MEDIP FINAL CONFERENCE**

•March 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Medip Final Conference – “Communicating Poverty”
Organised by SOS Malta
Saturday, 10th April 2010
Excelsior Hotel, Valletta at 08:30 hours

Migrants sent €32 bn to their former country of residence in 2008

•February 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From The Times of Malta-Thursday, 11th February 2010 – 11:50CET

Migrants sent €32 bn to their former country of residence in 2008, according to an EU report, published today.

In a report on workers’ remittances in the EU 27, Eurostat said the increase in workers’ remittances over recent years was mainly due to a sharp rise in extra-EU27 flows (from 11.5 bn in 2004 to 22.5 bn in 2008), while intra-EU27 flows rose less rapidly (from 7.9 bn to 9.3 bn). Consequently, the share of extra-EU27 remittances in the total has risen from 59% in 2004 to 71% in 2008.

In 2008, two thirds of the total outflow of workers’ remittances from the EU27 came from Spain (7.8 bn euro or 25% of total EU27 remittances), Italy (6.4 bn or 20%), France (3.4 bn or 11%) and Germany (3.1 bn or 10%).

No figures for Malta were given.

* The EU27 aggregate includes confidential data and estimates for missing Member States
For the full table on contributions from member states please visit – http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100211/local/migrants-sent-32-bn-to-their-former-country-of-residence-in-2008

Stop Poverty Now Campaign starts

•January 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From The Times of Malta – Friday, 22nd January 2010

Stop Poverty Now campaign starts
Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

Malta will be joining the rest of the EU in marking the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, which was officially launched in Madrid yesterday.

The island will be holding a number of events throughout the year including competitions for journalists and artists, a national awareness campaign, the publication of a book on experiences of poor Maltese people and activities commemorating international days related to the theme.

Malta prepared a programme of events and the EU decided to contribute 50 per cent of the costs, a spokesman for the Commission said.

Eurostat statistics published earlier this week showed that 15 per cent of Malta’s population is considered to be on the poverty line, living in households which do not earn more than €7,800 annually. The problem in the EU is even more severe, as the average of those at-risk-of-poverty reached 17 per cent in 2008.

With the slogan Stop Poverty Now!, the campaign aims to put the fight against poverty – which directly affects one in six Europeans – centre stage across the EU during 2010.

“Combating poverty and social exclusion is an integral part of getting out of the crisis. It is too often the vulnerable in society who end up being hardest hit by the impacts of a recession,” Commission president José Manuel Barroso said at the launch.

“That is why the European Year 2010 should act as a catalyst to raise awareness and build momentum for a more inclusive society which is part and parcel of the EU’s future 2020 strategy that I have proposed.”

Almost 80 million Europeans currently live below the poverty threshold.

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey on attitudes to poverty, the vast majority of Europeans (73 per cent) consider poverty to be a widespread problem in their country, with 89 per cent calling for urgent action by their government to tackle the problem. Most also expect the EU to play an important role.

The 2010 European Year aims to raise greater awareness of the causes and consequences of poverty in Europe, both among key players such as governments and social partners, and among the public at large.

Aid in the form of expertise

•December 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Article from the Times of Malta – Tuesday, 8th December 2009 by Claudia Calleja

Simon Maxwell believes Malta has more to offer in development aid by sharing its experience. Malta can help developing countries by sharing its expertise on how to manage aid money or tap into the tourism industry, according to an expert on overseas development assistance.

Simon Maxwell, from Europe’s largest think-tank on international development and humanitarian policy, said: “We often think about development aid as providing famine relief to starving people or helping farmers grow food, which are perfectly legitimate things to do. But there are other forms of aid.

“Malta has moved from being an aid receiver to a donor and can share its experience on managing aid with the countries it is out to help,” he explained.

Mr Maxwell, a senior research associate of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, was in Malta recently to give a lecture on development aid as part of the Kapuscinski lecture series during which countries discussed development cooperation.

According to Malta’s humanitarian and development aid policy, the country aims to help the poorest countries, particularly those of sub-Saharan and East Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Mr Maxwell said such countries required assistance on two main levels: immediate social assistance that addressed famine and health issues among others; and longer-term assistance that sought to help countries rebuild their economy.

“Tourism can be a fantastic driver of poverty reduction. Ethiopia, for example, has a long Christian tradition and Malta could share expertise on how to manage tourist arrivals,” explained Mr Maxwell.

Mr Maxwell added that developing countries needed access to markets to grow and European countries had to ensure they did not build a fortress of trade restrictions that stopped poor countries exporting to them.

The global recession had led to countries becoming more protective of their economy and this would have devastating repercussions on developing countries.

Europe could help countries like Ethiopia and Kenya by opening up its trade doors to their exported flowers or green beans, for example. But there are other threatening issues.

“Exporting horticultural products from Kenya to the UK causes about one per cent of our carbon emissions but creates a million jobs. We must not use climate change as another excuse to become protectionist,” he cautioned.

“The world is becoming a complicated place where we have to deal with the repercussions of climate change, rapid urbanisation, the global recession and security treats… Collective action is the only way to deal with this multilateral challenge.

“We as Europeans need to make sure we build an effective Europe. With new presidents in the European Commission and Council the question is: what is the story they’re going to tell about the world? The millennium development goals (MDGs) have to be at the centre,” Mr Maxwell said.

The UN goals, agreed to by 189 nations, pledge to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of AIDS/HIV and provide universal primary education by 2015.

Mr Maxwell went on to add that, given this global scenario, Europe – which provided 60 per cent of the world’s aid – had to now work on maximising the impact of this aid.

There were two options. The first was channelling a bigger share of aid money through Brussels where it would be better coordinated. An alternative would be developing a code of conduct on how to work together to better spread out aid across countries in need.

When I grow up…

•December 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Article from the Times of Malta – Monday, 24th August 2009 by Darrin Zammit Lupi

Ugandan children sing beautifully. I’m drawn towards the classrooms by the angelic sounding voices tempered with an unmistakably African rhythm. The songs are more than just a welcoming ritual – they’re an everyday part of life, something quintessentially African.

The outside walls of Katoosa Primary School in Kyenjonjo in western Uganda are colourfully painted, an extension to the classrooms themselves as they’re covered with maps and biology diagrams. The dimly lit rooms are packed with enthusiastic children, peering through the large windows with more than just idle curiosity.

There is no such thing as a typical Ugandan school -some are no more than open air classrooms under a tree in the middle of a field, the blackboard hanging from a low lying tree branch. The teachers have few or no teaching aids.

At Loro primary school, in Oyam in the north of the country, the classrooms are huts with corrugated iron roofs. Barefoot pupils sit on the dusty floor cross-legged for hours on end, deep in concentration as they try to follow lessons. The children tightly clutch their bundles of pencils as though they’re their most precious possessions – maybe that’s exactly why.

Many of the young pupils don’t have a meal throughout a whole day at school because their parents can’t afford the 5000 shillings (US$ 2) a term to pay for school meals. How must that hungry child feel, when he has nothing to eat and the student sitting in the grass next to him is gobbling down his food? How can that child be expected to learn and develop at school, listen to the teacher, when the only thing he can hear is his rumbling empty stomach?

Whilst primary education is supposed to be universal, many families can’t afford to send their children to school, for the simple reason that they’re expected to pay for the child’s meals. The government is trying to eradicate the practice of schools charging for school meals, but much remains to be done in that area. There is also a chronic lack of teachers. Government policy only allows districts to employ a certain number of teachers, but given the rapid population growth, those numbers are nowhere near sufficient.

Some children are luckier and attend private school. The Kyamusansala primary school in Masaka in southern Uganda, run by nuns of the Sacred Heart, is one of the better schools in the region. The pupils, all girls, are boarders, many orphans who lost both parents to AIDS, and they’re guaranteed to get their meals every day. Teaching standards are high, classrooms are well equipped, the pupils wear smart, meticulously cared-for uniforms, discipline is strict but fair, and by and large, things appear no different to a well-funded school in the West.

Reminders of the scourge of AIDS are never far away. A wooden signpost nailed to a tree near the main entrance reads “Be aware of HIV/AIDS”. At the Katoosa Primary School in Kyenjonjo in western Uganda, a patch of grass in an otherwise dusty field is dotted with boulders with similar messages painted on them “AIDS kills,” Together we can fight AIDS, AIDS Petients (sic) need care and support.” With Uganda having been one of the worst affected countries, authorities are making sure that AIDS awareness campaigns target children by the earliest possible age.

According to UN figures, some 75 million children worldwide are denied the basic right of a primary school education. These children, left without the chance to learn, will grow up in poverty, with no hope, no ambition and no future. Uganda appears to be one of the success stories – in only five years, the country managed to double the number of children in primary schools to over 90 per cent.

Yet, the issue is not so clear cut. The Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed internationally to reduce poverty levels and improve education and health worldwide, were imposed on African countries as a condition for debt relief. The pressure this exerted on the education system has almost brought it to its knees, according to Madeleine Bunting writing in The Guardian. Classes of over 75 students are commonplace; there aren’t enough books, blackboards, teaching materials. The priorities are access, equality and quality – in that order – putting the Ugandan authorities in a dilemma over whether to go for quantity or quality, which is no choice at all.

Some pupils at Kyamusansala school are intently watching me, but they shyly turn away when they realise I’ve noticed. They’re interested in my cameras. We strike up a conversation of sorts, I show them some pictures, and ask them what they want to do when they grow up. One wants to be a doctor, another wants to join the Sisters of Sacred Heart. All the children have dreams, and given the chance, given the right education, many will achieve those ambitions, however lofty they may appear.

This is the fifth in a series of reports from Uganda raising awareness about the UN Millennium Development Goals with the cooperation of SOS Malta.

Rejected girls and their unwanted babies

•December 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Article from the Times of Malta -Monday, 15th June 2009 by Darrin Zammit Lupi

Eleven-year-old Jacinta Kayemba (not her real name) was walking back home through fields in Uganda with some friends, carefully balancing a bright yellow jerry can of water on her head which she had just filled at the village water borehole.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a totally inebriated man jumped out of the bushes, terrifying the girls who broke into a frantic run away from the area.

Jacinta ran as fast as she could, all the while trying not to drop her can of water. She looked back to see if the man was chasing them and tripped. She crashed to the ground, looked up from the dust, and saw with horror that her precious cargo was pouring out of the jerry can as the cap had come off with the fall.

It was a slight relief to see that the drunkard didn’t seem to be following her. But she was now gripped by a greater fear – returning home without water would surely incur the wrath of her parents. Her friends had disappeared from sight.

After some moments of hesitation, Jacinta decided to return to the borehole and refill the jerry can. Keeping her eyes peeled for any sign of movement in the bushes, she cautiously made her way back, placed her can under the spout, grabbed the large handle and started operating the pump handle, soon getting distracted by the rhythmic movement. She never saw the drunken man approach her from behind till he was pushing her to the ground, ripping her clothes and violently raping her.

Jacinta was too young to have ever had her period, yet it wasn’t long before she and her family realised she’d become pregnant. Despite the circumstances of the pregnancy, her parents disowned her and threw her out into the streets. It made no difference that she was pregnant through no fault of her own – she had dishonoured the family. In a sense, she was lucky. Many girls in similar predicaments over the years have been thrown off high cliffs by their parents.

Many girls have no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Some lucky ones may have relatives who may take them in but with abortion being illegal unless the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, many resort to back street abortions, often with devastating results.

Unsafe abortion, often from untrained personnel using unsafe methods, is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in the country. There are reports of poor women in villages resorting to desperate measures ranging from poisonous remedies from traditional healers to drinking detergents or inserting sharp sticks into their vaginas.

A 1993 study in Kampala hospitals found that 21 per cent of maternal deaths were due to abortion-related complications, the second leading cause of death. A 1988 survey among women aged 15-24 years found that 23 per cent of all the women that had ever been pregnant had had one or more abortions. There appears to be little indication that things have changed much – a 2005 study by the Guttmacher Institute in New York and doctors at Kampala’s Makerere University found that a staggering 85,000 Ugandan women are treated for abortion-related health complications each year.

The Wakisa Ministries institute was set up by Vivian Kityo Wakisa to combat this trend. Funded by friends in the US and Australia, as well as some benefactors in Uganda itself, it receives no funding from NGOs. Primarily a crisis pregnancy counselling centre, it also serves as a temporary shelter for pregnant girls who have decided to go ahead with their pregnancy and have been rejected by their parents. It provides vocational training and the girls take care of household chores such as cooking, cleaning and gardening.

As I walked in, several pregnant teenage girls sat under a canopy in the spacious front garden, weaving baskets and knitting colourful blankets, all part of the handcrafts they do in order to raise funds for the ministry.

In the dormitory, a young mother, 17-year-old Sylvia, sat on her bed cradling her newborn child, aptly named Faith. Soon she would have to leave the institute and go and stay at an aunt’s place as both her parents are dead.

Sylvia wants to go back to school, so her aunt will look after Faith, a beautiful child born out of a mistake made one fateful night. She may do as many like her have done before her, return to Wakisa Ministries to help run the centre and provide support to others who find themselves in a similar predicament.

When the source of life dries up

•December 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Article from the Times of Malta -Saturday, 13th June 2009 by Darrin Zammit Lupi

A widow has been queuing to fill her three jerrycans with water in the village of Namungalwe in eastern Uganda for two days. She’s tired and frustrated.

Her children are home alone waiting for her to return. Suddenly, her patience runs out, she roughly bulldozes her way to the front of the queue, knocking over other people’s water containers, and shoves her jerrycan under the water spout. People shout, hair is pulled, and the precious contents gush from the fallen cans into the mud.

She clutches the hand-operated pump and refuses to budge as two other women try to drag her away.

It’s a common occurrence. The single water pump from a borehole is the only source of clean water for over 2,000 people in the area, about half of whom live in the village. Queues are always long. Hours spent queuing feel even longer.

Similar scenes are repeated all over the country. Water boreholes, and to a lesser extent springs, are the main source of water throughout most rural areas of Uganda.

The Times was recently in Uganda on a field trip, part of an EU-funded project entitled Media Engagement in Development Issues and Promotion.

The project, led by SOS Malta, aims at promoting awareness among policymakers and the public, through the media, in six of the new EU member states about development issues and the eight Millennium Development Goals.

When boreholes dry out or stop working in Uganda, the community finds itself in deep trouble. There is a mammoth problem of water shortages in the country. Rain water harvesting has not really been exploited on a large, effective scale, especially in water stressed areas.

One major problem with springs is they do not always provide a source of clean water. Springs are not protected – they are often contaminated by people and cattle bathing, and then that same water is collected to drink and cook with.

More water points are an urgent necessity for communities throughout rural Uganda. Because of the distances to reach the waterholes, young girls, often the ones responsible for collecting water, end up missing school, or worse, attacked and defiled on the miles-long lonely walks.

It is not enough for foreign NGOs to come into the country and drill boreholes, or build reservoirs. At the Katoosa primary school in Kyenjonjo in western Uganda, a reservoir with a capacity for 80,000 litres of water is bone dry.

There are no gutters on the roof to harvest water and feed it into the reservoir. Built in 2002 by the German federally owned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), it was then left with no maintenance, nor was any instruction given to the community as to how to maintain it. Nor were any funds for maintenance available.

Consequently, a mere seven years later, it doesn’t hold a single drop of water, while the community continues to suffer from chronic water shortage. Catherine Amal, the chief administrative officer of the Kyenjonjo district, laments that foreign aid has too many conditions attached and the time has come to relax those restrictions.

“You’ve taught me how to fish, but you haven’t given me a fishing rod,” she complained.

“We would like more infrastructure development because when you look around the area is full of poor people and poverty can only be removed by improving infrastructure services such as roads, water, electricity, better hospitals and schools. Most of the aid given to us through donors and NGOs is for training.

“What is needed is money to address the gaps in our infrastructure. The government and donors should change from giving us money for training, to money for infrastructure development. The people have been empowered, they know what they can do; they just lack the money to do it.”

In fairness, this has already started happening. Development consultant Christina Roberts explained that originally, all aid was directed towards infrastructure and nothing was left for training or maintenance.

“However, because things would need to be rebuilt from scratch after falling into disrepair, donors went to the other extreme and only funded training and skills development and didn’t give them anything to play with. But now they’re beginning to find a balance,” he said.

Meanwhile, people are forced to improvise. In a small hamlet outside Masaka in southern Uganda, a young widow in a small brick hut she shares with her four children and mother-in-law, uses a single strip of corrugated iron perched on a stick tilting into a battered jerrycan as a rudimentary form of water harvesting.

Without water, there can be no life, and it appears clear the lack of clean safe water is one of the root problems in the country. From it stem the problems of poverty, lack of sanitation, disease coupled with poor health care and infant mortality.

The UN’s seventh Millennium Development Goal, ensuring environmental sustainability, speaks of halving the proportion of the world’s population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. The latest progress report indicates Uganda will probably achieve that goal.

According to the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2007/2008, the number of Ugandans accessing improved water sources shot from 44 per cent in 1990 to 60 per cent in 2004, but there are fears the trend may be reversed if urgent measures are not taken to address the challenges of population growth, increased urbanisation and industrialisation.

Uncontrolled environmental degradation and pollution also threaten the quality and sustainability of the country’s fresh water resources.

The Times will carry a series of reports from Uganda over the coming weeks.