Pope Francis appoints Ghanaian cardinal Peter Turkson to head Vatican academies

Pope Francis appointed Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson new Chancellor of Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

73-year-old Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana was appointed by the Pope to head two Vatican institutions, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The news was made public on Monday and Turkson will succeed Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo who has held these positions since 1998. The Pontifical Academies of Social Sciences and of Sciences have their headquarters inside the Vatican.

They state their mission as one to serve and “honour pure science wherever it may be found, ensure its freedom and encourage research for the progress of science.

Cardinal Turkson directed the Vatican office dedicated to migration issues, the environment and Covid-19 response up to last December. After an inspection of the dicastery he headed was ordered, and his resignation, speculations claimed he was being moved away. With this nomination, Turkson gets a new top Vatican position.

The Pontifical Academies of Social Sciences and of Sciences are supranational academies, part of the 10 Pontifical Academies operated by the Holy See.

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Women and girls deserve to live without violence in ‘safety, dignity and freedom’

Violence against women and girls may be the world’s “longest, deadliest pandemic,” the UN chief said on Tuesday, during an event focused on the role boys and men need to play, to help eliminate gender-based violence.

“One in three women worldwide has directly experienced violence”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message at an event on the fringes of the annual Conference on the Status of Women (CSW).

He noted that every 11 minutes, a woman is killed by a partner or family member, often in her own home, “where she should be safest.”

“We cannot accept a world in which one half of humanity is at risk in the streets, in their homes or online. We must end violence against women and girls – now.”

Making the transformation

Changing “the hearts and minds of men and boys”, is the first step according to the top UN official.

“Men created this scourge. Men must end it.”

This begins with all men looking in the mirror and pledging to uproot the “lopsided power dynamics, toxic masculinity, and cultural norms and stereotypes that have fuelled this violence over millennia”.

Imagine change 

From Europe to Asia and Africa to the Americas, COVID-19 has triggered dramatic increases in violence against women in every region of the world.

In the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the UN chief called for an end to the rising surge of violence against women and girls.

“We know change is possible,” he said.

Let’s work together to ensure that every woman and girl can live their lives free from violence

To this end, the UN’s Spotlight Initiative has so far, educated 880,000 men and boys on positive masculinity, respectful relationships and non-violent conflict resolution.

From taxi drivers to sports clubs, men are actively participating in programmes to prevent gender-based violence and support women survivors, Mr. Guterres informed the event.

Meanwhile, the UN is working with governments and legislators to strengthen laws and regulations that better protect women and girls.

More work needed

Since the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls was created in 2020 – as a response to the Secretary-General’s call to action – it’s membership has grown to nearly 100.

“But it’s time to do more,” said the top UN official, reminding that as the issue is not tied to any one country, everyone must act.

He argued that the proposals laid out his Our Common Agenda report presented to Member States last year, “provide a roadmap to tackle this challenge with the strategic urgency it deserves”.

“We call on every Member State to develop an emergency plan to prevent and respond to gender-based violence,” stated the UN chief.

Seizing the opportunity

He described the event as “an opportunity” for each participant to begin bringing plans to life; coordinate by “drawing on the UN’s expertise and the positive models provided by the Spotlight Initiative”; and get other countries to join in.

“Let’s work together to ensure that every woman and girl can live their lives free from violence, with the safety, dignity and freedom they deserve,” the Secretary-General concluded.

Under the theme, Gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes, the 66th CSW kicked off on 14 March and will run until Friday.

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AfricaAfrica AsiaEducationScienceTechTechnology

U.S. Consulate Supports Mentorship Program for Young Women and Girls

The U.S. government is committed to supporting the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by connecting them with networks and opportunities needed to advance their careers and dreams in tech fields.

On Thursday, the TechWomen Alumni Association of Nigeria held the closing ceremony of a U.S. Consulate-supported TechWomen Nigeria Mentorship Project for emerging female leaders in STEM fields.

For six weeks, 10 mentees aged 18-30 were paired with 10 women leaders in STEM. The mentees shadowed their mentors at leading technology and STEM-related companies in Lagos, including Intel and Microsoft, and attended capacity building workshops with their peers.

The closing event celebrated the graduation of the participants, who in turn shared their experiences and highlighted how partaking in the program helped them to refine their skills and boosted their confidence to advance in their various careers.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the project in Lagos, U.S. Consul General Claire Pierangelo congratulated the young female STEM professionals on completing the mentorship program.

Pierangelo highlighted the importance of expanding young women’s networks in STEM fields, encouraging them to pursue tech careers and ensuring the sustainability of the mentor-mentee model in Nigeria.

The U.S. government is committed to advancing the rights and participation of women and girls in the STEM fields

“I am happy to see that our TechWomen Nigeria alumni have taken steps to replicate their exchange experience by providing mentoring opportunities for young women in STEM in their local communities,” Pierangelo said.

“The U.S. government is committed to advancing the rights and participation of women and girls in the STEM fields, by enabling them to reach their full potential in the tech industry. The TechWomen and TechGirls programs are perfect examples of this commitment.”

Country Account Executive for West Africa at Intel Corporation, Rita Amuchienwa, served as a mentor during the project. She described the benefits of the mentor-mentee model initiated by the TechWomen Nigeria Alumni Association

“Young women in tech can particularly benefit from mentoring as a means to build confidence, enhance skills, and set achievable career goals,” Amuchienwa said.

One of the mentees, Rofiat Korodo, explained that her participation in the mentorship program has strengthened her capacity, expanded her professional networks and exposed her to top female role models in her field.

“It has been an awesome experience. My mentor provided me insights into specific professional situations, negotiation tactics, opportunities and career path goals. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this mentorship program,” Korodo added.

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It strengthens participants’ professional capacity, increases mutual understanding between key professionals, and expands young women’s interest in STEM careers by exposing them to female role models.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, 45 Nigerian women in STEM have participated in a unique five-week mentorship program to increase their specialized proficiencies, connect with valuable mentors and build a professional network of like-minded women.

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African Metaverse set to Boost Economy and Create Employment

Africa’s first metaverse is set to unlock African creativity and connect Africa to the global digital economy. At an event in Johannesburg yesterday, plans were announced for commercialisation of the 3D virtual reality experience, that is set in Ubuntuland, a virtual world that marries creativity, cryptocurrency, and commerce.

Firstly, virtual land will soon be available to purchase and develop, with MTN, Africa’s largest multinational mobile telecommunications company joining Africarare with an upcoming 12×12 village (144 plots of real estate) secured in Ubuntuland. Additionally, M&C Saatchi Abel have entered the metaverse as the first South African agency to do so. There will only ever be 204 642 plots of land available, made up of different village sizes in various community hubs. The land is positioned and priced according to a tiered value system.

Landholders will be able to customize their 3-D land spaces, such as hosting shops, producing resources, renting virtual services and developing games or other applications. Designated spaces will serve the community for work, play and wellness purposes, including a state of the art meeting rooms, online therapy rooms (with optional anonymity), concert stages, film festival spaces, meditation lounges and other dynamic interactive environments. And, there’s more to come, such as staking, DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) and blockchain play-to-earn gaming.

Maps Maponyane & Nastassia Arendse at Africarare launch in Johannesburg

Renowned South African artist Norman Catherine has developed a unique collection of avatars for the metaverse, which will shortly be available to purchase. The Normunda tribe is based on the artist’s signature lexicon, that has fetched record prices in galleries around the world. An avatar is a 3-D graphical representation of a user or the user’s character or persona in this space.

Furthermore, an exciting collaboration between Africarare and South African superstar Boitumelo Thulo has been announced. Popularly known as Boity, the acclaimed television personality, rapper, actress, businesswoman and model, revealed her first virtual reality music video, entering the event in the same Sun Goddess custom creation upon which her outfit in Queen Boity avatar form was based. The Boity tribe of 10 000 avatars will soon be available for fans, with a Boity village currently being developed and plans for virtual concerts under way.

Africarare will connect Africa to this booming arena of the global economy, stimulate growth and create multiple new jobs such as digital designers, creators and architects

The currency in Ubuntuland will be the $UBUNTU token, which is built on the Ethereum blockchain and available from later this year. Everything in Africarare can be bought, sold or traded using $UBUNTU tokens, including buying, developing, selling or renting plots or villages in Ubuntuland, and the in-world purchases of digital goods and services. The valuation of the token will be calculated according to what users invest / build / play / trade inside the metaverse.

Two art galleries will feature in Africarare, dedicated to showcasing Africa’s prolific creativity. The Mila gallery (Swahili for ‘tradition’), already open, will host curated collections by some of Africa’s foremost artists, while the Inuka gallery (Swahili for ‘rise’) will feature works by emerging African artists from later in 2022. Both galleries will stage various exhibitions on an ongoing basis with art pieces being be sold as NFT’s (non-fungible tokens).

Boity in Africarare Metaverse

In the Africarare marketplace, creators and developers can trade in in-world assets such as land, avatars, avatar additions and other goods and services that are and will be available in Ubuntuland. The marketplace focuses on four main areas: Art, Ubuntuland, Avatars & Skins and Digital Services. Users will also be able to trade on secondary platforms such as Opensea and others.

The Central Hub land area is reserved for Africarare custom made experiences, ranging from art to education and including experiences like galleries, live performances, stand-up comedy, video content channels, film festivals, safaris and more.

Africarare will connect Africa to this booming arena of the global economy, stimulate growth and create multiple new jobs such as digital designers, creators and architects ” said Mic Mann, Co-founder and CEO of Africarare. “Additionally, it will enable South African artists to showcase their talent to the world and monetize their distinctive creations,” he added. “With Africarare being built on collaborative partnerships, the possibilities for commercialisation are endless” said Shayne Mann, Co-founder of Africarare.

“This is an exciting moment for us as we lead businesses on the continent to enter the metaverse marketplace. This is exactly what our Ambition 2025 strategy is premised on – leveraging trends that amplify consumer’s digital experiences and engagement. We have always been at the forefront of technological and digital changes and we remain alive to the exciting opportunities the metaverse presents for us and our customers’’ – Bernice Samuels MTN Group Executive.

With Ubuntuland poised to become the biggest talking point in the digital African space, it’s time to own your piece of Virtual Africa!

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Stepping up African Youth Empowerment

Boeing, Injaz Al-Arab and JA Africa Join hands

Story: Mohammed Abu, ADM, Accra

INJAZ Al-Arab, a member of Junior Achievement (JA) Worldwide, the world’s largest non-profit business education organization, has announced the strengthening of its partnership with Boeing to include JA Africa a move that seeks to empower over 5,000 youth in Africa to build their entrepreneurial and employability skills.

Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the prime beneficiary African countries of the partnership expansion, which falls under the Entrepreneurship & Work-readiness pillars,

Through this collaboration with Boeing, INJAZ Al-Arab and JA Africa will offer participants an interactive learning journey that includes different JA core programs such as Innovation Day Camps, Entrepreneurship Education, and Economic Success.

In Tanzania, the partnership will focus on supporting 100 Tanzanian youth through Innovation Day Camps, while the program in Ghana, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo will focus on digital entrepreneurship education of 1,300 students.

Both Mauritania and Sudan programs will empower youth to own their economic success, with 100 and 200 students targeted respectively. In Nigeria, the partnership will support the expansion of the Company Program which empowers secondary school students to build innovative businesses that solve problems within their communities.

These were contained in a joint Press Release issued recently in Dubai,United Arab Emirates(UAE)

Commenting on the partnership, Akef Aqrabawi, President  & CEO of INJAZ Al-Arab, said: “The way in which we work continues to transform the world around us, with rapid digitalization driving changes across the globe. In keeping with our commitment to inspire and empower the leaders of tomorrow, we are delighted to be expanding our long-term partnership with Boeing, strengthening the reach of our efforts, and driving change across Sub-Saharan Africa. We look forward to continuing to upskill the youth of today, providing the necessary programs and mentorship opportunities to students to ensure a stronger, successful future.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, president of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “At Boeing, we are committed to developing and supporting the communities where our employees live and work. Through our partnership with INJAZ Al-Arab, we have reached thousands of talented young students across the Middle East and North-Africa, helping them with the skills they need to be successful in the job market. Building on the success achieved in previous years, we now continue our journey of preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators across the African continent, a strong, long-term growth market for commercial aviation.”

Simi Nwogugu, CEO of JA Africa, said, “We are delighted to be introduced into this long-standing partnership between Boeing and INJAZ. This partnership is valuable to our objective to expand our reach into new territories and harder to reach communities where youth are marginalized and deprived of economic opportunities. Leveraging the power of technology to educate our youth is the key to unlocking the new wave of innovators and job creators Africa needs.”

The partnership expansion the release noted, follows a shared history of investment into the future of youth, which began in 2009, when Boeing joined INJAZ Al-Arab as the Entrepreneurship Pillar champion, boosting entrepreneurial skills across Arab youth. To date, programs have been rolled out across Algeria, Bahrain, Oman Egypt, Qatar, and Morocco, and include the INJAZ Al-Arab’s Innovation Camp, Company Program, Steer Your Career, STEM, and more.

“The strategic partnership between INJAZ Al-Arab and Boeing has been directed towards empowering youth to reach their full potential, and for more than 12 years, this partnership has sought out growth, geographical expansion, and significant impact.

“The forward direction holds plenty of opportunities for branching into STEM-focused programs that respond to the current market needs and cater to future demands” it further noted .

About INJAZ Al-Arab

Operating in 13 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, INJAZ Al-Arab is the only nonprofit organization in the region that harnesses the mentorship of business leaders to help inspire a culture of entrepreneurship and business innovation among Arab youth. Partnering with leading companies in the private sector, INJAZ Al-Arab equips Arab youth to drive the economies of the Arab World forward through training designed to inspire them to develop ambition, entrepreneurship, and professional skills. Named one of the top 100 NGOs in the world by NGO Advisor for six consecutive years INJAZ Al-Arab has influenced the lives of over 4 million students since its inception in 2004. INJAZ Al-Arab is a member of Junior Achievement; the world’s largest and fastest-growing youth business organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.

About JA Africa

Junior Achievement (JA) Africa equips young Africans with the employability and entrepreneurial skillset and mindset they need to build thriving communities. Through the delivery of financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship training and in collaboration with schools, technical/ vocational centers and other partners, JA Africa works in 13 countries reaching 250,000 youth each year. Learn more about us at

About Boeing Company

The Boeing Company as a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future and living the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity. Boeing’s relationship with the Middle East extends back to 1945. Since then, Boeing has established a number of offices across the region, first in Riyadh in 1982, then a dedicated Boeing Defense, Space and Security office in Abu Dhabi in 1999, a regional headquarters in Dubai in 2005, an office in Doha in 2010, and a new office in Kuwait City in 2021. In addition, Boeing has field service teams across the region and two distribution centers for airplane spare parts in Dubai. For further information, please visit: Follow us on @Boeing and @BoeingMidEast.

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DRC, Seychelles, South Africa, Others to benefit from Netflix $1 Million Scholarship Fund

Netflix the world’s leading entertainment streaming service, has announced a commitment of US$1 million towards the newly-established Netflix Creative Equity Scholarship Fund (CESF) for film and TV students in Sub-Saharan Africa. The scholarship fund forms part of Netflix’s global Netflix Creative Equity Fund ( launched in 2021 to be allocated to various initiatives over the next 5 years with the goal of developing a strong, diverse pipeline of creatives around the world.

The scholarship fund will cover the costs for tuition, accommodation, study materials and living expenses at institutions where beneficiaries have gained admission to pursue a course of study in the TV & film disciplines in the 2022 academic year.

The Netflix CESF is targeted for rollout across the region in the academic year commencing in 2022, starting with an open call for applications in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, in partnership with social investment fund management and advisory firm Tshikululu Social Investments ( as implementing partner/fund administrator in Southern Africa. Fund administration partners for East Africa and the West and Central Africa regions will be announced in due course.

“Netflix is excited by the potential of the next generation of storytellers and we’re committed to investing in the future of African storytelling in the long-term,” says Ben Amadasun, Netflix Director of Content in Africa. “We believe there are great stories to be told from Africa and we want to play our part by supporting students who are passionate about the film and TV industry so they too, can ultimately contribute to the creative ecosystem by bringing more unique voices and diverse perspectives to African storytelling that our global audiences find appealing.”

Netflix is excited by the potential of the next generation of storytellers and we’re committed to investing in the future of African storytelling in the long-term

How it works:

The Netflix CESF is designed to provide financial assistance, through full scholarships, at partner higher educational institutions (HEI) in South Africa to support the formal qualification and training of aspiring creatives from a SADC region country that wish to study in South Africa, and are able to obtain the necessary permissions to do so. The following countries will be eligible: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In the SADC region, the fund will be available to students who have obtained admission to study in various film & TV-focused disciplines, for the 2022 academic year, at the following partner institutions:

Students interested in applying for scholarships for the 2022 academic year will be able to find additional information, application criteria, a list of partner higher education institutions (HEI) and will be able to apply online on our fund manager and advisory partner, Tshikululu’s website ( Applications are now open until 04 February 2022 at 23h59 CAT.

The Netflix CESF will also benefit students from other parts of Africa – particularly East Africa as well as West and Central Africa. Fund administration partners for East Africa and the West and Central Africa regions will be announced, along with the calls for applications, in due course.

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African-American poet Maya Angelou becomes first black woman to appear on US coin

African-American poet, author, actress, and activist Maya Angelou is the first Black woman to appear on the American quarter, in a new version of the coin unveiled by the US Mint yesterday, the 10th of January 2022.

Angelou was born on the 4th of April in 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She had a very tough childhood. Her parents divorced when she was very young, became a mother at 16, yet she went on to become an icon.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou
Angelou performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, becoming the first black woman to write and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration

Maya, author of the acclaimed 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will also be the first figure commemorated through the American Women Quarters Program, which was signed into law in January 2021.

She received several honorary degrees and wrote over 30 bestselling works. In 2010, she was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest US civilian award by President Barack Obama

Angelou spent much of the 1960s here in Africa, living first in Egypt and then in Ghana, working as an editor and a freelance writer. Angelou also held a position at the University of Ghana for a time.

In Ghana, she also joined a community of “Revolutionist Returnees” exploring pan-Africanism and became close with human rights activist and Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. In 1964, upon returning to the United States, Angelou helped Malcolm X set up the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which disbanded after his assassination the following year.

Angelou passed away in 2014 at the age of 86.

The US Mint “has begun shipping the first coins” with Angelou’s likeness on the American quarter, a 25-cent piece, according to a press release from the agency

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UNICEF, UK and Ireland support Uganda’s school re-opening

As schools in Uganda prepare to reopen after a prolonged period, the UK and Ireland have partnered with UNICEF to support two key activities which aim to support safe and sustainable reopening. The focus will be on school-based surveillance for early identification, reporting, and management of emerging COVID-19 cases in schools, and the secondary focus will be on mental health and psychosocial (MHPSS) wellbeing training to support teachers and children to readjust. These are critical activities which can have a lasting impact on the system, enabling it to remain open and continue to provide education for the country’s children.

The UK has provided £450,000 (UGX2,153,403,038) to UNICEF towards the initiative. In addition, Ireland has provided Euro 1.8 Million (UGX7,200,521,083) to UNICEF for the overall Government of Uganda school reopening strategy, a portion of which is used for school-based surveillance and MHPSS in Karamoja region. The initiative has been prioritized by the Government of Uganda under its School Re-opening Strategy, and it will be implemented jointly by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health in districts and schools across the country. The training is covering all schools in the country.

Speaking at the opening of the training, Kate Airey, British High Commissioner to Uganda, said “I sympathise with my Government of Uganda colleagues who have had to make really difficult decisions over the last two years. I like all Ugandans were relieved when the Government announced schools would be reopening on the 10th January. Regaining the ground lost will not be easy – and ensuring this is essential not just for our children on an individual level, but to ensure Uganda’s economic development. Without investment in human capital, without schools remaining open, I fear Ugandans will start to fall behind regional peers. Uganda must therefore now create a system to ensure that can enable schools to remain open, and education can carry on without further interruptions.”

Getting children back into school and learning is a priority for all three partners and this support comes at a critical time to support Uganda in its recovery.

These are critical activities which can have a lasting impact on the system, enabling it to remain open and continue to provide education

Speaking at the same event the UNICEF Country Representative, Dr. Munir A. Safieldin said, “”I share UNICEF’s respect for all head-teachers and teachers present here. Others can support, but only you can keep the schools safe and ensure that children receive the quality education they need and deserve. We are aware that there are many challenges, and your task at the forefront of this effort is among the most difficult.  However, if anyone can make this happen, teachers can. The future of a generation of children, and the future of the country, is in your able hands.”

Cormac Shine, Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Ireland, said: “Ireland is proud to support Uganda’s efforts to safely reopen schools, and implementing effective surveillance is crucial to ensure a safe learning environment for students and staff alike. Along with our development partners Ireland remains committed to supporting education in Uganda, and the safe reopening of schools is a landmark achievement after a challenging few year.”

The initiative will result in up to 40,000 schools nationwide (both public and private) being capacitated via district officials to effectively track and manage COVID-19 cases and support students and teachers on re-entry.

UNICEF has worked with the government and development partners on continuity of learning and safe school re-opening for the last two years. UNICEF’s support has included sharing of global knowledge and best practices, provision of self-learning materials, radio, and TV lessons for continuity of learning and parenting education.

Apart from the nationwide School-Based Surveillance training, UNICEF is also providing selected schools with infection prevention and control supplies including handwashing materials and tents for the safe re-opening of schools.

Since March 2020, the UK has provided distance learning via radio to an estimated half a million lower primary and secondary children, and in 2022 intends to provide catch up classes directly to 250,000 children.

Ireland has been a strong supporter of Uganda’s education sector for more than fifteen years, with a long-standing focus on investing in bursaries in Karamoja. Since June 2021, Ireland has chaired the Education Development partners group, and has maintained its support for the sector throughout the pandemic with continued investment in primary and secondary schools, vocational training, and bursaries with a variety of partners including UNICEF, Enabel, and Straight Talk Foundation.

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Over 75,000 people in eastern DRC remote camp facing ‘hellish conditions’

Up to 75,000 displaced people – including 35,000 children – living in a remote and inaccessible hilltop camp for displaced people in the province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are braving “hellish conditions” without adequate food, shelter, protection, security and sanitation, UNICEF has warned.

The size of the camp – located in Rhoe, 45km northeast of the provincial capital Bunia and only accessible to aid agencies by helicopter – has nearly quadrupled over the last two weeks. Humanitarian access by land is not possible because aid workers have been denied access or shot at by armed groups on several occasions over the last month.

The huge growth of Rhoe camp – up to 50,000 people are estimated to have arrived in the past two weeks – has followed several attacks on nearby camps at Drodro and Tche by armed groups, forcing thousands of already-displaced people to seek sanctuary there.

Over the last few weeks, 35 children, including 14 girls, were reported to have been killed or injured, some hacked to death by men wielding machetes. At least 13 girls were recently raped while attempting to find food in fields adjoining the camp.

Militants have also destroyed three hospitals and two schools in the area. It is impossible to verify exact figures on the number of violations committed against children, including kidnappings, because of persistent insecurity and lack of access to the Rhoe area.

The hilltop camp is located immediately next to a MONUSCO peacekeeping base. At least 35,000 children have taken refuge there, including more than 60 who were separated from their parents.

“Displaced people fled to Rhoe in the hope of finding some kind of safety and protection,” said UNICEF Bunia Chief Field Officer Ibrahim Cisse, “But in reality, they remain in danger. About 35,000 children and their families are enduring hellish conditions, effectively being held hostage, unable to move, on a remote hill in a dangerous and inaccessible part of Congo. They face serious food, sanitation, accommodation, protection and security issues inside hopelessly overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.”

The influx of new arrivals has severely stretched Rhoe camp, situated on uneven and often sloping land, to breaking point. Many of those who have arrived in the last fortnight do not have shelter or food and must sleep in the open. Some have sought overnight shelter in the camp’s latrines.

Camp resident Betune Ngave, 65,  typifies the suffering of many displaced people. She has been displaced several times since 2018, witnessing rape and mass murder in the process. Her husband was decapitated three weeks ago by militants and six of her seven children were killed in another attack in 2018.

They face serious food, sanitation, accommodation, protection and security issues inside hopelessly overcrowded and unsanitary shelters

“We have fled many times,” she said, “and seen our homes burned and children raped. My parents, my brothers, my sisters, and six of my children have all been beheaded or shot.”

Ms Ngave now lives in a flimsy and crowded shelter, about a quarter the size of a large car, which is neither wind nor rain-proof.

It is estimated there are about 1,300 people for every toilet in Rhoe camp and sewage flows openly through densely inhabited areas.

Access to locally grown food in the camp is almost non-existent because inhabitants are likely to be attacked by militants if they venture too far outside in search of food. There are now major concerns about the nutritional status of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, with UNICEF officials warning that the situation could deteriorate very quickly.

Water is likewise in perilously short supply, with children venturing down the hillside with jerry cans to collect drinking water. If that is too dangerous, inhabitants collect water from nearby swamps or small rivers. Such journeys to collect food and water can put children at risk of violence and makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

An alarming number of people have died recently in the camps because of respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea and malaria.

While Rhoe camp has a health centre, there are few beds and mothers with children mostly gather on the floor. The centre’s over-stretched staff carry out about 180 consultations per day. It is impossible for desperately sick people to be referred to hospitals and there is a lack of burial equipment for funerals.

UNICEF through its Rapid Response Programme imminently intends to distribute 5,500 Non-Food Item kits – including blankets, buckets, jerry cans, kitchenware and soap – in addition to tarpaulins and tents.

UNICEF plans to hand out individual water treatment tablets to camp inhabitants and is working with its partners to provide psychosocial support to over 500 children affected by armed conflict in the camp. Help is being provided to 58 children still separated from their families- so far only five children have been reunited.

Moves are afoot to survey the level of malnourishment in the camp in coordination with the World Food Programme and other agencies.

UNICEF is also lobbying to improve sanitation in the camp, in addition to working with MSF to bolster health support.

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UNMISS: Ending violence against women focus of 16 Days of Activism event in Aweil

“My mind is in school. I do not want to be married before I finish my education,” said Ayat Garang Kenyang, a school student in Aweil, Northern Bahr El Ghazal.

Ayat was speaking at an event hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to mark the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

We need to transform South Sudanese society into a place where women and children can live freely and happily, enjoying equality

“What I have understood from this event is that violence against women and girls must stop. As young girls, we need to be free from such threats so that we can concentrate on our studies. I also urge boys to respect us and to stand up for us. They should refuse to marry girls who are uneducated or minors,” continued Ayat.

Ayat’s schoolmate, 18-year-old Shama Malek, agrees. “Forcing girls to marry when they are minors means that we are creating a society where 50 per cent of the population – women, and girls – are largely uneducated and therefore cannot contribute to developing our nation. We also suffer from early pregnancies when we are married young. This takes a severe toll on our health,” Shama said eloquently.

With overarching patriarchy in place, young girls often do not have the same rights as boys in South Sudan. This leads to unequal power structures at the community level, and, unfortunately, women and girls are often subjected to different forms of violence and abuse.

“Violence against women and children is a human rights violation,” said the Ataklti Hailu, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office here. “We need to transform South Sudanese society into a place where women and children can live freely and happily, enjoying equality,” he added.

Some 200 community members attended the colorful and meaningful event, which ended with David Wek Wekdit, Acting Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare urging women and girls to promptly report any abuse to local law enforcement so that perpetrators can speedily be brought to justice.

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