The Human Impact

Mission head says MSF doctors need better access to Syria conflict

The growing number of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as the humanitarian situation worsens, is putting increasing pressure on aid agencies trying to provide assistance.

More than 300,000 refugees have already fled during the 18-month conflict, and that number could grow to 710,000 by the end of this year, UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, says.

The number of registered Syrian refugees and those awaiting registration in Lebanon is now more than 80,800 and is expected to grow to 120,000 by the end of 2012, UNHCR reports.

Inside Syria, 1.2 million people have been displaced, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports.

As numbers increase and winter draws nearer, the need to improve access to food, shelter and medical assistance in Syria and refugee camps in surrounding countries is becoming more acute, said Fabio Forgione, head of mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Lebanon. The medical charity is also known as Doctors Without Borders.

VIDEO INTERVIEW: ‘Desperate’ Syrian civilians taking up arms

PERPIGNAN, France (AlertNet) – When the uprising in Syria spiralled into bloody conflict last year, French photojournalist Mani felt the urge to document what was happening, even though wars weren’t his usual subject.

Mani became a professional freelance photographer three years ago, having ditched a career as a primary school teacher. He spent time covering Sufism and transgender communities in South Asia, but always had a soft spot for Syria where he studied Arabic during his university years.

Through friends and contacts in Syria, he was able to get into the violence-torn city of Homs last October.

In India, rapists walk free as victims “shamed” into suicide

Of course, it’s hard to imagine being raped (and who would want to). But just for a minute try and think about it.

Imagine you are returning home from work, walking down a busy road in early hours of the evening, perhaps from the train station or the bus stop to your home as you usually do.

Suddenly a car pulls up slightly ahead of you and as you walk by, the rear doors open and two men get out. Without any hesitation, they grab you and bundle you into the back seat.

Female genital cutting ‘destroys women’ – Malian singer

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – “In Mali, when a girl has not been cut, it means she is dirty, she is loose,” says Bamako-born singer Bafing Kul.

This concept baffled Kul, who struggled to understand why, in order to be pure, women in his country needed to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) – a traditional practice involving the total or partial removal of the external genitalia.

The cutting, which is often done with razor blades or scissors and no pain relief, can lead to permanent physical and psychological damage.

The Maasai woman saving vaginas, one girl at a time

 

Watching Kenyan activist Agnes Pareyio demonstrate the three different types of female genital mutilation (FGM) on a life-size plastic vagina was an eye opener to the sheer brutality of the practice.

 

It laid bare its function – to control women’s sexuality – and their powerlessness in the communities where it is practised.

 

When Pareyio, who runs a refuge for girls who have run away from FGM, told me that a Maasai woman is “just like the property of the husband” she was not exaggerating.

Syrian women face growing abuses, says opposition activist

Suhair Atassi was beaten and detained for her involvement in protests at the start of Syria’s uprising, before going into hiding and being smuggled out of the country late last year.

Now an exile living in Paris, the prominent opposition activist is trying to drum up support for humanitarian aid in Syria where the conflict has escalated. News from Syria seems to get bloodier by the day with civilians killed, wounded and uprooted by clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups.

For Atassi, who was born into a political family from Homs, it is important to remember that the 18-month Syrian “revolution” began with peaceful demonstrations against al-Assad’s rule.

Tunisian constitution must enshrine equal status of women, says activist

 

Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui recalls how, at the age of 17, she narrowly missed being shoved under a subway train. This is just one example of the threats and pressures her family faced for their opposition to the country’s then president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted last year in a popular uprising.

During Ben Ali’s 23-year rule, Yahyaoui’s father, one of the North African country’s most distinguished judges, lost his job after sending an open letter to the president decrying corruption and the state of the justice system. Her cousin was arrested for publishing satirical articles about the former leader, and died from the torture he underwent.

Yahyaoui’s experiences left her with no alternative but to fight for democracy and freedom of expression in her country, she explains passionately.

Who eats your rubbish?

After trekking down the mountainside of reeking garbage in gum boots, our bodyguards took us to the nearest kiosk to buy milk.

It helps to kill the acrid stench that sticks in the back of your throat.

But the experience of visiting Nairobi’s largest dumpsite – sited right in the midst of a sea of corrugated iron-roofed slum houses — stuck in my mind for days afterwards.

Every time I threw away small amounts of food, I wrapped them carefully in a plastic bag.

UN 2015 development goals must tackle open defecation -expert

(Contains offensive language in paragraph 15)

Experts have crafted tentative development goals to improve sanitation for the 1.1 billion people who are forced to practise open defecation due to poor water supplies, a lack of toilets and absent sewage systems.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, says at least 15 percent of the world’s population regularly defecates in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces, putting health at risk.

The combined effects of improper sanitation, unsafe water supply and poor personal hygiene are responsible for 88 percent of childhood deaths from diarrhoea and are estimated to cause more than 3,000 child deaths per day, UNICEF says.

Potentially dangerous breed of malaria mosquito found in Kenya

Scientists have discovered a new malaria-transmitting breed of mosquito which may pose an unknown threat in Kenya, where malaria is the leading cause of death.

Malaria, a preventable and curable disease, is generally known to be caused by the Plasmodium parasite and transmitted to humans by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, which rests indoors and feeds on humans at night.

However, the newly-discovered mosquito has different habits.  It is active outdoors and bites humans earlier in the evening, soon after sunset, according to researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

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