Women Detail Alleged Assaults by Ugandan Security Personnel

One month after election-related violence in northern Uganda, two women who say they were brutally assaulted by security officers are still recovering from their injuries. The government has questioned the women’s claims while stopping short of an explicit denial.
Jane Abola and Asara Night were part of the campaign team for Kasiano Wadri, an opposition candidate in a by-election for a parliament seat. During a final planning meeting at a hotel in the Arua municipality on the evening of August 13, opposition legislators reportedly were forced to run and hide at the sound of gunshots.
Abola says she ran into a bathroom, but was pulled out roughly and attacked by security officers on the order of a regional police commander. The officers demanded she tell them the whereabouts of legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine.
“He started kicking me, beating me with those sticks of theirs, their batons, the gun, pricking me with the barrel of the gun, using the butt of the gun,” Abola said of the officers. “At one point he jumped on my back, said ‘[I] am going to kill you if you don’t tell me where Bobi Wine is.'”
An X-ray shows Abola now has damaged vertebrae in her lower back and needs immediate surgery. However, she does not have the $5,000 required to pay for the operation.
Asara Night says soldiers cornered her in the same hotel that evening and beat her.
“It was like, for those soldiers, today is our day,” she said. “It reached a point I could not now realize the pain on my body, because it was too much. I could not now shout, I could not talk. They were just beating. Now when they realized I was not shouting, the only thing, they just had to carry me like a sack from the hotel. They threw me through the window outside. That’s where I was carried to be thrown in the vehicle of the police.”
Night now wears braces on her back, hand and knee, and has constant headaches.
The alleged beatings took place after an incident in which protesters threw stones at the convoy of President Yoweri Museveni, who was in the area campaigning for the ruling party candidate.
Museveni has come under increasing criticism, both at home and abroad, for his government’s heavy-handed response to any dissent. Bobi Wine, the president’s most prominent critic, was arrested last month and charged with treason before leaving for the United States to receive medical treatment.
Abola and Night maintain that their group did not cross paths with the president’s on August 13, because Wadri’s rally that night was in a different location in Arua. Both remain in Kampala hospitals, recovering from their injuries.
No Ugandan official has specifically denied the women’s allegations. Last week, however, Museveni said that anyone who alleged torture by security personnel would need to prove it in court.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo says the Arua incidents are regrettable and that action is being taken.
“When those soldiers, when those policemen eventually appear before the respective disciplinary committees, those committees, those disciplinary procedures will be transparent, will be public,” Opondo said.
The Uganda Law Society, in its quarterly report released Tuesday, condemned what it called the inhuman and cruel actions by security personnel in the Arua incident.

Source: Voice of America

Somali Girls’ Deaths Spur More Calls to End FGM

A spate of deaths of young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) has renewed calls for Somalia to outlaw the tradition.
Four girls, ages 10 and 11, from central and northern Somalia have died in the last three months after having been cut, and seven others are in hospitals, activists said.
“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a local women’s group in the east African country.
“These cases confirm what we have been saying all along — that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it,” Mohamed said. “The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”
An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, the United Nations says.
One of 28 African countries where the tradition is endemic, Somalia has the world’s highest rates of FGM — 98 percent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone the ritual.
Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing voters who view FGM as a part of their tradition.
Government and hospital officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths or hospital admissions.
The charity Save the Children said it rescued seven girls — aged between 5 and 8 years old — on Sunday from Somalia’s northern Puntland state. The girls had undergone FGM and were bleeding excessively; they are now receiving hospital treatment.
“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more cases go unreported,” said Timothy Bishop, country director of Save the Children in Somalia.
Campaigners said Suheyra Qorane Farah, 10, from Puntland died Sunday after contracting tetanus, having undergone FGM on Aug. 29.
Two sisters, Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, age 10 and 11, from the same region bled to death Sept. 11 after visiting a cutter across the border in neighboring Ethiopia.
The death of Deeqa Nuur, 10, in July from severe bleeding following FGM prompted the attorney general to initiate Somalia’s first prosecution against FGM — using existing laws — but the investigation has faced challenges.

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.
“A specific law can express punishments and specify stiffer penalties, ensure that all accomplices are held accountable, and gives guidance on the kind of evidence needed to prove the crime,” she said.

Source: Voice of America

US Unveils New Biodefense Strategy

U.S. President Donald Trump introduced the new national strategy for combating disease outbreaks and bioterrorism Tuesday, on the anniversary of the 2001 anthrax attacks on the United States that left five people dead.
In a statement, the president said, “Biological threats emanate from many sources, and they know no borders.”
In the 2001 attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to two Democratic U.S. senators and several news media outlets. Five people died in the attacks, and another 17 were infected by exposure to the spores. The identity of the person responsible for the letters was never discovered, although the prime suspect, a government scientist, committed suicide in 2008.
This year’s strategy, the president said, builds on lessons learned from past biological incidents, including not only the anthrax attacks but the 2009 U.S. outbreak of influenza and the Ebola virus epidemic that killed thousands of people in West Africa in 2014.
Trump said he has authorized Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to serve as the federal lead in coordinating implementation of the national strategy. He said he has also established a cabinet-level biodefense steering committee, and directed National Security Adviser John Bolton to review threats and prioritize biodefense actions annually.
In a news briefing Tuesday, Azar told reporters that biological threats are “very real, and they’re growing.” He said this year’s strategy is the first by the U.S. to include naturally occurring threats.
Previously, the national biodefense strategy focused on the weaponization of biological threats by enemy forces. But Bolton told reporters at the briefing that there is no “particular immediate threat” of a biological attack.
Cuts to funding
Ashley Arabasadi, chair of the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium, told VOA on Tuesday that her collective welcomes the release of the strategy after several delays. However, she said in an email, “the administration’s actions do not match its words.”
She said the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts health security funding to the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and withdraws unspent funding for Ebola defense.
“Without funds, we cannot continue to implement the programs on the ground and ensure that we are making the world [and the U.S.] safer from infectious disease threats whether natural, man-made, accidental, or intentional,” she said.
The Global Health Security Agenda Consortium is an international group of nongovernmental organizations that promotes cooperation on world health security needs and defends against infectious threats.

Source: Voice of America

Gates Foundation Report Says Demographic Trends Threaten Global Progress, Calls for Increased Focus on Health and Education in Poorest Countries

Bill and Melinda Gates say investing in young people could unlock productivity and innovation

SEATTLE, Sept. 18, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched its second annual Goalkeepers Data Report, pointing to demographic trends that could stall unprecedented progress in reducing global poverty. While 1 billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty over the past 20 years, rapid population growth in the poorest countries, particularly in Africa, puts future progress at risk. If current trends continue, the number of extremely poor people in the world could stop its two-decade decline—and could even rise.

Despite the sobering projections, Bill and Melinda Gates express optimism that today’s growing youth populations could help drive progress. Investing in the health and education of young people in Africa could unlock productivity and innovation, leading to a “third wave” of poverty reduction, which follows the first wave in China and the second in India.

“The conclusion is clear: To continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest-growing, poorest countries,” Bill and Melinda Gates write in the introduction. “This means investing in young people. Specifically, it means investing in their health and education.”

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data 2018 was co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Using new data projections, the report reveals that poverty within Africa is concentrating in just a handful of countries, which are among the fastest-growing in the world. By 2050, more than 40 percent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

In the past, large youth populations have helped drive economic growth and poverty reduction. The report makes the case for leaders to invest in the power and potential of youth to continue progress. Through essays by experts and journalists, the report examines promising approaches in health and education, highlighting ways that young people could help transform the continent. According to the report, investments in health and education, or “human capital,” in sub-Saharan Africa could increase GDP in the region by more than 90 percent by 2050.

Each year, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion, and sanitation. IHME projections provide three potential scenarios for indicators: better and worse scenarios based upon accelerating or reducing the rate of progress, and projections based upon current trends. This year’s report examines four topics in greater depth:

  • The Family Planning chapter includes an essay by Alex Ezeh, a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. The essay focuses on the importance of empowering women so they can exercise their fundamental right to choose the number of children they will have, when they will have them, and with whom. Ezeh notes that according to data from the United Nations, Africa’s population is projected to double in size by 2050 and could double again by 2100. If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa were empowered to have the number of children she wants, the projected population increase could be up to 30 percent smaller, from 4 billion to 2.8 billion. Most critically, this would enable more girls and women to expand their horizons, stay in school longer, have children later, earn more as adults, and invest more in their children. The chapter also explores how a novel family planning program in Kenya is providing young women with access to contraceptives.
  • The HIV chapter includes modeling by Imperial College London for what Zimbabwe’s HIV epidemic might look like in 2050 and, thus, what the nation’s overall future holds. Its large number of young people have the potential to drive economic growth, but only if they remain healthy. More than half of Zimbabweans are under 25 years old and reaching the age when they are most at risk for HIV infection. If Zimbabwe scales up currently available prevention tools over the next five years, it could see new infections among 15- to 29-year-olds drop by a third within a decade. The introduction of new prevention tools by 2030, including a highly efficacious vaccine, could further reduce new cases to approximately 400 per year. Together, these interventions could avert up to 364,000 new cases of HIV among young people.
  • The Education chapter includes an essay by Ashish Dhawan, chairman of the Central Square Foundation in India. Although more students in low- and lower-middle-income countries are enrolled in school today than ever before, many are not learning what they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the strategy for improving school outcomes is not as clear-cut as the strategy for improving school access. The chapter examines Vietnam’s success in achieving system-wide improvements. Though the country’s per capita GDP is only slightly higher than India’s, Vietnam’s 15-year-olds outperform students from wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom on international tests.
  • The Agriculture chapter includes analysis by James Thurlow, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, estimating that by doubling agricultural productivity, Ghana could cut poverty in half, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and drive economic growth. An essay by a local journalist follows the journey of a tomato from a field in rural Burkina Faso to a plate in Ghana, illustrating how many jobs it creates along the way.

Bill and Melinda Gates will produce the Goalkeepers Data Report every year through 2030, timing it to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. The report is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners, and leaders around the world accountable. It aims to document not just what is working, but where the world is falling short.

In conjunction with the report, Bill and Melinda Gates are once again co-hosting the Goalkeepers event in New York City during the UN General Assembly. On September 26, dynamic young leaders from government, business, technology, media, entertainment, and the nonprofit sector will discuss innovations and approaches to achieve the Global Goals. Participants include young leaders like David Sengeh, chief innovation officer for the government of Sierra Leone; Trisha Shetty, Indian lawyer, social activist, and founder of SheSays; King Kaka, Kenyan musician and activist; and Aranya Johar, Indian spoken word poet. Other speakers include Graça Machel, international advocate for women and children’s rights and co-founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Richard Curtis, writer, campaigner, and Project Everyone co-founder; and Stephen Fry, actor, writer, and presenter. Performers include British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Additional speakers will be announced soon.

Co-hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards will be presented on September 25, the evening before the Goalkeepers daytime event. In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF, the awards will celebrate outstanding youth-focused work around the world that is directly linked to the 17 Global Goals. The four award categories include the Progress Award, Changemaker Award, Campaign Award, and Global Goalkeeper Award.

Notes to Editors

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About Goalkeepers
Goalkeepers is the foundation’s campaign to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). By sharing stories and data behind the Global Goals through events and an annual report, we hope to inspire a new generation of leaders—Goalkeepers who raise awareness of progress, hold their leaders accountable, and drive action to achieve the Global Goals.

About the Global Goals
On September 25, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). These are a series of ambitious objectives and targets to achieve three extraordinary things by 2030: end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

Media Contact: media@gatesfoundation.org
Report Link: http://gatesfoundation.org/goalkeepers/report

UN: Widespread Violations in Burundi May Amount to Crimes Against Humanity

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi accused the country of persistent and widespread violations of human rights, some of which it says constitute crimes against humanity.
The Commission presented its final report on the situation in Burundi to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. It says violations — which include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and sexual violence — are used by the government and its allies to bend the Burundian people to its will.
The Commission accuses members of the National Intelligence Service, including senior officials and the police, of serious violations. It also expresses concern about the growing role played by the youth militia, the Imbonerakure, in controlling the population.
Commission member Francoise Hampson says the Burundian state is to blame for the wrongful acts committed by the Imbonerakure, since it exercises overall effective control.
“The climate of disregard for human rights in Burundi continues to be fomented by repeated calls for hatred and violence by authorities, including the head of state … and by an overall context of impunity,” she said. “The judiciary in Burundi is not independent, and has not been so for several years.”
The government of Burundi has refused to cooperate with the Commission, declaring its members persona non grata. The Commission has collected more than 400 testimonial accounts from victims and witnesses in neighboring countries, as well as remotely from Burundians residing in the country.
The Commission is appealing to the U.N. Council to renew its mandate for one more year, especially in light of the preparation for the 2020 elections. It notes the number of serious human rights violations that occurred in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for and won a controversial third term.
Burundi’s Ambassador to the U.N. RenovatTabu rejected the report, calling it false, politically motivated, insulting and derogatory. He says the report is scandalous and a flagrant violation of Burundi’s sovereignty.

Source: Voice of America