FRW news in brief

    | February 10, 2014

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    1-United Nations: Every child counts

    About 140 million girls and women around the world are victims of a harmful cultural practice known as female genital mutilation, also called FGM or genital cutting, according to a UNICEF report.

    UNICEF states that problems such as violence, child marriage and FGM are still widespread. Its report, released last week, states that one in five girls between infancy and 15 years of age is subjected to FGM in sub-Saharan Africa. The UN general assembly passed a resolution in 2012 demanding greater efforts to eliminate the practice.

    The report, released ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also highlights that, globally, one in ten girls marries before the age of 15.

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    2-South Sudan: Urgent food aid needed

    Over three and a half million South Sudanese need immediate food aid, according to the UN.

    Toby Lanzer is the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan. He says a third of the country’s people have been displaced by civil conflict, and are in urgent need of food.

    The dispute in Africa’s youngest nation, which began in December 2013, has pushed South Sudan to the brink of civil war, despite ongoing peace talks and a ceasefire agreement. Mr. Lanzer says $1.3 billion is needed to deal with the food crisis, with nearly 900,000 people displaced because of the fighting.

    Health care is also threatened in South Sudan. The international NGO Médecins Sans Frontières says 240 of its staff members had to flee into the bush because of insecurity in Unity State, the scene of clashes between government and rebel groups.

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    3-Tanzania: Three journalists acquitted of sedition

    The former managing editors of Mwananchi and Tanzania Daima newspapers and one journalist were acquitted of sedition last week in a Dar es Salaam court.

    Government lawyers had accused journalist Samson Mwigamba of writing a seditious article which, they claimed, called on Tanzanian security forces not to obey elected leaders. The two editors, Absalom Kibanda and Theophil Makunga, were charged after publishing the article in their newspapers. All three were acquitted by Senior Resident Magistrate Warielwande Lema.

    Her ruling stated that witnesses couldn’t prove any member of the security forces had disobeyed their superiors as a result of the article. The ruling can be seen as a victory for freedom of the press in a country where the 1976 Newspaper Act gives government the right to shut down newspapers for publishing what it considers seditious material.

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    4-Kenya: Irrigation scheme offers solutions but raises questions

    Pastoralist and farming communities in Kenya’s Kilifi and Tana River counties are wondering why they weren’t involved in the planning process for a massive, multi-million dollar irrigation plan.

    The new 400,000 hectare Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project is expected to focus on producing crops, livestock and fish for domestic and international markets, according to the UN’s humanitarian news service, IRIN.

    The government of Kenya is financing the first phase of the project for $42 million US. But disputes between the region’s pastoralist and farming communities have raised doubts about whether the money will actually benefit the farmers and herdsmen.

    According to IRIN, there are concerns in some quarters that the funds are more likely to line the pockets of government officials in one of the least developed areas of Kenya.

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