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future
Daleep Mukarji, Christian Aid

Israel tightened its blockade on the strip, controlled by the Hamas militant group, in January.

Last week Israeli forces launched a bloody and destructive raid in northern Gaza, in which more than 120 Palestinians – including many civilians – were killed.

Israel says the measures are designed to stamp out frequent rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

Recent rocket attacks have hit deeper into southern Israel, reaching Ashkelon, the closest large Israeli city to the Gaza Strip.

Occupying power

The UK-based groups agree that Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, urging both sides to cease unlawful attacks on civilians.

Israel tank guards crossing into Gaza

The Israeli army has cut access to Gaza for almost all traffic

But they call upon Israel to comply with its obligations, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure its inhabitants have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care, which have been in short supply in the strip.

“Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible,” said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen.

“The current situation is man-made and must be reversed.”

Other recommendations from the groups include international engagement with the Hamas movement, which rejects Israel’s legitimacy and has been shunned by Israel’s allies, and the Fatah party of Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet [the US and UN, Europe and Russia] engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future,” said Daleep Mukarji of Christian Aid.

Land a Plane at 155mph winds?

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President of Iran Visits Iraq..

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7274921.stm

Does anyone have any thoughts on this man, and his recent visit to Iraq?

Cuba Gives Aid to Bolivia

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7268569.stm

This is a really interesting article, Cuba maybe communist and it may not allow freedom of speeh and so on…but they have got some things right such as health care.

sand and sorrow

This is an HBO movie about the conflict in Sudan…check it out

Sierra Leone…

This is snap shot of a report done by Global Witness about the conflict in Sierra Leone and its links to natural resources…see full report at –

http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/sierra/2007/1010gwpbcs.pdf

Its very sad. My brother is going to live in this country, to seek to change the lives of some kids over there…pretty rad thing to do if you ask me.

A snapshot of Sierra Leone’s conflict and aftermath
In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) supported by the-then President of Liberia Charles Taylor, attacked Sierra Leone from Liberia. In the brutal conflict that ensued, over 200,000 people were killed, over 2 million displaced, and thousands maimed by the RUF signature of chopping off the limbs of civilians as a terror tactic. 18 It is estimated that half of the women in Sierra Leone were subjected to sexual violence including rape, torture and sexual slavery.19
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) identified “years of bad governance, endemic corruption and the denial of basic human rights” as the root causes of the conflict. The TRC further described Sierra Leone as a deeply divided society, in a state of institutional collapse, which had reduced the vast majority of people to severe deprivation.20 While not the main instigator for conflict, economic opportunity provided a strong motivation for the RUF to control strategic alluvial diamond fields of eastern Sierra Leone, which were then smuggled through Liberia, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.21 The fight then became oriented around control over the diamond fields. It is estimated that towards the end of the war, the RUF was earning between US$25 and US$125 million annually from diamonds.22
In March 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone formally indicted Charles Taylor for participating in a joint criminal enterprise “to take any actions necessary to gain and exercise political power and control over the territory of Sierra Leone, in particular the diamond mining areas. The natural resources of Sierra Leone, in particular the diamonds, were to be provided to persons outside Sierra Leone in return for assistance in carrying out the joint criminal enterprise … as part of his continuing efforts to gain access to the mineral wealth of Sierra Leone and to destabilize the government of Sierra Leone.”23 Whilst Taylor himself was not charged with seeking to take over the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, his aid for the RUF in return for payment later, meant that he was, in effect, involved in racketeering. On January 19th 2005 an ex-RUF fighter reported to the Special Court of Sierra Leone that “Kono should be retained for one reason, for mining, because you cannot fight a war without economy.”24
The TRC of Sierra Leone identified certain diamond mining companies as being linked to the conflict, including Rex Diamond and Diamond Works.25 According to the TRC’s report Rex Diamond facilitated replacement parts for the government’s helicopter gunship worth US$3.8 million.26 The report also stated that Diamond Works acquired Branch Energy Ltd in 1995, and both were found to be linked to the international private security firms Executive Outcomes and Sandline International.27 Branch Energy introduced Executive Outcomes to the government of Sierra Leone who sought their services to push the RUF back from Freetown and the diamond areas of Kono.28 Soon after, in part payment for the services of Executive Outcomes, Branch Energy was awarded a 25 year lease on Sierra Leonean diamond concessions by the government of Sierra Leone. 29
Peace was formally declared in 2002, leaving the country to deal with over 70,000 combatants including around 7,000 child soldiers, millions of victims and a massive reconstruction and peacebuilding effort. Disarmament was completed in February 2004 and the 17,500 strong UN peacekeeping force, UNAMSIL, withdrew in December 2005.30 Post-war Sierra Leone is still struggling to consolidate peace and remains fragile. Youth unemployment is around 80%31 with around 70% of the population living below the poverty line,32 and 26% living in extreme poverty.33 Life expectancy is 41 years of age.34 GDP per capita is approximately $20035 and Sierra Leone is ranked 176 out of 177 in the UN Human Development Index (HDI).36 The army and police have been reformed with donor support, but significant challenges remain. Despite some reform of the justice sector, challenges include: access to justice, lack of accountability, and an enduring culture of impunity. Efforts to stamp out corruption have on the whole been unsuccessful. Despite the estimated US$1,1 bn37 spent by donors between 2003 and 2006, Sierra Leone’s peacebuilding and peace consolidation strategies are falling seriously short of addressing the root causes of the conflict. Critical issues that need to be addressed include massive youth unemployment and marginalisation, unabated corruption at all levels of government, paramount chiefs’ abuse of power, continued mismanagement of the country’s natural resources and the government’s inability to deliver basic social services. Tensions are increasing as there continues to be a lack of visible improvement in the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans. On the 11th August the All People’s Congress Party won the 2007 nationwide election

UK to spend money on Sierra Leone Water Project

 Article from http://www.visitsierraleone.org/news/news_item.asp?NewsID=922

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 SATURDAY 23 FEBRUARY

UK helps Sierra Leone turn on the taps for clean water
– £32 million support for water and sanitation to save thousands of lives –

International Development Minister Douglas Alexander today launched a £32m five-year water, sanitation and hygiene education programme in Sierra Leone.

The UK contribution will provide an additional 1.5 million people with safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene education and will help save the lives of up to 3,000 children each year.

The announcement comes as International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander visits Sierra Leone as part of a visit to West Africa (22-23 February). During his visit he will meet President Koroma of Sierra Leone and President Kufuor of Ghana.

In Sierra Leone less than half the population has access to safe water and sanitation and 20,000 children under the age of five die every year from dirty water and hygiene-related illness.

The UK funding will deliver basic wells, hand pumps and improvements to the existing water supply systems. The programme, which is run in conjunction with UNICEF and the Sierra Leone government, will focus on rural areas but also the target the capital city, Freetown which suffers from a fragile water supply.

Douglas Alexander said:

“Sanitation is essential for a healthy, secure and dignified life. In Sierra Leone, 20,000 children under five die every year from dirty water and hygiene-related causes.

“Women and girls pay a particularly heavy price – many don’t go to school because there are no toilets for them to use. Many avoid eating or drinking all day as they can only go to the toilet when it’s dark.”

“Providing safe water and basic sanitation for the people of Sierra Leone is at the heart of the country’s recovery and the long journey out of poverty for millions of people. “

The UK contribution increases Sierra Leone’s current spending on water and sanitation by seven times and aims to put Sierra Leone back on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without safe water or basic sanitation.

The Sierra Leonean government’s annual spend on water is £1.7 m. The funding from the UK aims to help women and children particularly through better hygiene practices and the drinking of safe water. The UK will also provide technical support to the Sierra Leone government to help strengthen their own ability to deliver better water services to the poorest in the future