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November, 2017

 

Lives of children, adolescents threatened as world set to miss global AIDS target

Global complacency threatens the lives of children and adolescents as world set to miss global AIDS target – UNICEF

NEW YORK/JOHANNESBURG, 01 December 2017 – In 2016, 120,000 children under the age of 14 died of AIDS related causes, and 18 children were infected with HIV every single hour. If current trends persist, there will be 3.5 million new adolescent HIV infections by 2030, according to projections from the 2017 UNICEF Statistical Update on Children and AIDS released today.

“It is unacceptable that we continue to see so many children dying from AIDS and so little progress made to protect adolescents from new HIV infections,” said Dr. Chewe Luo, Chief of HIV for UNICEF.

“The AIDS epidemic is not over; it remains a threat to the lives of children and young people and more can and should be done to prevent it.”

A UNICEF analysis of demographic trends and new HIV data reveals that targets set in the 2020 Super-Fast-Track framework developed in 2016 to end AIDS among children, will not be achieved.

There has been some progress in the fight against AIDS, notably in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV. Around 2 million new infections among children have been averted since 2000. However, UNICEF warns that such progress must not lead to complacency as the Statistical Update highlights that children age 4 and under living with HIV face the highest risk of AIDS-related deaths compared to other age groups.

Paediatric HIV testing and treatment is lagging, with only 43 per cent of HIV exposed infants being tested within the recommended first two months of life, and the same percentage of children living with HIV receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment.

UNICEF says progress in preventing new HIV infections among adolescents and improving testing and treatment in adolescent populations has been unacceptably slow. In 2016 alone, 55,000 adolescents (age 10-19) died from AIDS-related causes, 91 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The data also reveals a worrying gender disparity: for every five adolescent boys living with HIV, there are seven girls of the same age.

“To continue at this slow rate of progress is to gamble with the lives of children and commit future generations to a preventable life of HIV and AIDS,” Dr Luo added. “We must act urgently in order to sustain any gains we have made in the past decade.”

UNICEF proposes a way forward for addressing gaps in the HIV response. This includes:

  • Investing in, and utilising emerging innovations such as HIV self-testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis and new paediatric drugs;

  • Scaling-up the response for children including expanding treatment programmes and investment in new technology for point-of-care diagnostics;

  • Strengthening capacity of governments for the collection of comprehensive, disaggregated testing and treatment data, especially on adolescents, to help inform programming;

  • Prioritising interventions for adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

The AIDS epidemic must remain a global public health concern, according to UNICEF. Innovative solutions must be adopted to speed up progress in preventing HIV infection of children and ensuring those living with HIV get the treatment they need.

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Note to editors:
More information is available at: www.childrenandaids.org

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information, please contact:
Yemi Lufadeju, UNICEF New York, +1 917 213 4034, glufadeju@unicef.org


Uruguay se convierte en el primer país de Sudamérica en recibir a refugiados del norte de Centroamérica

Cuatro familias refugiadas centroamericanas arribaron hoy al Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco, Montevideo, Uruguay, para poder reconstruir sus vidas lejos de la violencia.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 30 de noviembre de 2017 (ACNUR) – Cuatro familias refugiadas centroamericanas arribaron hoy al Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco, Montevideo, Uruguay, para poder reconstruir sus vidas lejos de la violencia.

Su llegada es parte de una iniciativa regional conocida como Marco Integral Regional de Protección y Soluciones para las Américas (MIRPS), que se basa en los compromisos adquiridos por los Estados en la Declaración de Nueva York sobre Refugiados y Migrantes del 19 Septiembre de 2016 y en los mecanismos regionales existentes de responsabilidad compartida, como la Declaración de Acción de San José y el Plan de Acción de Brasil.

Desde el año 2009, el gobierno de la República Oriental del Uruguay lleva adelante un Programa de Reasentamiento, el cual permite que personas refugiadas con necesidades específicas de protección puedan ser trasladadas al país desde regiones altamente impactadas por crisis humanitarias, conflictos y violencia. Gracias a este programa, 69 personas refugiadas provenientes de Colombia y 42 de Siria han sido recibidas en el país.

El Programa de Reasentamiento del estado uruguayo también incluye en la actualidad a familias afectadas por la situación del Norte de Centroamérica (El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala). Con esta iniciativa, Uruguay se convierte en el primer país de Sudamérica en recibir a refugiados de dicha región.

El proceso de selección de estas familias, que han sido referenciadas y asistidas por el ACNUR, ha sido liderado por la Comisión de Refugiados (CORE) institución encargada de decidir sobre las solicitudes de reconocimiento de la condición de refugiado en Uruguay, la cual es integrada por diversas instituciones gubernamentales, la academia y la sociedad civil, con el apoyo técnico del ACNUR y su agencia socia en Uruguay, SEDHU (Servicio Ecuménico para la Dignidad Humana).

Las familias estarán bajo un programa de acompañamiento conducido por un equipo de profesionales para facilitar su adecuada integración social, económica y cultural, por medio de los programas públicos y la contribución de la comunidad internacional. Las familias serán alojadas en cuatro localidades del interior del país, las cuales jugarán un rol primario en el proceso que ahora inicia para estas personas por rehacer su vida en un nuevo país. El programa tiene como objetivo la pronta autosuficiencia y la contribución positiva de los refugiados en sus comunidades de acogida.

Michele Manca di Nissa, Representante de la Oficina Regional del ACNUR para el Sur de América Latina sostuvo: “Gracias al esfuerzo conjunto de distintas instituciones y actores, Uruguay se convierte en el primer país de América del Sur en recibir a los ciudadanos de los países del Norte de Centroamérica quienes son víctimas de altos niveles de violencia y necesitan protección internacional. Una vez más destacamos la solidaridad y generosidad del gobierno uruguayo y contamos con que otros países de la región se sumen a esta iniciativa humanitaria”.

La violencia se ha convertido en una de las causas principales de los flujos de refugiados procedentes de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras. A mediados de 2017, el número de refugiados y solicitantes de asilo de esos tres países en conjunto llegó a más de 240.000 personas, lo cual representa un incremento de casi diez veces en un período de cinco años.


Ghana raises 5.3 bln cedis ($1.16 bln) in multiple bonds to refinance debt

ACCRA, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Ghana sold 5.29 billion cedis ($1.16 bln) worth of long-term bonds on Thursday, dominated by re-openings of previous bond issues by the major commodity exporter to help restructure its high public debt, lead arrangers said.

Ghana is grappling with budget deficits, inflation and a volatile local currency, all of which have forced the government to sign a $918 credit deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Apart from a new five-year paper, sold at a yield of 17.6 percent, the West African country reopened existing bonds with maturities of seven, 10 and 15 years, the joint book-runners Barclays Bank, Stanbic Bank and brokers Strategic African Securities said in a statement.

The government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, who took power in January, is trying to rebalance the country’s finances and narrow the public debt, which stood at 138.9 billion cedis or 68.6 percent of GDP as of the end of September.

A source close to the transaction said nearly half of Thursday’s total sale consisted of treasury bills that were restructured into long-term bonds.

“In effect, only about half of the cumulative 5.29 billion cedis accepted was fresh borrowing. The other half is only converting existing treasury bill investments into longer maturities,” the source said.

Settlement for the bonds is due on Monday. ($= 4.5720 Ghanaian cedis) (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Hugh Lawson)


Nkata, Bandari part ways

By VINCENT OPIYO
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SportPesa Premier League (SPL) side Bandari have parted ways with head coach Paul Nkata, Nation Sport can exclusively reveal.

The former Ugandan international joined the Coastal side in January, fresh from clinching a double with 11-time Kenyan champions Tusker.

“They requested me out and I can’t complain my short spell there. I picked positive lessons that will keep me going. I am currently open to any offers that come my way,” the former Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and SC Villa coach told Nation Sport on Thursday.

Nkata has formerly handled Nairobi City Stars, Muhoroni Youth and Tusker where he won the SPL title and the GOtv Shield in 2016.

Reached for a comment, the club’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Edward Oduor was non-committall.

“I am on leave. I know no development about it, I left immediately we finished the season so I am not aware of any development,” said Oduor.

Just recently, the club announced a five-day trials exercise that is being conducted by assistant coach Ken Odhiambo.

The exercise, that has seen a large number of players turn out at Mbaraki Sports grounds, concludes on December 1.

Under Nkata, the 2015 GOtv Shield champions won 12 games, drew seven and lost 15 finishing 10th on the 18-team standings with 43 points.

Nkata has been linked to Rwandan outfit APR and Ugandan side Vipers SC.


Why Raila picked Junet for House job

By DAVID MWERE
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By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Opposition leader Raila Odinga handed Suna East MP Junet Mohamed the Minority Whip seat in the National Assembly as a reward for his steadfast loyalty to the National Super Alliance.

The decision sparked a row in the opposition coalition pitting Coast MPs — who believe the seat belongs to the region — and Amani National Congress legislators who threatened to sever links with ODM.

Insiders in the alliance said Mr Mohamed was rewarded for his firm support for the coalition headed by Mr Odinga and his abrasive nature which makes it suitable for the job of marshalling Nasa MPs against Jubilee.

Mr Odinga appears determined to deter opposition MPs from engaging in any action suggesting that President Kenyatta was properly elected.

Already, the coalition has opted out of the committee that will vet Cabinet Secretaries. Mr Odinga has stated that he believes he and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka won the August 8 election.

On Thursday, Mr Mohamed said he would aggressively push the Opposition’s agenda in the House.

“Now you can be sure that the party will regain its traction. Though many say that I was favoured, this is not the case because I lobbied just like any other MP and the coalition believed in me,” he said, adding that he needs the support of Nasa leadership and its MPs to succeed.

“It is not a Junet affair, the party believes that I have the wherewithal to push its agenda in the 12th Parliament,” he said.

The former Migori mayor is understood to have been among those who were quietly unhappy when the Opposition announced its leadership list during the MPs’ induction workshop in September.

That list had Suba South MP John Mbadi as Minority Leader, Lugari MP Ayub Savula (ANC) as his Deputy, Kathiani MP Robert Mbui (Wiper) as Minority Whip and Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini, Ford-Kenya) as Deputy Whip.

In the new line-up, Mr Mbui is Deputy Minority Leader while Mr Wamalwa retained his position.

The expectation by MPs from the Coast was that the position of Whip was reserved for them given that two MPs from the region, former Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu and former Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, held the post in the last Parliament.

In the absence of a strong contender from the Coast, the natural choice would have been Mr Wamalwa, who is a vocal second-timer who can mobilise MPs as well as handle the technical side of matters in Parliament.

But Mr Wamalwa’s party, Ford-Kenya, did not have a strong showing in the elections.

The Kiminini MP is a moderate when it comes to politics and tends to keep away when the Opposition employs rough tactics in and out of Parliament.
SHORTCHANGED

ANC MPs on Thursday claimed they had been shortchanged.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula led nine MPs from ANC, a wing of Nasa, in criticising the coalition’s leadership, saying the party does not agree with the list presented to the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi by Mr Mbadi.

“We have a coalition agreement in Nasa that treats all the parties as equals. What we want as Nasa members is that this position should be the guiding principle in the allocation of seats even in committees,” he said.

Mr Savula was accompanied by MPs Alfred Agoi (Sabatia), Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), Ms Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga county woman representative), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Tindi Mwale (Butere) and Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya).

At the Coast, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff said the region’s leaders had reached an agreement with Mr Odinga to give the position to them.

“Coast MPs have unanimously agreed to give the Minority Whip position to Suleiman Dori (Msambweni MP),” he said.

ODM MPs have in the past complained of having to sacrifice their ambitions just to keep the coalition partners happy.

The Minority Whip has the responsibility of mobilising members to push the coalition’s agenda in the House and also attend parliamentary group meetings.

Under the Standing Orders, the Minority Whip in the National Assembly is required to communicate to the Speaker in writing the decision of the party regarding the appointment of the coalition’s House leadership.


Senators to probe conduct of police

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Senators will conduct investigations into the conduct of police officers blamed for violent disruptions of demos, deaths and destruction in the last four months.

Lawmakers from both sides of the political divide Thursday agreed on the need for such investigations, arguing that the force used by police against protests was excessive.

Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina complained about the use of excessive force and the fact that the government had not launched investigations into the killings.

“Governments are custodians of public morality and, on account of the deaths the country has witnessed, it should have moved to investigate the circumstances under which Kenyans lost their lives,” Mr Wetang’ula said, to applause from both sides of the House.

However, the investigations may delay as the House is yet to constitute its committees owing to a standoff between Jubilee and the opposition.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka ordered the two main parties to submit lists of their nominees to the 12 panels before the end of business.

This would mean the committees may be approved by Tuesday before the House adjourns for Christmas on Thursday.

Mr Wetang’ula said the conduct of police officers raised issues whose answers must be sought through investigations to be carried out by the Committee on Security.

Some of the issues to be investigated are brutality against protesters, extra-judicial killings, circumstances under which police have been using live bullets to quell demos, whether dreadlocked individuals who have been captured in police uniforms are officers and circumstances that led to police storming University of Nairobi, lobbying tear gas canisters and beating up students and lecturers.


Talk of ‘poaching’ emerges as fights in Nasa flare out

By NATION TEAM
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The Jubilee leadership is torn between negotiating with the Opposition to restore national unity or taking advantage of rivalries between Nasa constituent parties to dismember it.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said Jubilee Party, which is headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is reaching out to all leaders in a bid to unite and reconcile the country after the long and protracted electioneering.

“Jubilee Party will reach out to like-minded leaders across the country, Nasa being one of them, to unite the country after the deeply divisive elections,” Mr Duale told the Nation by phone Thursday.

However, there was also talk of Jubilee capitalising on disagreements in the National Super Alliance coalition, which is led by President Kenyatta’s arch-rival Raila Odinga, over the sharing of parliamentary jobs to split the Opposition.

There are complaints by Coast MPs after the job of Minority Chief Whip went to Suna East MP Junet Mohamed of Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) rather than to a coastal lawmaker as in the last Parliament.

Also complaining are Amani National Congress MPs, who accuse Nasa of short-changing them in the distribution of positions.

ANC is lead by former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, who is also a Nasa co-principal.

Other Nasa affiliates include Wiper Movement, led by former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula-led Ford-Kenya.

Both party chiefs are also Nasa co-principals with the former having been Mr Odinga’s running mate in this year’s presidential election.

“There is talk internally that the Nasa coalition should be split with Wiper, ANC and Ford-Kenya going on their own,” said a top Jubilee member who requested anonymity. “There are also suggestions to bring Coast MPs to our side.”

On the President’s inauguration pledge to unite the country, Mr Duale said: “The President will initiate talks to build a cohesive nation and reconcile differences that have been there, ensure national stability and pave the way for Jubilee to plan for 2022.”

The Garissa Township MP however denied that there was a plot to split the Opposition. He said: “We have no intention of weakening the Opposition. We want a vibrant Opposition so that we can take on each other on issues that will make this country grow.”

Religious leaders and foreign countries have urged President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to cast aside their differences and hold talks to reconcile and unite the nation.

The unease over fears of infiltration by Jubilee is already evident in the row between ANC chairman Kevin Lunani and Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, who was last month replaced by Mr Barrack Muluka as secretary-general.

Mr Lunani on Thursday sent a statement through Mr Mudavadi’s press secretary Kibisu Kabatesi accusing Mr Osotsi of doing Jubilee’s bidding from within ANC.

“The plot to destabilise ANC has wider sinister promptings from Jubilee mandarins, who desire to deny our party leader Mudavadi of a political vehicle for 2022,” said Mr Lunani in the statement. “The script has all the hallmarks of how Jubilee caused instability in UDF after the 2013 elections.”

However, Mr Duale dismissed the allegations against Jubilee, arguing that Nasa was facing problems of poor leadership in Parliament.

“Nasa has fallen because of the leadership of the House and it’s very common with an Opposition, particularly coming soon after they lose an election,” said Mr Duale. “There is always pull and push because, for the next five years, they have to manage succession.

“The Opposition will have issues to address on their 2022 succession. We are not involved. We have no business with them.”

After the 2013 polls, Mr Mudavadi was de-listed from the party, thrown out and rendered partyless until he recovered to form ANC.

DEFAMATORY

The ANC official also accused Mr Osotsi of having not accounted for party funds after he left his seat.

But Mr Osotsi quickly hit back, saying the statement attributed to Mr Lunani was the handiwork of Mr Kabatesi and was “nonsense and defamatory”.

Said Mr Osotsi in Parliament: “It was Kibisu Kabatesi’s statement as an individual. He is not an official of ANC. I have the e-mails he sent to the media and I know he used Lunani’s name.

“I have sent those statements to my lawyers for a defamation case against Kabatesi.”

He asked Mr Kabatesi to “stop using the name of the party and Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi to propagate hate and division in the party.”

He added: “I know he is sulking because he missed out on the party list for nomination and even his adventure to become Vihiga County secretary and lately ANC’s Eala nominee. I’m not an employment bureau to give him a job.”

TITLE DEEDS

The MP alleged attempts to use him as a sacrificial lamb, adding that he had been the secretary-general of Mr Mudavadi’s party for a long time and his loyalty was well known.

On Wednesday, Deputy President William Ruto shared on his social media pages pictures of him hosting Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba at his Karen home, a visit seen by many as the beginning of a political “poaching” journey.

The DP, however, said their talks focused on issuance of title deeds to residents, relocating government facilities to allow expansion of Kitale town and the improvement of health infrastructure.

Mr Khaemba’s visit came just a day after ODM vice-chairman and Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok attended the swearing-in of President Kenyatta on the same day Mr Odinga had a prayer rally at Jacaranda Grounds in Eastlands.

And although he was introduced as having led 29 other county chiefs as the Council of Governors chairman, Mr Nanok’s presence sent tongues wagging.


Netizens ‘advise’ KQ boss Joseph on how to die in Kenya

By AGEWA MAGUT
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Kenyans displayed a macabre sense of humour when they suggested how former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph could get killed.

Following a Wednesday story on an online news website that said Mr Joseph, now Kenya Airways’ board chairman, would like to die in Kenya, citizens did not hesitate to give him strategies on how to make that happen.

Using the hashtag #HelpMJDieInKenya, many suggested ways in which the South African could die, mostly pegged on recent events.

CHOLERA OUTBREAK

These included cholera outbreaks, police brutality and killings of National Super Alliance protesters as well as children, the call by the opposition for boycott of particular brands, the killing of hundreds of cattle in Laikipia County and the murder of businessman Jacob Juma and IEBC digital chief Chris Msando.

Among the first to post was activist Boniface Mwangi, who retweeted the website’s headline.

Boniface Mwangi Verified account @bonifacemwangi tweeted: “That’s very easy. Just take part in a peaceful protest.”
joji poji @jojeepoji posted: “I believe Safaricom Ltd knows some secrets about some political murders … Just call a presser and tell us who killed Msando and Jacob Juma …I swear u won’t even leave that presser without a sniper’s bullet in your head.”

LOVE SAFARICOM

“Take a walk in Kondele and proclaim your love for Safaricom,” said Arch. Martin [email protected]

“Have this guy drive behind you, and you are gone!” @Aboubakar254 wrote and posted a photo of Mr Dennis Muigai Ngengi, the mysterious man reported to have witnessed the accident that claimed the life of Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru last month and the fatal October 21 Lake Nakuru chopper crash.

“Wear a RESIST tee shirt and cap during Nasa demos then run aimlessly waving a polythene bag like a windsock,” said Ferdnand Muganda @fmuganda20.

Milton [email protected] posted: “Change your name to Pendo Moraa Mutinda Onyango Abdulrahman and sit on your balcony.”

Anansi Talaea @AnansiTal recommended: “Go to Weston Hotel and have a three-course meal.”

[email protected] said, “Get a job as a bodyguard for a Supreme Court judge,” in reference to the shooting of Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu’s bodyguard weeks ago. Odula jnr© @odula_odrey chipped in and said, “Go and deliver Brookside milk to Kisumu.”

Ambassador Benjamin Kivulu @bkabeste gave his two cents, “Just visit Nairobi National Park, request the warden to have you kiss one of the lions.”


Booby-traps and landmines – the conditions awaiting Raqqa’s returning residents

Six weeks after fighting subsided in Raqqa city in Syria and surrounding villages, former residents are returning home to find their houses in ruins and their streets and fields littered with unexploded remnants of war including booby-traps, landmines, ammunition and rockets.

In just 10 days from 19 to 28 November, 49 patients with blast injuries arrived at the clinic run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a neighbourhood in the east of Raqqa city.

“When we first visited the Al Meshlab neighbourhood, it was pretty much deserted, but on our latest visit, people were returning slowly to check on their houses,” says Craig Kenzie, leader of MSF’s Raqqa emergency response team.

“Some have found their homes in ruins; others have found dead bodies and explosives in their houses, gardens and streets. Everyone fears setting off booby traps when entering buildings or stepping on something that may explode.”

People with critical injuries face immense difficulties reaching adequate stabilisation and trauma care. With many roads damaged or blocked, it can take one to two hours by ambulance to reach the nearest functioning hospital with surgical capacity. As a result, people with significant injuries are at risk of dying before or during the journey.

Since fighting subsided in Raqqa in mid-October, MSF teams in Tal Abyad hospital – the nearest hospital with surgical capacity to Raqqa city – have treated more than 85 patients with blast injuries. In that same period, MSF teams in nearby Kobanê hospital treated 23 patients wounded by blasts.  

“People we met in Al Meshlab told us that they had fled the neighbourhood months ago, as airstrikes increased and the fighting intensified,” says Kenzie.

“Some were forced out when their houses were used as fighting positions.”  

Among the rubble

“I came back two days ago to find my house had been badly damaged,” said a 45-year-old woman. “I tried to at least get rid of the rubble before bringing the rest of the family back. We still need to rebuild our house, but living in your own damaged house is better than living in a tent, even when the temperature drops below zero and there’s no roof over your head.”

“Two airstrikes hit our house,” said a 28-year-old man. “It’s going to take us months to rebuild it. We have babies in the family and we can’t make them live in these conditions.”

“I heard that my house had been hit, but I didn’t know it was destroyed,” said a 33-year-old man. “I came back yesterday to find that all that’s left is rubble. I can’t afford to rebuild it, so I’ll carry on living in a tent until I can find a way to build my house again.”

“Many of the houses that still stand in Al Meshlab bear the scars of war,” says Kenzie. “They have bullet marks, shattered windows and holes from explosions. The streets are full of rubbish and personal belongings. Many buildings have been ransacked and there are numerous roads blocked with burnt out cars.

“From what we see, the fighting that took place here was extremely intense. There are all kinds of explosive devices among the rubble. The fighting may have stopped, but people are still getting wounded. It’s devastating to see people who have experienced fighting, insecurity and displacement, who have already lost so much, still at risk of injury and death. Our medical teams are ready to respond to the surgical needs of people with catastrophic and life-threatening injuries.

“It’s natural that people forced from their homes by fighting will want to return and find a way to get on with their lives. They face an almost impossible choice: either stay on uncertainly in temporary shelters, often shared with many other families, or return to their own houses in Raqqa. Those who return have to accept the risks and challenges of living in a recent battleground, surrounded by explosives. Educating people about mines can increase their awareness of the dangers and help them weigh up this difficult choice.”

Despite the devastation, returning residents are doing their best to make Al Meshlab habitable again, says Kenzie. “We see people and families returning every day here, starting the enormous job of cleaning up, helping each other to remove the rubble and the barricades of piled-up earth from in front of their doors left over from the street fighting.”

Al Meshlab is just one of many neighbourhoods across Raqqa governorate that need to be made safe and rebuilt so that people can return home without risking their lives. The active fighting in this part of Syria may be over, but the health and humanitarian consequences are likely to be felt for years to come.


Fabled python Omieri back in limelight with exhibition

By COLLINS OMULO
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The gigantic African rock python christened Omieri, which died more than 30 years ago, is set to be unveiled for exhibition to the public at the Nairobi Snake Park on Thursday.

The legendary snake hailed from Nyakach in Kisumu County, where it was rescued.

It will once again be open for public viewing at the Nairobi National Museum, where it had been preserved since it hogged the limelight in 1987 after it was burnt by bush fire.

SHINY COMPLEXION

As it lies on a transparent cubic glass tank filled with industrial methylated alcohol almost to the three-quarter mark, resting on a pedestal almost a metre from the ground, Omieri has, however, lost the distinct dark and shiny complexion of its heyday. It is dark with white spots and scales on all parts of the peeling carcass.

The python, which is coiled with parts of its body close to the head up above the preservative, is now a pale shadow of the enormous reptile that weighed over 75 kilogrammes, although the carcass still bears the burn scars from three decades ago.

“We will put up a text that will tell people about the snake’s history from the point it was discovered to the point it died,” said Mr Albert Otieno, a senior curator at the snake park. “We have stories about it, newspaper cuttings and memoirs.

“We were looking for a postmortem examination report but did not get it because when it died we never got it, and so we are not sure where it is. Moreover, there is a condolence book that was signed but we cannot also find it.”

Mr Otieno said the huge python was taken to the museum for treatment in April 1987 by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers.

It was, however, returned to Kisumu Museum because Nyakach residents claimed its absence had brought them misfortune.
“It was returned to Kisumu Museum, where for a period of time it was not treated, and for fear that it would die, it was brought back here, but it died later, in July 1987,” said Mr Otieno.

He said the fabled serpent was 16-foot long at the time of its death but has probably lost two to three feet while under preservation, where it is immersed in 70 per cent alcohol to stop it from decomposing.

“The moment it dies, what you do is, you make a slit in the lower abdomen and remove the intestines,” Mr Otieno explained. “The slit also allows for the industrial methylated alcohol to sip into the tissues of the animal.

“The normal one that we buy is 94 per cent but we dilute it up to 70 per cent, which is sufficient to preserve any living organism for a period of time as long as it does not come to the surface, which might expose it, leading it to decompose.”

SNAKE HANDLER

According to Mr Elija Kioko, a snake handler at the snake park, a python can grow to between 5.5 metres and 9.8 metres and it darkens with age, with adults being almost black.

He said the huge thicket snake has a sub-triangular head and kills its food, mostly mammals, by constricting them.

“We have three of such pythons here, which we give 50 rabbits every week,” said Mr Kioko. “A huge one can eat three goats at once but that will take it between three and six months without eating again.”

He added that the snake, which is mostly found in areas around Lake Victoria, Malindi, western Kenya and Mwingi (Kitui), has a cultural attachment with residents believing that it is a good omen, especially to women, for whom it improves fertility.

“This snake commands huge respect among the Nyakach people, who believe its appearance portends arrival of heavy rains and a good harvest and that when a woman sees it her fertility is boosted and if it is killed then rain will not fall,” said Mr Kioko.