Tag Archives: Aid and development

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

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By Baher Kamal

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Continue reading on IPS

By Baher Kamal

Africa: EU uses development funds for migration control

Military equipment, police tranining, centers for repatriated migrants and computerized systems for the collection of digital fingerprints that will guarantee, in Europe, the identification of the country of origin of migrants therefore making easier their expulsion. The objective: control the migrations from Africa and reinforce for this scope the governments of the countries of origin and transit of those who would want to cross the Mediterranean.

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After more than a year from its creation, the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has allocated over 600 million euro for these types of projects. The Trust Fund has been criticized because it finances projects in countries with dictatorship and regimes accused of crimes against humanity, like Sudan and Eritrea. Following the mobilization of Ngo’s like Oxfam and Concord, the European Parliament also denounced that the Trust Fund – 2.8 million as of today – has been filled up with money funded by the Union for the fight against poverty. Which, this way, risks to be emptied.

The Relocation of the Funds

One of the first acts of the European Agenda on migration was the convocation of a Euro-African summit, in October 2015 at Valletta. In such occasion, the leaders of the European countries created the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, an instrument outside of the control of the European Parliament, with the objective of rapidly financing initiatives to “confront the deep-seated causes of irregular migration.”

Today, the Trust Fund has an endowment of 2.8 billion euro, almost 95% taken from instruments of the Union devoted to cooperation and humanitarian aid, in particular, from the European Development Fund, while only 152 million euro are from funds freshly added by the countries of the Union. The 2016 Report of the Trust Fund lists 106 projects approved to date for almost 1.6 billion euro. They are principally managed by public agencies of cooperation for the development of European countries and international organizations like IOM and UNHCR, but also in some cases, by private agencies like the subsidiary of the French Ministry of the Interior, Civipol.

The refusal of the Community of Sant’Egidio

In Mali, country in which development is so tied to the remittances of migrants (800 million dollars arrived solely in 2016 through official channels) to have a ministry for Malians abroad, the Trust Fund has approved a project of 25 million euro to consolidate the civil status registry that anticipates the creation of a computer archive of biometric data, or in other words digital fingerprints and other biological characteristics “to be used – one reads in the action document – for the identification of Malian migrants abroad in irregular situations.”

That is, to favor repatriation. The same project will be realized in Senegal with 28 million euro. In both countries, the funds will be managed by the Belgian development cooperatin agency and by Civipol, which will take care of the computerization of the archive. The Community of Sant’Egidio, which initially had agreed to work as a consultant for the two projects, told us that they have withdrawn their adhesion. This happened because the initiative for the creation of the civil status registries, presented for various African countries, was only approved for Mali and Senegal, where Sant’Egidio does not have a sufficient presence on the territory, and not in Burkina Faso where the program for free child registration of the Community would have need of a new impulse.

We do not know why the project was approved by the Trust Fund in Mali and Senegal and not in Burkina Faso where Sant’Egidio would need the money to continue its work in favor of the protection of children’s rights against violations such as child marriages. We know, however, that unlike Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal are (together with Nigeria, Ethiopia and Niger) countries considered a priority by the EU for the  stipulation of agreements within the Migration Partnership Framework.

The critics of the European Parliament

“This way, one risks concentrating the aid towards the countries geographically interested by the routes towards Europe, forgetting the poorer countries”: Elly Schlein, Italian member of the European Parliament, claims in regard to the Trust Fund. “The objective of the cooperation for development is only one: the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality. I would like to understand how projects that are all aimed towards border management can reduce poverty and inequality. It seems to me that vice versa they risk further growth”, she says Schlein, who leads a working group on Migration and Refugee in the Development Committee of the European Parliament, adds. 7

Schlein’s affirmations are shared by the European Parliament, which has criticized the Commission for having “subtracted allocations for the objectives and the principles of the fundamental acts in order to distribute them through the Trust Fund,” denouncing how this represents “a violation of the financial rules and compromises the long term strategies of the Union.” In essence, the Trust Fund, though handling several billion euro of public funds, is not subject to the control of the democratically elected organ of the Union.

To the question posed to the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, his spokesperson answered affirming that “the European Union recognizes a tie between security and development” and that the support, as of now, concretizes in different ways, including the formation of law enforcement and their equipment “with the exclusion of lethal equipment.” In reference to the relocation of the funds, he objects, “The operation Trust Fund is in line with our procedures” and he lays claim to the transparency of the Trust Fund, citing the annual published report.

The Discrepancies in the Report of the Trust Fund

The interventions of the Trust Fund are distinguished on the basis of four priorities: the first two, or rather “economic development” and “resilience,” require actions linked to the fight against poverty, like the creation of jobs and the offer of aid to the populations in difficulty, but the objectives 3 “management of migration” and 4 “governance” – that absorb almost 40% of the resources of the approved projects – refer to interventions in favor of repatriation and the fight against irregular migration. Analyzing the 2016 Report of the Trust Fund, we noticed that the total per objective of the projects’ amounts, according to our calculations, did not correspond to the tables published in the first part.

Underlining this discrepancy to the team of the Trust Fund, we were told that this happens because the funds destined to projects having more than one objective have been considered by the authors of the report as corresponding wholly to the first objective cited; this way, in the report, the total of objectives 3 and 4 on migration management, results lower in respect to the results that we obtained dividing equally among the objectives.

The Trust Fund and the new routes

Philippe Renault, director of the French agency of cooperation (AFD) – that in Niger manages along with Civipol the project “Support to justice, security and the management of the frontiers” worth 30 million euro – wants to underline what distinguishes the actions of the cooperative agency from those of the private company, “We work towards the strengthening of the Nigerian agency for the fight against irregular migration while Civipol supports the police and law enforcement.”

“Unlike Civipol,” he adds, “we put our funds at the disposition of the Nigerian government through the responsible ministry.” The project, that allocates 20 million euro to the government as “support to the budget”, 6 to AFD and 4 to Civipol, aims to apply law 36/2015 against human trafficking. Issued by the Nigerian government, after pressure from Europe, this law in the last months, on one side, has resulted in a reduction of departures towards Libya from the Nigerian region of Agadez, also called the “door of the desert” for its strategic position along the routes of the Sahara, on the other, in the establishment of dangerous alternatives that pass through Mali and Chad.

“The alternative routes, created after the closing of the traditional passages, avoid urban centers and are therefore more dangerous,” adds Olivier Neola, head of EUCAP Sahel Niger, the mission of the European Commission to assist and sustain the security forces in the country. “Thanks to the experience we have accumulated on the territory, we collaborate on the projects of the Trust Fund for security,” Neola affirms. This happened for the project worth 41.6 million euro for the creation of “rapid response units” within the law enforcement  of five countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad) managed by the Spanish cooperative agency FIIAPP. According to the tentative budget that was published, 28 million euro are destined for the equipment of law enforcement.

Meanwhile, the recommendation of the Parliament on the necessity of not changing the scope of the funds already allocated seems to have been ignored by the Commission, that in September presented the project of a European Fund for Sustainable Development, to promote private investments in the countries with whom there is an interest in signing agreements, to facilitate migration control and repatriation. It is a fund of 1 billion euros managed by the European Investment Bank, that would receive a contribution from the European Union of 750 million in cash for the guarantee. Of the 750 million euro in cash expected to form it, 400 of which should to be taken, once more, from the European Development Fund. This way, the Fund established in 1957 to favor the escape from poverty of the ex colonies, which has become the principal European instrument for the fight against poverty (30.5 billion euro in the period 2014-2020), is always more often used to keep citizens of these countries away from the European Fortress.

By Ludovica Jona

This investigation report – Diverted Aid – has been funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) via its “Innovation in Development Reporting Grant“.

In Niger and Mali among migrants returning back from Libya

Niamey, Bamako – As of several months ago, in Niger as in Mali, two of the principal stops of the itinerary of the migrants of the Sub-Saharan Africa towards Europe, the routes and stories of the people journeying are changing. In fact, following the arrival of the initial financing of the EU Trust Fund for Africa, created at the Euro-African meeting at Valletta in November 2015, these countries’ migratory policies are adapting to the requests of the European Union to stop or at lease contain the flow of the “Central Mediterranean”, subjecting a good part of the aid for development to signed agreements for repatriation and the externalization of the community frontiers south of the sands of the Sahara.

Unlike years ago, in the “legendary” stations of the Sonef and Rimbo companies of Niamey, the migrants are hidden from curious eyes: dormitories closed with gates, maximum stay of one or two weeks, nervous guards. In order to meet “foreigners” it is necessary to follow the international departures towards Bamako, Dakar or Abidjan, and no longer the national ones in the direction of Agadez or Arlit, another migratory stop in the north of Niger. “Here no one thinks anymore to reach Italy. We have no more money. No one has the money to go to Europe! And so many have decided to return home, but do not know how to do so.” Alfred is a young civil engineer originally from Gambia, a country from where, after years looking for work, he left in order to seek his fortune.

After having been expelled from Libya at the border with Niger, he arrived in the city three days ago and sleeps in the Rimbo station. “At the dormitory we are about fifty men and women. Above all, people from Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Liberia and Nigeria. We heard on the radio that the German government is giving lots of money to the countries of the region in order to help the migrants, but we do not see it. We have yet to see one euro since we have been here! We can only count on ourselves in order to return home.”

Welcome to hell

Alfred walks all day under the harsh sun of Niamey accompanied by a conational in search of help, aid and work that does not even exist for Nigerians. We encounter them in the center walking around with a lost look and stomach cramps between an open air garbage dump and a busy vegetable market, close to the city’s Cathedral. In front of a steaming plate of rise, meat and fried potatoes, Alfred finds his smile for a moment.

“I am very happy to be able to recount my story.” Unlike the “classic” testimonies of migrants, the hell this man describes was not so much on the road towards Libya, but the return. “Going was easier, coming back instead was horrible. The Nigerian government is the worst of all. Since I left Gambia, on the road towards Libya, I have never seen a situation like this.” What Alfred strains to say is that, after having been arrested on a boat which had just left from a Libyan beach for Lampedusa and expelled at the frontier with Niger, since entering the country, the Nigerian police have extorted all that he had, about 1500 euro.

“We were a group of 100 -150 people, the Libyans delivered us to the Nigerian frontier authorities. In Libya someone told me of an organization at Agadez which helps migrants return home. However, when the Nigerian military brought us to the city, they did not allow us to go to the IOM. They kept us in the police station of the first district, in the center. They did not give us food or water, we had to cry to have water. They told us that there was no international organization that assisted migrants and that we had to pay for the ticket to return to Niamey ourselves.” On the road to Niamey, which is a thousand kilometers from Agadez, Alfred’s bus stops at about thirty checkpoints where, systematically, the migrants must pay to continue.

An exhausting journey that has caused Mary, Alfred’s wife, an eye infection. The idea to leave was hers. It took a lot for her to convince him to take the “back way” and leave their two small children in Gambia. “They are named Jackie and Patience … they must have patience and await our return,” says the woman with a weak voice. “I could not stay anymore in that dormitory.” All around the mud and sheet metal rooms in the periphery of Niamey rest the broken dreams of many Sub-Saharan migrants, rejected and robbed along the road to Europe like Alfred and Mary, who now find themselves blocked on the road to return home.

Business as usual

Hassan Boucar Regional expert and local man of the association Alternative Espace Citoyenne (AEC), is convinced of the actual exploitation of the migratory issue by local managers who think only to enrich themselves. “Europe does not have answers that go beyond repression and asks the African countries to follow the same route. The European Union has all the means to repress, our countries instead do not the means to block the exit and entrance ways of migrants. In any event, whatever will be the result of such politics, for us one cannot block the right to migrate favoring projects and programs of so called ‘development’.” When alluding to the repression desired by Europe and activated by Niger, above all Hassan Boucar refers to the current situation of Agadez “which violates the right of people to circulate.”

In fact, since September, the application of Law 036/2015, a decree of May 2015 against the trafficking of humans hailed by Europe as a step ahead in the fight against irregular migration, is changing the face of Agadez, a city until today called “the door of the desert” by Sub-Saharans. At more than 1000 kilometers from the capital Niamey, this crucial stop of the Sub-Saharan migratory flux towards Europe, is undergoing a closure due to the criminalization of the passeur and militarization of the region.

Besides the socio-economic impact that risks weakening an already critical situation, according to local authorities and associations like AEC, the journey of the migrants has undergone radical changes. “The uncertainty of a safe passage, like before, brings many to renounce continuing the journey. Today, in the perception of the migrants at Agadez, a barrier exists.” Azaoua Mahaman, a Nigerian originally of Agadez who works for IOM, the International Organization for Migration, cites the numbers furnished by the transit centers of the IOM situated in the periphery of the city: “an average of about 30 new migrants received every day, with a net increase of voluntary returns taken over by the IOM: 1721 in 2015, 5089 in 2016 and already 373 in the first three months of 2017. The principal countries of repatriation are Senegal, Mali, Cameron, Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau.”

Returnees and the transit of Agadez

The head of the mission of IOM in Niger, Giuseppe Lo Prete, is aware of the change taking place in the region. “The risks increase, the costs increase. The passage costs much more now because the Nigerian police are confiscating the vehicles. Obviously, at the end, it is always the migrants who pay. If they are brought back to Agadez, like thousands of people, the migrants are not reimbursed like with a travel agency; therefore, there are many more migrants that remain blocked in Agadez.”

To deal with the emergency and facilitate the return of migrants to their countries, the Trust Fund has financed the IOM-Niger with a total of 22 million euro for the reception and repatriation of migrants, in particular, with a transit center in Agadez,that can welcome up to 1000 people. “We are negotiating a project with the Trust Fund for 100 million euro for Niger and 13 other countries of origin for migrants, including Libya.” In the conference room of the new headquarters of the IOM in Niamey, Lo Prete uses the statistics of the IOM to describe the current situation: “In 2016, more than 300,000 people have gone towards Algeria and the majority towards Libya.

In 2016, 100,000 people came home. There is a continuous flow in both directions. In January 2017, for the first time, according to our data collected in our transit points, there were more people returning than people that left; 8000 people came back, 6000 left. But this does not mean that the people transiting from Niger towards Algeria and Libya are decreasing.

“This is because when a passage closes for migrants another ten open. And the Sahara certainly does not lack unbeaten paths.” The official version of the IOM, satisfied by the decrease of the “migratory candidates” and the consequential increase in “voluntary” (an attribute heavily discussed in the regional debate) returns and repatriations, is contested by the associations of civil societies in Mali and Niger.

Hassan Boucar specifies the position of the AEC on this matter as follows: “In the last months the data presented by the IOM demonstrates that, despite the sensible decrease in the passage of migrants in the city of Agadez, arrivals from Libya have not decreased”. Citing the return of the “old” route through Gao, previously abandoned due to the war in the north of Mali, and the creation of new stops in the vast desert of the Aïr (in the Agadez region) and the Ténéré (Bilma and Dirkou area), Hassan Boucar sustains that today in order to avoid the checkpoints in Agadez, migrants hide in peripheral “mobile ghettos” and by foot reach the ‘passeurs’ and their vehicles up to 40-50 km outside the city.

Sahara cimitery

The use of the less beaten paths, some of which cross through poorly indicated mine zones, and the difficult access to stop-overs where to rest and find water, which are always more controlled by the Nigerian army searching for migrants, increases the risks and the cost of the journey towards Europe.

It is difficult to find statistics on the number of people who have lost their lives in the Sahara in these years, more so if you search for recent data. Far away from the Mediterranean, these are silent deaths which do not make the news, swallowed by the desert sand that “kills more than the sea.” According to an inquest, commissioned by the AEC to Ibrahim Diallo, an independent journalist of Agadez, however, from the application of the Law 036/2015, at least three big accidents with dozens of victims occurred in the north of Niger.

The fact that the ghettos of Agadez have become “mobile” increases the difficulty to encounter the migrants in places such as refuges, bars, clubs and restaurants outside of the IOM center of Agadez. This constitutes an additional obstacle for the local and international NGOs involved in the assistance of traveling migrants. “Since September we have difficulties maintaining the humanitarian corridors” is revealed by an operator of Doctors of the World-Niger. Even in the station of the new transport company Al Izza in Agadez, whose yellow-black logo appears everywhere in the city, there are few migrants who sleep the night; almost everyone is waiting for a bus to return to Niamey, and from there, try to return home.

——

“Bamako, Gao, Niamey, Agadez”…“Agadez, Niamey, Gao, Bamako”. Like a mantra, Andy loudly recounts the stops of his journey. Hubs of the principal migratory way which connects Sub-Sahara Africa to the door of Europe, the so called “Central Mediterranean Route.” Points on a map creased from the stories of one of the many reception centers for migrants born in the last years in the capital of Mali. The itinerary retraced by Andy, a twenty-five year old Liberian who has forgotten how long ago he left, is confused as that of many migrants.”

From Bamako we went up to Gao in the north. Here, after waiting weeks, they put us on trucks telling us that we were heading to Tamanrasset, in Algeria. But after a long trip in the desert, we understood that they were instead taking us towards Agadez, in Niger.“ Sense of direction and spatial succession drown in the sea of sand of the Great Sahara. On the map attached to the wall, his finger goes back and forth among Liberia, Mali, Niger, Libya and Algeria, his mind elsewhere.

“Two armed bandits with faces covered by turbans attacked our convoy, they sequestered us and imprisoned us in the desert. They had obviously been informed of our arrival by the passeur (as human traffickers are called here, ed). They were the ones who sold us. Those like me, who did not have money or relatives to call to pay a ransom, were put to work as slaves and slowly left to die. One day they took us to the desert and abandoned us. After seeing many lifeless bodies lying around me, I got up and walked for three days and three nights in the desert without water until I arrived at Gao. There I begged and found the money for a bus that brought me back here to Bamako.” All that Andy wishes now, as many young men who like him have “failed the adventure,” is to return home. Stripped of all goods, wasted, tired and let down, Andy realizes that his return will be seen by his family and the entire village as a grave dishonor, but he has no choice.

It’s Sunday morning in the capital of Mali. We meet John, a Liberian migrant friend of Andy, at the bus station of Sogoniko, a forced stop for the migrants passing through Bamako. Everyday dozens of buses depart for the major cities of Western Africa. Among hot vendors, women who cook without rest, fumes and dust, we stop under the shade of an umbrella. In the shelter formed around the “toubabou” (“whites” in Bambara, the principal language of Mali) someone asks for a cigarette, a boy offers a lighter, another asks if any tea is left. We are not the only foreigners. Within the group a little boy appears, seemingly timid.

In English, he asks if he can sit on the bench and recount his story, the only luggage left after his long journey. After having shared everything about his journey in front of us all – “since no one understands English” – John, as African tradition dictates, invites us to visit the place where he sleeps in a reception center managed by the local association ARACEM, not far from the other station, belonging to the Sonef transport company. A dozen boys and girls enter and exit from the rooms surrounding a courtyard illuminated by the intense light of the early afternoon. Some wash sneakers of the latest fashion, others soccer shoes, that will take them to tread the green fields of Europe. Above a door the writing “migrants in transit or returning.”

“The new agreements between the European Union and the Sahelian countries will cause the death of another thousands of persons. The African managers have smelled the possibility to get rich and they will not stop before anything.” This is confirmed by Ousman Diarra, president of the Malian Association of Deportees (AME), an ex migrant expelled like all the components of AME. The existence of a local association, that fights for the rights of migrants for over twenty years, clearly demonstrates the dedication to this theme by part of the Malian public opinion.

In the discourse of Diarra, the financial aid taken from the European Development Fund and channeled into the Trust Fund decided at Valletta in November 2015 will not bring any real benefits to the region. “The Trust Fund, like all the European funds for development poured into Africa and Mali, is not interested in the true socio-economic roots of the problem. In fact, a large part of the money will be used to reinforce the closing of the frontiers, to provide biometric passports and to control travelers according to a merely securitarian approach. As long as there is underdevelopment in Africa, the people will continue to leave.”

By Sara Prestianni

This investigation report – Diverted Aid – has been coordinated by Ludovica Jona and funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) through its “Innovation in Development Reporting Grant“.

Credit picture: Sara Prestianni

Africa’s open data revolution hampered by challenges

Nairobi – Sub-Saharan Africa has numerous data revolution challenges such as little capacity and investment, thus limiting demands for using data to boost sustainable development. According to the inaugural Africa Data Revolution Report (ADRR), there is minimal or non-existent collaborations among data communities regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.


The report was presented last month (17-21 July) during a panel discussion at the second Africa Open Data Conference held in Accra, Ghana.

The report cites issues such as legal and policy frameworks, infrastructure, technology and interactions among key actors as challenges that confront data ecosystems of ten African countries studied: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania.

The ADRR was jointly published by the Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data for Development Network (OD4D).

“Open data is Africa’s biggest challenge,” says Nnenna Nwakanma, a senior policy manager at the US-headquartered World Wide Web Foundation, noting that open data revolution is key to Africa achieving the SDGs.

Nwakanma tells SciDev.Net that data revolution is built on access to information, the web, and to content, citing open data’s benefits such as governments functioning more efficiently, businesses innovating more and citizens participating in governance and demanding accountability.

Serge Kapto, a policy specialist on data from the UNDP, says that frameworks such as the African charter on statistics and the strategy for harmonisation of statistics in Africa adopted by the continent have laid the groundwork for an African data revolution.

“The report also points out that data is inherently as much a political as a technical issue,” Kapto notes. “Therefore, the stumbling blocks that impede progress of the data revolution for sustainable development must be addressed on both political and technical levels.”

Kapto adds that Africa is well positioned to reap the benefits of the data revolution for sustainable development and leapfrog technology to serve national and regional development priorities.

But, he explains, much work remains to be done to fully take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the data revolution for achieving development plans.

Continue reading on SciDev.Net

By Gilbert Nakweya

Nigeria’s Ticking Time Bomb

Maiduguri – In the dusty arid town of Dikwa, tens of thousands of Nigerians queue for hours in sweltering 40-degree heat for water. Fatuma is one of 100,000 people displaced in the Borno State town, the epicentre of Nigeria’s conflict. She sifts through remnants of food aid seeds, drying them out to prepare them to eat. Food is a scarcity here. Fatuma used to live on three meals a day. Today she is happy if aid agencies can provide her with a single meal.

Dikwa’s food crisis is mirrored throughout the conflict-stricken northeast, where the armed group Boko Haram has been brutally fighting to enforce strict Islamic Sharia law since 2009.

The Nigerian government launched a military operation in 2015 to flush the jihadist group out. An estimated 20,000people have been killed due to the violence. Close to 2 million people have fled their homes, including 200,000 who sought safety in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The violence was the first thing Nigerians feared for their lives. Now they fear famine.

Northeast Nigeria is inching closer than ever to mass starvation. The food crisis is about to get alarmingly worse, with food security experts predicting its deterioration between now and the end of August.

Experts forecast a rise in the number of people facing crisis, emergency and famine conditions from 4.7 million to 5.2 million in northeast Nigeria. This includes 50,000 people likely to be affected by ‘famine-like’ conditions, according to the latest United Nations Global Early Warning report.

Declaring famine has serious implications for countries to step up and take action. It rings international alarm bells. But lack of access to some communities caught up in Nigeria’s conflict means the exact number of people dying of hunger is impossible to confirm. Regardless, the threat of famine draws nearer.

Armed conflict and violence are driving this food crisis. Insecurity is preventing people from farming in many areas, and restricting access to local markets. This is depleting grain stocks and pushing food prices beyond people’s reach. It’s having devastating consequences for affected families, including 450,000 acutely malnourished children.

The May to August lean season is well underway in Nigeria. This is a period when food production is traditionally low and families rely on what they have stockpiled from more plentiful times. With many farmers unable to cultivate their land for up to three years already, families have little reserves to draw from.

Inflation caused by currency depreciation is compounding the situation further. Conflict areas are experiencing prices about 150 per cent higher than in 2015, according to the United Nations.

My organization, the Norwegian Refugee Council, was forced to reduce the food basket we provide to families this month, to make up for the increased price of rice beans and millet. It’s a heart-breaking decision to make, but the alternative is to feed fewer people.

Despite the worsening food crisis, donor countries have only contributed 28 per cent of the money needed to provide the most basic humanitarian assistance this year. More visible crises like the war in Syria and Iraq garner so much international attention, there is less space for countries like Nigeria to get the same attention. As a result, donor dollars go elsewhere.

But while providing people with food saves lives, it’s only a short term solution. The crisis will only end when the conflict has been resolved, and communities can safely return to their land to rebuild their lives.

This is a man-made conflict that needs a man-made solution.

By Cheick Ba

Cheick Ba is the Norwegian Refugee Council Country Director in Nigeria, who has worked in the humanitarian sector for more than 20 years, including in Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This article was published on Ips Africa.

Credit picture: UNHCR

More Bang for Your Buck: Saving Lives by Investing in the Poorest

New York – Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives, according to a UN agency’s analysis. In a new report titled “Narrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is more cost-effective than in non-poor communities.

“It is critical to focus on the poorer populations, especially in terms of health and nutrition,” Senior Advisor for UNICEF and the report’s author Carlos Carrera told IPS.

Impoverished children are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday than children growing up in better circumstances. A majority of these deaths are preventable, but lack of access to critical health services make them all too common.

However, UNICEF has found that health gaps between poor and non-poor communities have narrowed in over 50 countries and that improved access to health interventions among poor communities have helped decrease child mortality three times faster than among non-poor groups.

Since birth rates are higher among the poor, the reduction in the under-five mortality rate translates into 4.2 more lives saved for every million people.

In fact, over one million people, a majority of whom lived in poverty, were saved during the final year of the 51 countries studied.

Such live-saving health interventions include increased provision of basic medication, skilled birth attendance, full immunisation programmes, and even free health services.

In Bangladesh, new policies including the establishment of free community clinics and targeted sanitation and hygiene interventions have helped decrease under-five mortality by almost 75 percent.

Carrera pointed to Sierra Leone as another successful example as it introduced services targeting the major killers of vulnerable children and women, including insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, birth attendance, and immunisation.

Between 2000 and 2013, the West African nation achieved up to 25 percent increases in some intervention coverages among the poor.

“By combining all of these different methods, they managed to improve coverage of all these high impact interventions in poor populations,” Carrera stated.

However, the 2014-2015 Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone potentially set back decades of progress in the country, and serves as a reminder for the need for sustained investment in community health systems.

Though it is more expensive to reach marginalised populations due to barriers such as distance and lack of roads or infrastructure, the benefits outweigh the costs, Carrera noted.

For every one million dollars invested, the number of deaths averted is 1.8 times higher among the poor than the non-poor.

“It is more costly, we accept that, but it is so much more effective because of the higher burden of diseases and higher risk for the health of poor children and women that it saves many more lives,” Carrera told IPS.

Continue reading on Ips Africa

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Italy is back at the European Development Days

Brussels – The 11th edition of the European Development Days will be held in Brussels on June 7 and 8. Organised by the European Commission, the EDD bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. This year, the Italian delegation will be led by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mario Giro, and the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), Laura Frigenti.

Each year, the EDD attract over 5 000 participants from over 140 countries, representing 1 200 organisations from the fields of development cooperation, human rights and humanitarian aid. The EU also engages political leaders, development practitioners, the private sector and civil society in shaping the EU’s policies for tackling poverty worldwide. In its Global Village, composed of up to 76 stands, development actors will to demonstrate the benefits of the European Union’s international cooperation. They communicate results and share their experience about “innovative projects and research initiatives”.

Following the approval of a new reform on the Italian international cooperation system in August 2014, its implementation symbolised by the launch of the Italian Agency for Development cooperation (AICS) in January 2016, the Italian Development Cooperation will attend EDD with an important delegation led by the Deputy ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mario Giro, and the Director of AICS, Laura Frigenti.

Mario Giro will attend the first High Level panel of EDD on June 7 – “Investing in creativity, the future is now: from human development to inclusive growth and sustainable societies” – , co-organized by AICS with the British Council, Goethe Institut and other ten European associations.

Since 2008, creative sectors are among the fastest-growing worldwide. Copyright industries contribute to GDP an average 5.2 %, sometimes exceeding 10 %. Similar trends are observed for CCIs contribution to national employment; an average 5.36 % worldwide. Culture’s social impacts enhance also important indirect economic impacts. Investments in cultural participation empower citizens and communities, develop connectedness, well-being, identity formation, social cohesion, value and behaviour change. The digital evolution opens up new opportunities for business development, including in remote areas. During this session, Mario Giro and other speakers (including Firmin Edouard Matoko from Unesco, the singer Rokia Traoré and Felwine Sarr from the University Gaston Bergé in Senegal) will raise awareness about the contribution of creativity to sustainable growth and employment, notably for youth. Also on the agenda are local development, cultural tourism, and trade of cultural goods and services.

In the afternoon of the same day will be the turn of the workshop on “Inclusive Business and the Creation of Development Ecosystems“, organised with De Lab and Inclusive Business Action Network, which will see the participation of the Director of the AICS, Laura Frigenti, together with Lucia del Negro of DeLab and Christian Jahn, Executive Director of IBAN. In this session, speakers will talk about sectoral cross-sectoral partnerships and development-impact innovations. To expand the networks of people involved in international co-operation and to promote innovation in methods and content, the Italian Development Cooperation Agency intends to involve profit organizations and will do so for the first time in 2017 with a dedicated call that will allocate 5 million euros for initiatives proposed by private profit or social enterprises.

This is an absolute novelty, however, provided by the reform adopted in 2014 which includes in the new subjects of cooperation the Italian private sector. Finally, AICS will be present at the Global Village with a stand (“Awakening Beauty”) that will showcase the support of Italian talent in cooperative initiatives to protect the cultural heritage at risk, along with the colors and richness of the stories of cultural businesses supported by the Italian development cooperation.

For more information please visit AICS and EDD17 websites.

By Joshua Massarenti.

Sources: Aics, EDD 2017.

Growing Unemployed Youth in Africa a Time Bomb, But…

There are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. And it is estimated that within ten years, Africa will be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide. These millions of young people could be a source of ingenuity and engines of productivity that could ignite a new age of inclusive prosperity.

But there are no guarantees. Although the continent has shown consistent economic growth in the last decade, it has failed in creating the number of quality jobs needed to absorb the 10-12 million young people entering the labour market each year.

And this, according to AfDB Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, is a time bomb waiting to explode.

“While the youth population is Africa’s asset, it can also easily become a liability, and this is the whole question about demographic dividends,” observes Blanke. “Let us be clear, it is only the existence of opportunity and the young person’s belief that they can access that opportunity that prevents pessimism and political unrest…inaction is not an option, young people without opportunity, and more importantly without belief in their leaders’ ability to provide opportunity are a certain source of civil unrest and we are seeing it every day.”

‘Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa’ was therefore the major theme of the 52nd AfDB Annual Meetings held in Ahmedabad, India from 22-26 May 2017.

Experts here agreed that transforming Africa’s agriculture requires a business approach that would incentivize youth who still see farming as way of life for the poor. As a result of this scenario, the average age of farmers in Africa is 60, and Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB Group President, fears that “If we don’t change the labour composition of agriculture in Africa, in the next twenty years, there will be no farmers.”

To get youth involved, Adesina believes, “We need to change the mindset about agriculture—agriculture is not a social sector, agriculture is not a way of life, it is a business.”

But the how question is crucial, and he points to finance among other incentives. “There are opportunities for youth but certain things have to be put in place to realize them, such as financing…our young people are doing amazing things with ICT—they are providing weather index insurance, extension services and a host of other things.”

For its part, the Bank has provided a roadmap for the growth of agriculture in Africa with a plan to inject nearly 2.4 billion dollars every year for 10 years to build roads, irrigation infrastructure and storage facilities to attract high-value investors.

With this kind of investment, AfDB wants to transform Agriculture into a money-making business for those involved, highlighting that Africa should position itself to benefit from the growth of agricultural food markets which are set to grow to a trillion-dollar business portfolio by 2030.

The figure is huge and appetising. But certain steps have to be taken, and one of those steps is closing the infrastructure gap.

Continue reading on Ips Africa

By Friday Phiri