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Africa Watch

Africa Renewal
From Africa Renewal: 
UN Photo / Paulo Filgueiras

UN Women
Africa gets 10 seats on board of UN Women

Under-Secretary-General Michelle BacheletUnder-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, head of the new agency UN Women, created to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.
Photograph: UN Photo / Paulo Filgueiras

Ten African countries have been elected to serve on the Board of the newly-created Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women. The election, held in November by the UN Economic and Social Council for the 35 elected seats (out of a total of 41), saw the following African countries join the agency's governing structure: Angola, Cape Verde, Congo Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Of the remaining elected board members 10 came from Asia, 4 from Eastern Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 from Western Europe. Elected members serve two- or three-year terms. The 6 non-elected seats are from the major donor contributing countries.

UN Women is headed by Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, who just prior to her appointment was Chile's first female president (2006-2010) and had previously served as minister of defence and minister of health.

UN Women was established on 2 July 2010 by the UN General Assembly to better promote women's rights. The new body merges four organizations, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). Its annual budget is expected to reach at least $500 mn — double the combined resources of the four agencies it incorporates.

Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS
UNAIDS: ‘Breaking the trajectory’ of the epidemic

New cases of infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, have declined by 20 per cent globally over the past decade, reports the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). They have fallen by an even larger percentage in some African countries hit hardest by the disease. According to the agency's 2010 report, an estimated 2.6 million people contracted the virus in 2009 — 500,000 fewer that in 1999. Five countries — Ethiopia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa (which has the largest number of people living with HIV in the world) — have cut new infections by more than 25 per cent since 2001.

Another 29 African countries have stabilized infection rates — a sign that anti-AIDS education and prevention efforts are working, UNAIDS says. With greater access to testing and treatment programmes and improved drugs to prevent transmission from mother to child at birth, "We are breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold actions and smart choices," said Mr. Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. Fatalities due to AIDS are declining even faster, to 1.8 million last year from 2.1 million in 2004.

But sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for almost 70 per cent of the world's people living with HIV and 72 per cent of AIDS-related deaths. "The challenge now," Mr. Sidibé noted at the report launch, "is how we can all work to accelerate progress."

Africans working abroad
African remittance flows are back up

After a slump in 2009, migrant financial remittances back to Africa are again on the rise, according to a World Bank study. By the end of 2010, Bank estimates show, Africans abroad will have sent back a total of $21.5 bn, posting a 4.4 per cent rise, after a decline of 3.7 per cent the year before. The Bank also forecasts that the amount of money African migrants send back to their countries of origin will reach $22 bn in 2011 and $24 bn in 2012 (see graph).

The World Bank's Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 points to the global economic crisis as the main reason for the previous slowdown. In 2007, the total amount of money sent home by migrants from Africa grew 46.7 per cent, then the highest rate in the world. Growth slowed to 14.9 per cent in 2008 before contracting in 2009.

The Bank's estimates and forecasts, however, are based on incomplete data. "The lack of reliable and timely data for most African countries makes it difficult to judge the actual extent of the flows," note the study's authors. A major portion of remittances to sub-Saharan Africa goes unrecorded for two main reasons. First, most transfers are made through informal channels. Second, only about half of the countries regularly report annual remittance data. Some report no remittance data at all, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe, which are believed to be significant recipients of remittance flows.

Migrant remittances to Africa

Greenpeace: EU ships threaten African fishing

European fishing fleets in West Africa are threatening the survival of local fishing communities and marine resources in the region, according to a report by the non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace. These fleets have the capacity to catch two to three times more fish than is ecologically sustainable, already depleting European waters. West Africa is now facing the same prospect, Greenpeace warns, as vessels of the European Union (EU) account for the majority of the foreign presence in the region.

For a period of five weeks between February and April 2010, a Greenpeace ship monitored the waters of Mauritania and Senegal. It identified 61 EU ships out of 93 foreign vessels (and a total of 126). The report also cites observations of declining fish stocks from people in local communities. "I used to be able to catch about 20 groupers in one day," a fisherman from Dakar, Senegal, told Greenpeace. "Now, I can't catch more than two."

Roll Back Malaria Partnership
Senegal cuts malaria infections

Senegal recorded an impressive 41 per cent drop in malaria infections in 2009. A total of 175,000 persons were affected by the disease that year, down from nearly 300,000 in 2008, according to a report by the country's Malaria Control Programme, which is part of a UN-supported effort against the epidemic known as the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.

It is the first West African country to record such a spectacular achievement in the battle against an illness that kills more than 900,000 people every year across the continent. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive director of the RBM Partnership, remarked that "this improvement puts Senegal on a par with Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zambia, which have also significantly alleviated the burden of malaria."

According to the report, Senegal's success rests on strong prevention efforts (insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying), rapid diagnosis and effective treatment (mostly artemisinin-based combination therapy). Two other factors were also crucial, said Ms. Coll-Seck: strong political will and adequate funding ($130 mn over the past five years).


Muburi-MuitaPhotograph: UN Photo / Mark Garten

The UN Secretary-General has appointed Zachary Muburi-Muita of Kenya to head the recently created UN Office to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr. Muburi-Muita, as a career diplomat, previously served as Kenya's ambassador to the UN, among other positions.

Jack LangPhotograph: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

Jack Lang of France has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as his special adviser on legal issues related to piracy off the coast of Somalia. In a long and varied career, Mr. Lang has served as minister of culture and president of the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee, as well as a special presidential envoy to Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

OsotimehinPhotograph: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

Following consultations with the Executive Board of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Secretary-General has appointed Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria as the agency's new head. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Osotimehin, a medical doctor by profession, served as his country's minister of health from December 2008 to March 2010, and then as the provost of the University of Ibadan's College of Medicine. At UNFPA, he replaces Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.

ClosPhotograph: UN Photo / Devra Berkowitz

The UN General Assembly has elected Joan Clos of Spain as under-secretary-general of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Among other posts, he previously served as Spain's minister of industry, trade and tourism and as mayor of Barcelona, and was chairman of the UN Advisory Committee of Local Authorities. At UN-Habitat, he replaces Anna Tibaijuka of Tanzania, who now chairs the steering committee of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

Martin MogwanjaPhotograph: UNICEF / Ramoneda

Martin Mogwanja of Kenya has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as deputy executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). He previously was UNICEF's representative in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan.