New Study Reveals Economic Toll Of Malnutrition In Democratic Republic Of Congo

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KINSHASA � The economy of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is losing 1.637 billion Congolese francs, or more than a billion dollars a year, to the effects of child undernutrition. This is equivalent to as much as 4.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).*

The social and economic costs of undernutrition are revealed in a new study released in Kinshasa today.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study was undertaken by the government of DRC in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the African Union Commission (AUC), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The study shows that the losses are incurred each year through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity.

I welcome this important joint initiative which will contribute significantly to the government’s efforts to minimize the loss of human and economic potential to malnutrition,” said DRC Prime Minister and Head of Government Bruno Tshibala Nzenzhe, at the launch ceremony in Kinshasa. “Malnutrition is a silent emergency, accounting for nearly half of all infant deaths. For the country to develop, we need to address this situation urgently.

According to the report, DRC could save up to CDF355 billion (around US$383. million) by 2025 if the prevalence of underweight children is reduced from 11 to 5 percent and if stunting (low growth for age) is reduced from 43 to 10 percent.

These results call on all of us to act now to avoid future losses caused by hunger,” said WFP Country Director in DRC, Claude Jibidar. “I’m convinced that with the understanding we now have of the terrible economic and social impact of malnutrition on children, we and our partners can work with the government to make a real difference to this alarming situation.

In line with Agenda 2063 � ‘The Africa we want’ � we seek to completely eliminate hunger and food insecurity on this continent during coming decades, said Kefilwe Moalosi, speaking on behalf of the African Union Commission and NEPAD. Africa has the potential to reap a demographic dividend from a young, educated and skilled workforce. But this potential can only be harnessed if we continue to invest in the health and nutrition of its people, particularly its women and children, and secure the necessary economic growth.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa study has so far been conducted in 11 countries. The economies of these countries suffer an estimated annual loss associated with child undernutrition that is equivalent to between 1.9 percent and 16.5 percent of GDP. Results of recently undertaken COHA studies are due to be released soon in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Similar studies are being planned for Mali and Mauritania.

*Data and exchange rates from 2014 (year of research).

Source: IRIN

EC House of Traditional Leaders turns 20

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Pretoria – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is in the Eastern Cape today to participate in the 20th anniversary celebrations of that province’s House of Traditional Leaders, in Bhisho.The celebration will be held at Bhisho Stadium in Amathole District….

Human Trafficking Suspect Transferred to Somalia After Arrest in South Sudan

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An suspected top human trafficker who was arrested in South Sudan has been handed over to Somalia for prosecution, according to officials in Mogadishu.

The Somali government says the man, identified as Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle, led a trafficking network in South Sudan that helped smuggle thousands of people across East Africa to Libya, where they awaited a possible journey to Europe.

Abdulle, a Somali citizen in his early 40s, was wanted on charges of trafficking and alleged abuses � including rape and murder � against the people his network was smuggling.

The Somali ambassador to South Sudan, Hussein Haji Ahmed, told VOA’s Somali Service that Abdulle ran a network of more than 30 smugglers based in South Sudan.

Abdulle was arrested in South Sudan’s capital of Juba last week. Ahmed said police told him that Abdulle was expecting new arrivals from the border with Uganda when he was captured at one of the secret homes he maintained for the smugglers.

“Police surrounded the house. He tried to jump over the wall, but was captured,” the ambassador said.

Abdulle was flown Thursday to Mogadishu, where Somali authorities took him into custody and are now holding him in a prison run by the National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Suspect ‘wanted for a long time’

“He was wanted for a long time by Interpol police from Somalia and South Sudan, and they have coordinated on his handover,” said the ambassador.

“He was a man who is conscious of his security. He was discreet and has managed to protect himself. When there is an anti-trafficking operation, he goes to a hideout in a border area between Uganda and South Sudan. He hides there.”

Ahmed said police obtained information about the phone Abdulle was using and tracked it, leading to his capture in Juba.

Officials said Abdulle’s network smuggles 600 to 700 people every month. About 90 percent of them are Somalis, most of them trying to leave Somalia due to insecurity and a lack of jobs.

Many of the people being smuggled were subjected to beatings or rape, and were sometimes held hostage for ransom.

The traffickers took videos of the abuses and sent them to the victims’ relatives, to pressure them to send money quickly.

“It’s appalling the kind of treatment women receive in the hands of these traffickers, it’s inhumane,” Ahmed said. “Some of their victims are young people, 13, 14 years old. They suffer unspeakable abuses.”

Asked whether Abdulle will be prosecuted in Somalia or handed over to other countries, Ahmed said the Somali government wants to prosecute him in Somalia pending an investigation.

“We want him for illegal trafficking, we want him for the death of people being smuggled, we want him for forging documents, and we want him for abuses against the young people in South Sudan and Sudan both, and other abuses which happened along the border between South Sudan and Uganda,” he said. “He will face justice in Somalia.”

Three other Somalis suspected of involvement in the trafficking network are being held in Juba, where they are under investigation, Ahmed said.

Source: Voice of America

Did South Africa Break ICC Rules? Court to Rule This Week

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AMSTERDAM � Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will rule Thursday on whether South Africa violated ICC rules by failing to arrest Sudan’s president during a 2015 visit to Johannesburg, in a case that will test international support for the court.

There is an outstanding ICC warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s arrest on genocide charges, which he denies.

Thursday’s ruling will be closely watched for its possible implications for Bashir and other sitting heads of state as well as for the court itself.

If the ICC rules that South Africa’s decision to let Bashir go was an act of noncompliance, the court could either report Pretoria to the U.N. Security Council or to the ICC’s own member states. In either case, South Africa would only likely suffer the diplomatic setback of a court reprimand, rather than any further fine or sanction.

It is also possible that the court may accept South Africa’s argument that it was not obliged to implement the warrant.

South African law

Pretoria has argued that the ICC’s warrant for Bashir’s arrest was void in the face of a South African law that grants sitting heads of state immunity from prosecution, in line with customary international law.

However, the ICC’s statutes explicitly state that sitting heads of states do not have immunity in war crimes cases.

Bashir, who came to power in Sudan in a 1989 Islamist and military-backed coup, was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in 2008 over the deaths and persecution of ethnic groups in the Darfur province.

He denies the charges and continues to travel abroad, trailed by human rights activists and shunned by Western diplomats.

Though Sudan is not a member of the ICC, the court has jurisdiction there because of a 2005 U.N. Security Council resolution that referred the conflict to the Hague court.

Risk for ICC

The ICC faces the risk that any action it takes will only underline waning international support for its existence.

The United States, Russia and China never became ICC members. In Africa, resentment over the court’s indictments of Africans has led Kenya to threaten withdrawal, and the African Union also called in February for mass withdrawals.

South Africa has gone further, formally notifying the United Nations last year that it intended to withdraw from the court.

Earlier this year a domestic South African court blocked the move over procedural issues, but authorities said as recently as last week that they would press ahead with the withdrawal.

Source: Voice of America

Congo Court Convicts Soldiers for Massacre in Disputed Kasai Region

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KINSHASA � A Democratic Republic of Congo court convicted seven soldiers on Thursday for the murder of suspected militia members in the country’s insurrection-ravaged Kasai region.

The court in the central Congolese city of Mbuji Mayi sentenced two army majors to 20 years in prison and three other soldiers to 15 years for murder and improperly disposing of weapons, defense lawyer Jimmy Bashile told Reuters.

A video of the massacre showed soldiers shooting people, some of them young women, at point blank range and provoked international condemnation when it appeared in February.

Two soldiers were sentenced in absentia to capital punishment, Bashile added, although Congo has observed a moratorium on the death penalty for more than a decade.

One other soldier received a 12-month suspended sentence for failing to denounce the crimes, while another was acquitted for lack of evidence, Bashile said. All of the defendants who were convicted plan to appeal their sentences, he added.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.3 million displaced since the start of an insurrection last August by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which demands that the government withdraw its forces.

At least 52 mass graves have also been found and several of the defendants in Mbuji Mayi had faced more serious war crimes charges, but those were dropped mid-trial.

Congo’s government denies any systematic use of excessive force and has said the prosecutions show its justice system’s ability to deal with crimes committed during the conflict.

The United Nations and rights groups, however, say Congolese authorities have not done enough to hold perpetrators responsible. The U.N. Human Rights Council voted last month to establish an international investigation.

Militia violence in Congo, a tinder box of conflicts over land, ethnicity and minerals, has been worsened by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired in December, and analysts say it risks spinning out of control.

Source: Voice of America

FAO Director-General urges countries to recognize the vital role of rural women in freeing the world from hunger and poverty

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Rome – Rural women and girls are key agents of change to free the world from hunger and extreme poverty, said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva today at a special side-event on gender equality and women’s empowerment on the sidelines of the F…