Daily Archives: November 4, 2018

Somali Towns Get Health Care After 30 Years of War

GENEVA, The UN Migration Agency has begun providing life-saving health care to two Somali towns previously inaccessible because of war and conflict.

Tens of thousands of people in the towns of Gobweyn and Bulla Gaduud have been deprived of life-saving health care for nearly three decades. These areas have been too dangerous for aid workers to reach because of the never-ending cycles of war and conflict in the area.

In recent months, International Organization for Migration spokesman, Joel Millman says government forces have succeeded in subduing the armed groups that have made life a misery for local inhabitants. This, he says has opened up these areas to outside help.

For the past 27 years, war and conflict have made healthcare access difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Now these communities have access to vaccinations, malaria treatment, antenatal care for pregnant mothers, malnutrition screenings and referrals, among other essential services,” Millman said.

Millman says aid agencies who finally were able to reach these towns were dismayed by the prevailing conditions. He says they found high levels of malnutrition and extremely poor immunization coverage.

Because the towns had no humanitarian services, he says many people had abandoned their villages. He says they were living in overcrowded settlements in far-away urban centers where medical care was available.

He says it is likely many of these displaced people will decide to return to their communities now that the life-saving aid they need can be had closer to home.

Source: Voice of America

Tanzanian Government Distances Itself from Calls for LGBTQ Crackdown

Nearly a week after a local administrator called for a crackdown on gay people living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city, the government is distancing itself from his remarks.

Paul Makonda, a regional commissioner in Dar es Salaam, asked the public to send him the names of anyone suspected of being gay so a task force could track them down and arrest them. Hundreds of names have been submitted so far, according to Makonda.

In a statement published Sunday in Swahili on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation’s website, the government said Makonda’s call is only his opinion and not reflective of the country’s official stance.

In the statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the government would continue to respect all international agreements on human rights that have been signed and ratified.

But it fell short of condemning Makonda’s remarks or addressing whether the arrests, planned to begin Monday, would be halted.

‘People are afraid’

Human rights groups have denounced Makonda’s call, which has left gay communities in Dar es Salaam, and beyond, fearful of their safety.

We’ve been in touch with LGBTI activists in Tanzania, and it is a total state of fear, Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, told VOA. People are afraid for their lives; people are afraid for their safety. They are hiding. Some of them have moved into some of their own communities or have gone into hiding in other places. They are quite apprehensive about the situation.

Tanzania is one of 35 countries in Africa that outlaws homosexuality, according Amnesty International U.K. In Mauritania, Sudan, and parts of northern Nigeria and southern Somalia, homosexuality is punishable by death.

The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam issued a security alert Saturday for Americans living in the city and cautioned that they remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity.

Planned counseling

Speaking to VOA’s Swahili service after his remarks, Makonda stood by his remarks and reiterated that homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 30 years in jail.

But he said the intention wasn’t to punish people with jail time, but rather to help them with counseling. We have a team of doctors and psychologists to help them to change, Makonda said.

That’s done little to assuage fears. Magango said the commissioner’s call could stoke vigilante justice, endangering people even if the government doesn’t go through with its arrest plans.

By making such inflammatory remarks, politicians are giving a carte blanche to people to pursue vendettas to go against people who are suspected of being gay people and LGBTI, Magango said.

Tanzania’s LGBTQ communities have Amnesty’s full support, Magango added.

We will stand with them. We would advocate for their rights. Basically, we wish them all the best and to organize and to stand up and ensure that they have each other’s backs, Magango said. Because if this onslaught is not against one of them, then it’s against the whole community of people who have no one and just want to live their lives and pursue their lives in peace.

Source: Voice of America