WHO, West African Ministers of Health Develop Ebola Strategy

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Sarah Joanne Jakubowski, Ghana CorrespondentLast Modified: 13:50 p.m. DST, 07 July 2014

Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Photo by Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

ACCRA, Ghana -- Last week an Emergency Ministerial Meeting was held in Accra to discuss the growing Ebola epidemic.

The disease, which can have up to a 90% fatality rate, started in rural Guinea then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Without intervention, it will continue its international invasion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the proposed strategy to treat, control and prevent Ebola will cost $10 million and would need to be put into place within the next six months.

Representatives called on the African Union and The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the funds.

The plan would set up an Ebola treatment and research center in Guinea as well as smaller centers in other affected areas. Funds will go to training and deploying staff, providing medical equipment and supplies to affected or at-risk regions and educating the public.

An emphasis was placed on research, both to develop treatments and cures and also social research to gauge public understanding and reaction to the disease. However, Africa's research facilities were described as "weak" and a request for global collaboration among scientists was issued.

When asked if border control was a viable solution to control the spread of the disease, the idea of country-wide quarantines was shot down.

Ministry of Health & Social Welfare (MOHSW) Liberia explained that there were so many border crossing points it would be impractical to watch all of them. The Minister went on to say that while his country was able to stop several travelers who were carrying the disease, there were many false positives and possibly cases where infected travelers were not yet showing symptoms and so got through. A key problem was that Ebola can incubate unnoticed for up to 21-days in a seemingly healthy person.

Some traditional practices can help spread diseases, and doctors across the region are urging people to seek assistance from trained doctors or one of the international organizations that are on the ground providing help, education, and intervention. Organizations such as UNICEF Liberia, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Medicins Sans Frontieres.

These organizations in conjunction with local doctors and government health officials urged all West African citizens to take precautions when handling the sick and deceased. Practices involving delayed burials and prolonged contact with the dead facilitate disease spread.

"People don't know what they're dealing with" explained, emphasizing the need to especially educate churches, those whose jobs involve handling the dead, as well as the need to educate family members about Ebola so that the sick can seek immediate treatment to avoid infecting others.

This is a very urgent issue, and though citizens in the West may feel that they are immune from this disease, it takes just one person to breach the borders of any Asia, Middle East, European Union, or North/South American countries for the deadly virus to become a global pandemic.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @SJJakubowski

In Southern India Child Laborers are Given Second Chance at Childhood

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ASIA - Tens of millions of Indian children under the age of 14 are working instead of going to school. It is estimated that 12.6 million children in India are involved in hazardous work such as coal mining, firework manufacturing, and the diamond and silk industries. With the health hazards and physical danger the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said these jobs are unsuitable for anyone under 18.

In the Bangalore region of India the Bangalore Rural Educational and Development Society (BREADS) is working to remedy the staggering amount of child laborers.

BREADS is taking the next step to helping former child laborers and rescued runaways have their childhoods back, with projects such as a Child Help Line, rescue centers in railroad stations, and more than a dozen schools in the area to rehabilitate street children before they are sent to the public school system. They have also established industrial and vocational training centers, orphanages, and shelters to assist people in all walks of life.

These children have resumes longer than most adults—construction worker, servant, brick maker, garment tailor, trash collector, factory worker—the list goes on and on. Their pasts are marked with abuse, addiction, slavery, and abandonment. They are forced into working by their families or for survival after they have been orphaned or abandoned.

Susan Bissell, head of global child protection for UNICEF stated “We understand that many children work to support their families. However, when children are forced into the most dangerous forms of labor, when they then miss school, when they are at risk and their health and well-being are impaired, this is unacceptable.”

Shivu, a boy at a BREADS rehabilitation center in Davangere, was abandoned by his parents at a train station when he was 4. He was taken from the train station by a couple who forced him into domestic labor, not allowing him to go to school. His arm was tattooed with the couple’s address so he could be returned in the event he escaped. After a particularly gruesome night of physical abuse he managed to escape, and with the help of an elderly man, was brought to a BREADS center, where he is now going to school for the first time in his 13 years.

Young girls in the Bangalore area are especially in need of the protection offered by BREADS. Thousands of girls in this area alone are prone to abuse, exploitation, trafficking, child marriage, and temple prostitution, and educating girls is oftentimes given lower priority. Providing assistance to these girls not only removes them from the viscous cycle, it changes the community and helps contribute to a child labor free society in the villages in the Bangalore area.

Matt Pirrall, a humanitarian photographer currently working for BREADS said "Education is the single most important tool to combat the lies that lead to modern day slavery. I can only hope for greater awareness of their plight, to one day bring them the justice that they deserve. With the help of BREADS and the power of education, these children are now happy, healthy, and eager to learn. It is incredible to see the transformation that had taken place in their lives. "

This past year, Germany has stepped in to lend support to these children through BREADS. During German President Joachim Gauck’s visit to India, his wife, Daniela Schadt visited BOSCO Mane school in Bangalore to interact with rescued runaways and met with Railway officials and members of the rescue team. In April the German Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ambassador Peter Prugel, met with staff of BREADS to review child safety net strategies and to get informed with the harsh realities of life on the street.

BREADS is also supported by partners in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and the United States.

At the BREADS rehabilitation centers, little hands once sore from days full of housework now lovingly hold the hands of new brothers and sisters. Little feet once raw from working in the fields barefooted now race from class to class. Little bellies all too familiar with going without food are now filled with unending laughter. These children are given more than just food, shelter, and an education—they’re given safety, security, and the keys to a renewed childhood and a new life.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCElswick

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The Central African Republic Crisis Rages On

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 23:16 p.m. DST, 18 December 2013

CAR Rebel Exercising, Photo by hdptcarCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - I first wrote about the Central African Republic’s deplorable conditions in September, and the situation has worsened since. Luckily, the international community has recently made much larger efforts to step in, intervene, and restore stability but there is still immense and lofty work to be done.

From December 5th through 7th, UNICEF reported that within those 72 hours alone, 60,000 citizens were displaced and 394 were killed. At this point a week ago, the internally displaced persons count had risen to half a million people.

After this extremely deadly period of three days, France finally decided to send in troops to this area and militarily push to end the conflict.

Although international presence may help resolve this conflict in the main hotspots, the destruction and horrors are continuing across the country in small villages and areas isolated from help.

IDP camps are popping up across the country, and as they do, these displaced persons also lack access to adequate shelter, sanitation, food and water. These problems are thus mounting and exponentially piling on top of one another, so more must be done before the damage is irreversible and before more innocent people die.

This international intervention also follows the successful work by the UN and MONUSCO to shut down the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so this could hopefully be a precedent for how to end the rebellious conflict in the Central African Republic. If the UN and its diverse troops were able to tackle several conflicts such as these, this may set a much needed tone for African states that murderous rebels will not be tolerated.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

National Geographic Live! : Too Young to Wed

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:33 AM EDT, 10 July 2012

Many of the post that we feature deal with human rights abuses and in particular women’s rights abuses, as in the case of yesterday’s report of the Afghan woman who was executed. There is no justification for what happened to Najiba; however, to every story there is a back story, and though most people are unable to get beyond the emotional outrage of the act, including me, we often miss the underlying sociological constraints that actuate these reprehensible events.

That is why we have chosen to present this National Geographic video which highlights the work of photographer Stephanie Sinclair and writer Cynthia Gorney who together investigated the world of prearranged child marriage, where girls as young as five who live in remote regions of India, Ethiopia and Yemen among other places, are forced to wed and bear children.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c_zppPutQw&feature=related]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 “Born in 1973, Sinclair is an American photojournalist known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. Sinclair was recently awarded the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant, UNICEF's Photo of the Year and the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism Freelens Award for her extensive work on the issue of child marriage. She contributes regularly to National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Newsweek, Stern, German Geo and Marie Claire among others, and is based in Brooklyn, NY.” (Source: Stephanie Sinclair)

Though we would like to rush in like lions, we have seen time and again this approach is as effective as waving a proverbial magic wand and casting a spell to make the whole situation disappear. We all know this is not possible, but the video above provides compelling insight into why efforts to change abhorrent cultural practices via external pressure has ubiquitously failed.

The Pastor, The Witch, & The Children

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:41 PM EDT, 7 June 2012

A medicine man or witch doctor, working on a fetish in Mopti, Mali 1993, Photo by Peter GaulBRITAIN -- The ugly specter of witch hunting has once again found purchase in the United Kingdom. When Americans or Europeans think of witch hunts they recall a period in European history that lasted from the early 16th Century until the early 18th Century and sporadically thereafter.

The countries with the most notable and bloodthirsty trials and the highest number of victims, in descending order are Germany, Sweden, Scotland, America, and England. (Source: Hanover College, Department of History)

Historians and sociologist remain divided on the exact reasons why the citizens of these countries embarked on campaigns to eradicate ‘witches,’ who were primarily identified as women, though men and children were also victims.

Some have suggested that witchcraft was used as a means of subjugating the population to force them to accept Christianity. While others believe that it was a combination of misogyny and Gendercide, however, both agree that it was a combination of factors including mass hysteria and a desire to explain sociological problems such as poverty, plagues, and unexplained deaths.

400 years later witch hunts have once again returned to the U.K. through an unlikely conduit. On 4 March 2012 in London, Kirsty Bamu, a young, Central African Republic (CAR) native was brutally murdered by family members after being accused of being a witch. He was beaten over a period of several days as part of a 'exorcism,' before finally succumbing to death by drowning. There are thousands of African children who are suffering similar fates throughout Britain.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRqrGHA-Azs&feature=related]  "A phenomenon which was eradicated in Europe in the early 18th century is now raging across Africa, where according to UNICEF children between ages 4 and 14 are increasingly accused of practicing witchcraft. With the exception of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the urban phenomenon of child witches occurs principally in the Congo Basin, more precisely, in areas of Kongo culture (Yengo, 2008).

It is no coincidence that these countries, Angola, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have also suffered from political instability, endless conflicts and civil wars, and the recruitment of child soldiers. The phenomenon appears to be gaining ground in countries that are geographically close (Cameroon, CAR, Gabon and Nigeria; Liberia and Sierra Leone).

The last decades of the twentieth century were particularly hard for the majority of sub‐Saharan African countries, which have suffered an acute and multiform crisis (social, economic, political and cultural). While a small number of individuals gained wealth rapidly, most people sank into a quagmire of poverty. Furthermore, the social changes that followed the rise of capitalism, urbanization and school attendance had a profound effect on the family, kinship relations and inter‐generational relations. In these circumstances, it is obvious that there were strong tensions between the elderly and the youth, brothers and sisters (in the widest sense), and also one’s cousins." (Source: UNICEF Report Pg. 19 -24)

Although, it is a complex issue, the prevailing belief which seems to be confirmed by news coverage, is that cases of adults in Africa being accused of witchcraft are usually the result of a dispute over inheritance or someone's desire to get that person out of the way. In fact, in the Central African Republic the government legalized the hunt for witches by instituting laws which allow the police to arrest, charge and prosecute women who have been accused of practicing witchcraft. Many of these women languish in prison for years simply because they angered a male.

In the case of ‘child witches,’ in addition to the sociological stresses outlined in the UNICEF report, much of the violence seems to be instigated by ‘ministers’ who preach a Prosperity Theology. A branch of Word of Faith movement, it is sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel, and is a Christian religious doctrine which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth. (Source: Wikipedia)

Since children are unable to defend themselves, it is easy for church 'pastors' to level charges against them while simultaneously extorting money from their families who are desperate to remove the perceived evil in their midst. These religious leaders are able to enslave people with their perfidious assertions that these curses can potentially be removed through a large donation.

Once accused, the children do not stand a chance and are subsequently subjected to inconceivable methods of child abuse which are euphemistically labeled as ‘exorcisms.’ Subsequently, when these religious leader proclaim that the inhuman measures have failed to cast out the evil from the child, these precious victims are then thrown out into the street and left to die, or are tortured and killed.

This heinous practice that is spreading across Africa is unfortunately motivated by Christian extremists who are intent upon lining their pockets versus tending to the spiritual needs of their flock. We encourage you to watch the video reports at the links below to learn more about this horrific phenomenon, as well as familiarize yourself with the history of witch hunts and witch trials in Renaissance Europe.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Virgin Cleansing Myth

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:16 PM EDT, 9 February 2012

Photo by Nicole Hinrichs - All Rights ReservedNEW DELHI, India – Yesterday we wrote about the scandal of three Indian politicians watching pornography during a parliament session. Today, Indian is once again in the news but in a slightly more positive light.

South African peace activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Noble Peace Prize winner, is now chairman of ‘The Elders.” This group is comprised of prominent people of diverse backgrounds and heritage who are dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues from around the world.

Tutu, 80, is spearheading a global movement called “Girls Not Brides” which is aimed at ending child marriages. We have focused a lot of attention on this issue because this practice has such a deleterious impact on its victims. Child brides are subjected to rape, fistulas, physical and psychological abuse, and murder often condoned by the community as the right of the husband because of a lack of a dowry or as an honor killing.

Tutu told Reuters late Wednesday that "India is doing fantastically.” But intimated that the country’s growth and role as a significant world player could increase exponentially if it “enlisted the participation of 50 percent of the population,’ which means Women. The problem of marginalization, discrimination, abuse and murder of women is not unique to India.

Child marriages are most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, but also occurs in the United States. Though many countries have laws on the books prohibiting this practice, most of the families that engage in this type of behavior live in remote regions of the country where the police have, in their opinion, more pressing concerns than what they consider to be a ‘family matter.’

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade. Most will be in sub-Saharan Africa countries, some of which are (Mali, DRC, Mozambique, Eritrea, Ethiopia) and the Asian Subcontinent countries, some of which are (Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). In Niger, for example, 74.5% of women in their early 20s were married as children. In Bangladesh, 66.2% were. Child marriage also occurs in parts of the world including the United States and the Middle East. (Source: ICRW)

According to UNICEF, an estimated 14 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. Because their bodies have not fully developed they are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s. Girls who marry between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and their infants are 60 percent more likely to die. (Source: UNICEF)

In India, 47 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the legal age of 18 according to the government's latest National Family Health Survey. Tutu, who is traveling in India with other Elders, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was Norway's first prime minister, believes that this type of inequality is a definite impediment to increased socioeconomic development.

Tutu has been a vociferous campaigner on the issues of fighting HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has plagued his own country, South Africa. In numerous interviews he asserts his belief that girls married off to older men, have little control over their sex lives and thus are more likely to be infected by HIV/AIDS as a consequence.

This is especially true in South Africa, where older men who lack access to proper healthcare resort to raping female babies and infant girls. This abhorrent practice is known as the Virgin Cleansing Myth “that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease.(Source: Wikipedia)

There are many issues that must be addressed worldwide in an effort to achieve gender equality.  We don’t believe that ‘gender equality’ equates with ‘gender sameness.’ Women and men are uniquely created to complement each other and we believe this is healthy. It is only when one or the other, but in the case of this post, when a man chooses to exert control over a woman and to rob her of her natural right to self-determination, that we must stand up in one voice and denounce the perpetrators.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Tutu, The Elders, and NGOs are doing their part to increase global awareness of the practice of child marriages. We can support these campaigns at a grassroots level through donations, writing and blogging about this issue, or just reaching out to a woman in need in your community. To achieve gender equality at all levels of society we must do all that we can in support of the development of 50 percent of humanity. Women.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

The 'Opt Out' Mom

Most parents know the admixture of fear and excitement that precedes the arrival of a new family member. Whether biological, surrogate or adoptive, a thousand questions haunt us: Will we be good parents? Can we avoid the mistakes we feel that our parents made? Will the child be healthy? Will we have the capacity to love and nurture the child often at the expense of our needs and desires? Do we have the strength and stamina to see this through to the end which may mark our waning tenure on planet earth? Of course this is not an exhaustive list, and people by virtue of their individual life experiences, personality, emotional landscape and thought processes may categorize these feelings differently, yet the basic essence remains the same. We are human, and as such recognize our fallibility. But for those who desire to procreate and to experience the challenge and accomplishment of unconditional love we push through these doubts to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

One does not have to give birth a child to become a mother or provide the sperm that fertilizers an egg to become a father. Certainly, this is one means by which people can become parents, but just as many people choose surrogacy and adoption. Out of the millions of people who choose the latter, there exist an incalculable number of great parents who open their hearts so completely that the love and care they exhibit toward their children is indistinguishable from that of biological parents.

Unfortunately, far too many children fall prey to parents who are emotionally and spiritually stunted. These individuals join the rank and file of a cadre for whom the desire for children is commoditized to meet the procurer's need for psychological or physical dominance, conformance with societal norms, free labor, or sex. I am intimately acquainted with the trauma a bad parent can inflict upon a child. During my childhood, my father's hatred toward me manifested in both emotional and physical abuse which took years for me to process. Through intensive psychotherapy I continue to process and reconcile a world which had been turned inside out by the shortcomings of my seemingly omnipotent parental figure.

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