sexta-feira, julho 10, 2009

Gripe A - Recomendações

Depois de uma ausência (a vida nem sempre permite virtualidades), aqui fica algo que considero importante divulgar:

Sintomas da Gripe A:
  • Febre de início súbito (superior a 38º)
  • Tosse
  • Dores de garganta
  • Dores musculares
  • Dores de cabeça
  • Arrepios de frio
  • Cansaço
  • Diarreia ou vómitos; embora não sendo típicos da gripe sazonal, têm sido verificados em alguns casos recentes de infecção pelo novo vírus da Gripe A (H1N1)
Modo de contágio:

  • pessoa-a-pessoa através de gotículas quando tosse ou espirra
  • através do contacto com os olhos, nariz ou boca, de mãos que contactaram com objectos ou superfícies contaminadas com gotículas de uma pessoa infectada
  • O vírus permanece activo nas superfícies 2 a 8horas. Cuidado com as maçanetas das portas, teclados de computador, ratos, etc.
  • O vírus não se transmite através da água para consumo humano, águas de piscinas ou parques aquáticos.
  • Não se transmite através de alimentos.
O que facilita o contágio:
  • Deficiente higiene das mãos
  • contacto com objectos ou materiais contaminados (vírus activo 2 a 8h)
  • Permanência em ambientes fechados e pouco arejados
  • Proximidade entre pessoas (distância inferior a 1 metro)
  • cumprimentos pessoais
Período de contágio:
  • 1 dia antes de iniciar os sintomas, até 7 dias depois do seu início.

sexta-feira, junho 19, 2009

KENYA: A growing refugee crisis

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
A refugee woman awaits registration in Dadaab, Kenya (file phto): Fears of a major refugee crisis in Daadab have been raised with the camp hosting triple its capacity
NAIROBI, 19 June 2009 (IRIN) - Ever-worsening security in Somalia is prompting large numbers of civilians to flee into Kenya, where facilities to host them are stretched to bursting point, raising fears of a major refugee crisis.

Dadaab in eastern Kenya, is home to an estimated 279,000 mainly Somali refugees - triple its designated capacity. Its Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo camps together comprise the largest refugee site in the world.

Kenya's closure of its Somali border in January 2007 did little to stem the tide. "On average, about 7,000 Somali refugees are coming into the country every month this year," Kellie Leeson, International Rescue Committee (IRC) country director for Kenya, told IRIN.

"We need more land for Dadaab to spread the camp out so that people can live in dignity," she said. The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) is talking with the Kenyan government in an effort to obtain more land.

IRC is providing healthcare services in Dadaab as well as water and sanitation services in Kakuma camp, northwestern Kenya.

"The high [refugee] population has made it extremely challenging to deliver services," Leeson said. "Water has been a really big challenge as well as provision of adequate latrines."


"The overcrowding [in Dadaab] means that international standards for basic services are not being met," according to Refugees International.

"There is a shortfall of 36,000 latrines and 50 percent of the refugees have access to less than 13 litres of water per day," the NGO said in recent special report on Somali refugees.

The agency went on to appeal for the reopening of a reception centre for Somali refugees shut by the Kenyan authorities in May 2008. "This will ensure an orderly and humane screening and registration process, while having the added benefit for the Kenyan government of reducing cross-border security threats."

On this point Leeson said: "Health screening at a border reception centre is needed in order to prevent the spread of disease inside the congested camps."

In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that Kenya was in the midst of a rapidly escalating refugee crisis.

Between August 2008 and the end of February 2009, "just over 35,000 new arrivals [in Dadaab] received no shelter and have been forced to sleep under open skies in makeshift shelters that provide little protection from the harsh weather, or in cramped confines with relatives or strangers who were already living in conditions well below minimum humanitarian standards," HRW said.

Soured relations

Relations with the surrounding Kenyan population have also at times soured. "The host community is struggling especially with the high food prices and drought," Leeson said. IRC, along with UNHCR, and other partners, is working with local community leaders in an effort to prevent conflict in Dadaab and Kakuma.

The local community neighbouring Dadaab has in the past resisted the expansion of the camp boundaries, saying it is already encroaching on their land.

In Kakuma, most of the refugees are of Somali origin, coming either via Dadaab or Nairobi. Its population has almost halved since 2006 due to the large scale repatriation of its Sudanese population in the wake of a 2005 peace accord.

"Now there are about 42,000 refugees remaining in the camp, who can't yet return home, and are fully dependent on [external support]," she said.

"A lot of people thought Kakuma would just go [away]," she said, "But the numbers of refugees are still high and we must meet their urgent needs."


A statement by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) said: "Ten percent of the refugees in Kakuma have lived in the camp for over 10 years, some longer than 15 with no perspective and no hope of a durable solution. This causes dependency and problems with the local community."

According to JRS, societies and governments tend to perceive refugees as a problem. "But, we need to see that behind the large numbers are human beings like you and me. They have been uprooted from their countries by conflict, persecution or violence," said Frido Pflueger, JRS/Eastern Africa director.

IRC's Leeson urged the Kenyan government to also fully implement its own Refugees' Act of 2006. "On paper, the act gives rights to refugees, but in practice it is not yet fully enforced and many people in positions of authority aren't aware of its content or the rights it confers," she said. "We also urgently need extended funds as the [refugee] population continues to grow," she said.

GLOBAL: Chronic diseases reach "epidemic" proportions - WHO

Photo: IRIN
Samjhana Lama from Nepal died from heart disease after treatment delays (file photo)
DAKAR, 19 June 2009 (IRIN) -

Chronic diseases-especially cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory and heart diseases - kill twice as many people worldwide every year than do infectious diseases HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, combined. But despite their stealth ascent to epidemic proportions - mostly in poor countries, according to World Health Organization (WHO) - chronic diseases receive scant donor and government attention.

Chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease progress slowly and account for 60 percent of all deaths, according to WHO.

"It [chronic disease] is a silent killer," said WHO's Boureima H. Sambo, non-communicable disease (NCD) advisor for West Africa. "For other epidemics like measles, meningitis or cholera, you see and hear people dying. But in a hospital ward of dying chronic respiratory, hypertension and cancer patients, there is not as much noise," he told IRIN.

Less than 1 percent of official development assistance funds chronic disease prevention and treatment, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). From WHO's overall 2008-2009 budget of US$3.9 billion, 13 percent went toward chronic diseases.

Major donor funding for chronic diseases has increased since 2004 when it was less than US$200 million to US$700 million in 2008, according to OECD.

But funding still lags far behind the numbers of deaths caused by chronic illnesses, as reported in the medical journal "The Lancet". HIV prevention and care received US$2.5 billion from major donors in 2005 when there were less than five million reported HIV deaths.

While more than 25 million died from chronic diseases the same year, donors gave US$200 million toward NCD's.

Double burden

Africa is expected to have the biggest increase in deaths from NCD's over the next decade, or an additional 28 million sufferers, according to WHO. "The emphasis thus far [in Africa] has been on infectious diseases," Boureima told IRIN. "But we have a growing burden of NCD alongside the known burden of communicable [infectious] diseases."

Hypertension and obesity affected up to 60 percent of those surveyed in West Africa by WHO, said Boureima. "Children as young as 12 are smoking, some parts of the region abuse alcohol and vegetable consumption is low. Risk factors of today are chronic diseases of tomorrow," he told IRIN.

Despite dozens of resolutions at WHO to fight chronic disease dating back more than 60 years, Stig Pramming with the UK-based NGO Oxford Health Alliance told IRIN chronic illness is still not "on the [international development] agenda."

Recommendations from a UN-organized ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar in May on NCDs will be considered at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 7 July meeting in Geneva. WHO is working with governments to incorporate chronic diseases into the UN Millennium Development Goals, according to WHO NCD staff.

How much?

While the cost of chronic diseases has been estimated to be in the hundreds of billions in lost income and health fees, it is hard to put a price tag on fighting those diseases, said Oxford Health Alliance's Pramming. "Chronic diseases are a complex problem not solved through a simple treatment. It is the way we eat, move. It is our lifestyle and social determinants like access to health care and [quality of] those health systems.

"Health care systems are very much focused on acute diseases and are not geared to follow people over the long term."

domingo, junho 07, 2009

SOMALIA: Coping with humanitarian tragedy in Mogadishu

Photo: Yasmin Omar/IRIN Radio
A man with his child in a Mogadishu hospital: Fighting between insurgents and government troops has resulted in deaths, injuries and displacements of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city - File photo
MOGADISHU, 5 June 2009 (IRIN) - A woman sits holding a baby in a queue at a medical clinic in Mogadishu, the violence-hit capital of Somalia, where fighting between government troops and insurgents has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

"His leg is paralysed; maybe because we don't have anything to eat," the young mother says.

More than 100 people are waiting in the burning sun. Some will be here for hours, but there is no alternative. The few hospitals in the city are overcrowded, and the remaining civilians have to go to great lengths to find help.

The clinic is run by AMISOM, the African Union peace-keeping force in Somalia.

"At least we can do something," says Joseph Asea, head of the AMISOM health clinic in Mogadishu. "We have 30 patients now, but when fighting is bad there can easily be 70."

An ambulance arrives. A boy with an improvised bandage around his elbow is carried in. The nurse takes it off to reveal a fresh gunshot wound. She treats it with disinfectant.

He is lucky to be alive; over the past few weeks, hundreds of people have died in the fighting.

The people in the clinic are relatively safe and treatment is still available. "So far, we are able to supply the people with treatment and medicines," Asea said.

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
An ambulance driver in Mogadishu: The few hospitals in teh Somali capital are overcrowded and civilians have to go to great lengths to find help
Access issues

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, at least 96,000 people have been displaced from Mogadishu since the start of the latest fighting on 8 May.

Most are in informal camps outside the city, with hardly any access to humanitarian aid.

"The situation is deteriorating and the daily rate of displacement is increasing," said Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia.

She said the rate of new arrivals this week from Somalia to Kenya "went from an average of 100 a day to 150-200 a day".

Russo said access was still one of the major problems faced by humanitarian agencies trying to bring relief to the displaced.

This week UNHCR had to stop distributing aid to the outskirts of Mogadishu because of the fighting and consequent insecurity on the roads.

Food and security

AMISOM patrols some of the roads to monitor security. AMISOM troops also protect the port of Mogadishu where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is dispatching much-needed food aid.

At the main berth, the cargo of MV Jaipur is being offloaded. It was hijacked by Somali pirates, but is now on duty again. From here, the food aid will be distributed across the country. Some three million people in Somalia depend on food aid.

"Without the protection of AMISOM we couldn't do this work," says Abdi Yusuf, a government police officer in the port.

The AMISOM peacekeepers also protect President Sheik Sharif Ahmed at Villa Somalia in Mogadishu, a multi-storey building in the heart of town.

"I feel very safe here," the president said, but he called for more international help for his country. "We have an influx of foreign fighters who support the insurgents. If they manage to take over, it's easy to imagine what can happen next. So we are urging the international community to do more."

A first step could be boosting AMISOM numbers. From the initially pledged 8,000 soldiers, only 3,400 were deployed by African Union countries.

"So far we could deliver the services to the people that we want to," said Maj Ba-Hoku Barigye, AMISOM spokesman. "Happily we understand that Ghana, Zambia and Malawi are close to contributing to the force."

The UN Security Council's unanimous decision to extend the mandate of AMISOM by another eight months could provide some breathing space.

sábado, maio 30, 2009


Obrigada João pela informação.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Honduras on Thursday, killing at least four, and causing homes to fall in neighboring Guatemala. Read more on the Honduras earthquake 2009 below.

Local officials fear the death toll will be rising as reports come in from the moutainous areas near the coast.

The quake ruined buildings across the north of Honduras, a poor country of about 7 million people.

Four children between the ages of 3 and 15 died when their homes collapsed after the earthquake struck at 2:24 a.m. local time offshore near the Honduran Caribbean resort island of Roatan.

“They were all asleep. Most of them died crushed,” said Randolfo Funes, a top official at Honduras’ civil protection agency. “There will be many more dead.”

Security guard Pedro Ramirez, 52, was in his truck outside an office building in Tegucigalpa when the tremor hit.

“I felt the car rock and I started to hear little bits of debris from the building next door hitting the roof,” he said. “It was frightening because it was shaking a lot. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

The earthquake hit 39 miles northeast of Roatan, the biggest of the country’s three Bay Islands where many tourists go to snorkel to see dolphins and a big coral reef. It had a shallow depth of 6.2 miles.

On Roatan,officials said the quake had knocked out power and caused minor damage to buildings.

A tsunami watch was issued for Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, but it was lifted about an hour later.

Vídeo das imagens, Reuters.


* Quake of 7.1 magnitude strikes just off coast

* Sixty houses destroyed

* Death toll might rise (Adds 25 injured, 60 houses destroyed)

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, May 28 (Reuters) - A powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook Honduras on Thursday, killing at least five people, knocking down flimsy homes and causing damage in neighboring Guatemala.

The offshore quake destroyed some 60 houses and damaged scores of other buildings across the north of Honduras, a poor country of 7 million people, and briefly triggered a tsunami alert for Central America's Caribbean coast.

A quake of that size can cause serious damage over a wide area.

Four children, aged 3 to 15, died when their houses collapsed after the quake struck in the early hours of the morning near the resort island of Roatan.

"They were all asleep. Most of them died crushed," said Randolfo Funes, an official at Honduras' civil protection agency who said a fifth person died.

At least 25 people were injured and officials said the death toll could rise as reports came in from poor villages and towns in the mountainous area around Honduras' Caribbean coast.

Security guard Pedro Ramirez, 52, was in his truck outside an office building in the capital of Tegucigalpa.

"I felt the car rock and I started to hear little bits of debris from the building next door hitting the roof," he said. "It was frightening because it was shaking a lot. I've never felt anything like it."

The earthquake hit 39 miles (64 km) northeast of Roatan, the biggest of the country's three picturesque Bay Islands, where snorkelers and divers come to see dolphins and a big coral reef. It had a relatively shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km). Earthquakes that close to the earth's surface are often more powerful than deeper tremors.

On Roatan, rescue officials said the quake had knocked out power and caused minor damage to buildings.

Houses also collapsed in Puerto Cortes and Santa Barbara, where the ceiling of an old colonial church caved in, while fires broke out in the northern business city of San Pedro Sula.

The tremor sent people running into the street and the power was cut in some areas.

quarta-feira, maio 27, 2009

SRI LANKA: UN Human Rights Council to discuss plight of IDPs

Photo: Zelmira Sinclair/UNHCR
Thousands of Tamil civilians are now staying in government camps after fleeing the fighting in the north
BANGKOK, 25 May 2009 (IRIN) - Human rights groups have welcomed a decision by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to address the condition of more than a quarter of a million conflict-displaced in Sri Lanka in a special session.

"This is an important opportunity to examine issues of accountability on both sides to the conflict and to ensure protection of displaced persons and their rights in the post-conflict transition," Julie de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IRIN, one day before the session was due in Geneva.

On 25 May, the watchdog group said government restrictions on humanitarian access to government camps and to the wounded in the conflict area had worsened the already serious conditions.

"For the sake of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Sri Lanka, the Council should ensure that the Sri Lankan government takes immediate and concrete steps to address this crisis, beginning with providing immediate, unhindered access to international aid workers and monitors," Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director, added.
More on Sri Lanka conflict
UN calls for faster screening process, greater access
Tens of thousands of children among IDPs
Conflict timeline
Thousands in mortal danger inside combat zone, says UN
Risks to civilians still "extremely high" - top UN official

According to Amnesty: "The displaced civilians are suffering from widespread and serious human rights violations at the hands of government security forces and allied paramilitary forces, including enforced disappearance; extra-judicial executions; torture and other ill-treatment, and forced recruitment to paramilitary groups."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed after his weekend visit that the first priority was to help the government meet urgent humanitarian needs. "To do so effectively, I have told the President and Foreign Minister that the UN and other international humanitarian agencies need immediate and unimpeded access to the camps."

In addition, Ban said he urged the government to return people to their homes as soon as possible, and in this regard welcomed its announced plan to return 80 percent of displaced people by the end of the year.

The government was also urged to expedite screening and registration processes, and make it easier for families to reunite and to allow people more freedom of movement in and out of the camps.

More than 270,000 Tamil civilians have fled the fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and are now staying in more than 40 government camps across the island's north, the UN reports.

Amnesty describes the camps as "de facto internment camps", adding that "civilians who survived weeks under heavy combat reached the camps sometimes badly injured, malnourished, exhausted and traumatised".

But according to the government - which declared victory over the LTTE on 18 May - the camps are needed to separate non-combatant civilians from former LTTE soldiers, who have fought for an independent Tamil homeland for more than two decades.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's statement warned warned of "the likely presence of Tamil Tiger infiltrators among the large numbers who had come to the government areas".

The government describes the camps as "welfare villages" and says it wants to resettle all displaced civilians as soon as possible. It responded to Ban's appeal by saying that "as conditions improved, especially with regard to security, there would be no objections to such assistance".

Special session

Photo: Contributor/IRIN

"This is no question of war crimes, it is not an option that will arise."

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama

This week's special session follows a request by Germany on behalf 17 members of the HRC, including Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Mauritius, the Netherlands, South Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the UK and Uruguay.

At least 16 members, or one-third of the council's membership, are required to convey such a session.

"It is hoped that the holding of this special session will contribute towards the cause of peace," Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, the HRC's president, said.

"The Human Rights Council cannot be silent when innocent civilians are caught up in armed conflicts. The international community must strive to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations whenever they occur and ensure that those found guilty of such crimes are held accountable for their actions," he added.

This will be the 11th special session of the council; others related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Darfur, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, the global food and economic crises.

Meanwhile, HRW continues to receive many credible reports of violations of the laws of war by both the LTTE and Sri Lankan government forces, including the LTTE's use of civilians as human shields, and child soldiers, and the Sri Lankan government's indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas, including hospitals.

"These allegations demand an impartial investigation," the group stated.

However, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said at a weekend press conference marking the visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "This is no question of war crimes, it is not an option that will arise. The Sri Lankan forces have followed a policy of zero civilian casualties and been mindful of that."

SOMALIA: Aid work in Mogadishu grinding to a halt

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
A displaced family: Aid work in Mogadishu has virtually ground to a halt because of increasing violence, according to civil society officials
NAIROBI, 25 May 2009 (IRIN) - Local NGOs in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, have set up a task force in a bid to mobilise urgent help for thousands of displaced civilians.

"The situation is so bad that if nothing is done many will die," Asha Sha'ur, a civil society activist, told IRIN on 25 May. "We are appealing to the international aid agencies to help these desperate people before it is too late."

Aid work in Mogadishu has virtually ground to a halt because of increasing violence. An estimated 57,000-60,000 people have fled their homes since the latest fighting flared on 8 May, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

According to Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organisation (EHRO), 207 people have been killed since the latest clashes began on 8 May. He said that on 22 May alone some 59 people were killed in the city but the figure reflected only the deaths the group could verify. "Many people have been buried where they died."

Yassin said the death toll included seven policemen killed by a suicide bomber on 24 May.

The violence has forced Médecins Sans Frontières to close its outpatient clinic in Yaaqshid district. The health facility would re-open once there was minimum security, it said.

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
A family flees Mogadishu following fighting between government troops and insurgents
"Even local NGOs are afraid to respond because of the uncertain security situation," a local humanitarian worker said.

Last week, the UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) reported the looting of its compound in Jowhar, 90km south of Mogadishu, when Al-Shabab militia captured the town.

More than 50,000 severely malnourished children and at least 85,000 moderately malnourished children in south-central Somalia have been affected by the interruption in nutritional and medical supplies.

The 17 May looting resulted in the destruction of humanitarian supplies, assets and equipment. "The cold chain [vaccine storage] equipment was affected, destroying thousands of doses of measles, polio and other vaccines meant for Somali children," UNICEF said.

Sha'ur and other civil society leaders urged the international community and Somalis in the diaspora to help the thousands of desperate people displaced by the violence that has pitted government forces against insurgents.

"The reason we set up this task force is to make sure that we accompany [aid agencies] wherever they want to go," Sha'ur said. "We were at some of these camps [on the outskirts of the city] and found the conditions heart-wrenching."

The newly displaced were living in dire conditions. "Many of them have no shelter and so are sharing small spaces with others and have very little food, if any," Sha'ur said. "They need help in all areas but shelter is most urgent."

Nasteho Osman, a 29-year-old single mother of four, returned last week to the camps for the displaced which she left only a month ago.

"I was in Bakara market when the fighting began [on 8 May]; I had to rush back to my house to make sure my children were safe," Osman said. "I got out six days ago with only what we could carry."

The situation deteriorates whenever it rains. "We only have one small shack that we use for shelter and when it rains, no one can sleep," Osman added.

NIGERIA: Thousands flee violence, hundreds suspected dead

Photo: Wikimedia
Niger Delta states
ABUJA, 22 May 2009 (IRIN) - Thousands of civilians have fled their villages in Nigeria's Delta state after government troops launched an offensive against militant groups in the state on 13 May.

Villagers in Delta state's Gbramatu kingdom reported Oporoza and Okerenkoko villages being attacked with heavy machine-gun fire from low-flying helicopters on 15 May. Eyewitness accounts reported at least 100 bodies, according to Amnesty International's Nigeria campaigner Lucy Freeman.

The Nigerian Red Cross estimates that 1,000 displaced people have fled to Ogbe Ijoh - capital of Warri south government area - where they are sheltering in a primary school and hospital.

Witnesses report that about 3,000 people have fled and Amnesty International estimates that as many as 10,000 could be on the move.

Patricia Okolo from Okerenkoko told IRIN from Ogbe Ijoh: "I had to run from my home. I did not take a single item with me. I have 10 children but I don't know where any of them are. I could not count the number of people who were killed or injured but there were many. I could not even count."

"I don't know where my husband is. I am the only one who got here."

Most of the displaced are women and children as most men are too frightened of being attacked or killed, said Nigerian Red Cross officer Egbero Ococity from Ogbe Ijoh. Many men are hiding in the forest with no access to clean water, food or shelter, he said.

Joint Task Force troops, made up of the army, navy, air force and mobile police, launched an offensive on communities across Warri south and southwest government areas on 13 May after JTF troops were reported to have been attacked by armed groups in Delta state, according to Amnesty International.

In response, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an umbrella group representing a number of militant factions, declared an "all-out war" in a 15 May press statement. The militant groups claim they are fighting for more local control of oil wealth in the impoverished region.

''...I could not count the number of people who were killed or injured but there were many. I could not even count...''

"Civilians are bearing the brunt of this violence. We are very concerned about bystanders who have been killed, injured or displaced," said Amnesty's Freeman.

Community members from targeted villages say military forces were searching for militants.

Some villagers told Amnesty International they were attacked while fleeing on boats - the only way to get away from the site of the violence. The delta is made up of a dense network of freshwater creeks, much of it accessible only by boat.

The Nigerian Red Cross's disaster management coordinator, Attah Benson, told IRIN it was still too dangerous for NGOs to approach the affected area. "We are able to access only those who are on their way out."

The Red Cross is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, National Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to get food, water, blankets, utensils and hygiene kits to people in need, said Benson.

"They [the displaced] need food, water, shelter and blankets to relieve their suffering," the Red Cross's Ococity told IRIN. "They are sleeping on the bare floor. They are traumatised as a result of the attacks and what they went through in the mangroves while escaping.

"You can see the frustration in their faces. Hunger is taking its toll because most of them did not have anything to eat for four days."

A local official said government troops have not attacked communities but have gone after what he called criminals. Col Rabe Abubakar, military spokesman in the Niger Delta, told IRIN: "Anybody who says we attacked a community let him come and show us which community we attacked. We are raiding, based on our information, the militants' hideouts and arms dumps."

He added: "The essence is to secure the region. We are not targeting any group or any community or individual. We are targeting criminals who carried out these heinous, uncivilised and barbaric attacks."

The offensive suggests a "worrying change in direction" in the government's approach, Freeman told IRIN. In recent months a government committee recommended amnesty for some politically-motivated militants.

In February 2009 the government of President Umaru Yar'Adua assured the UN Human Rights Council it would refrain from military offensives in the Delta region because of the risk of loss of innocent lives.

DRC: Attacks against civilians and aid workers increase in the east

Photo: Eddy Isango/IRIN
National army soldiers are among those attacking civilians in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (file photo)
KINSHASA, 22 May 2009 (IRIN) - Humanitarian organisations are increasingly coming under attack in North and South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the civilian population also being affected by attacks and counter-attacks between Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) militia and the Congolese army, aid officials said.

"Humanitarian organisation vehicles have been intercepted to transport FARDC [Congolese army] soldiers or passengers' belongings looted," Ndiaga Seck, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.

". The perpetrators of the attacks are either the FDLR or FARDC," said Seck, adding that some NGOs had been threatened. "This has led, for example, to some partners suspending their activities in Fizi and in other territories."

According to a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) situation report for 6-20 May, DRC army and non-state combatants continue to commit human rights violations, particularly in areas of FARDC deployment, in preparation for Operation Kimia II, and in zones held by the FDLR.

". These include targeted attacks committed by armed forces against civilians and humanitarian workers; this environment has reduced [UNICEF] ... and its humanitarian partners' [access] to assist the people in need," stated the report.

While returns have been registered in North Kivu, new, massive population displacement has occurred after renewed fighting, said UNICEF.

Grim statisitics from South Kivu
120,000 people have been displaced since March 2009
450,000 have been displaced in total in the province
400,000 more people could be displaced because of the new operation (Oxfam)
1,300,000 is the total number of displaced people in DRC
65 cases of rape were recorded in South Kivu's Shabunda territory between 1 April and 7 May
39 of these have been attributed to DRC soldiers newly deployed in the area
103 cases of rape were recorded in Minova health zone between 1 April and 7 May
150 civilians, at least, have been killed this month by FDLR
77 were killed on 10 May in the village of Busurungi in Kalehe territory
702 homes were torched during the attack
224 cases of cholera were recorded in Ziralo in Bunyakiri health zone
32 of these died, with the high mortality rate attributed to the sick not reaching medical centres
Source: OCHA
"The increasing insecurity is an obstacle to the implementation of humanitarian activities," it said. "From January to April 2009, 44 attacks against humanitarian workers have been registered; this means on average there is one attack every three days."

The attacks represent a 22 percent increase on the same period in 2008, stated the report.

More sexual violence cases are being reported in the Kalehe and Shabunda territories of South Kivu since the deployment of army soldiers there, according to a 20 May update by OCHA. The soldiers have been deployed in preparation for a joint anti-FLDR operation with the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

The soldiers are engaging in looting and rape during their foot patrols and are contributing to a new wave of population displacement, according to the update (see box). It said the village of Karega has twice been looted in separate incidents by the FDLR and FARDC.

Seck said two women and four men had been taken into the forest and that residents in some villages had been threatened and were being held hostage by the FDLR.

According to MONUC spokesman Lt-Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, the clashes are due to FDLR counter-attacks in inhabited areas or in FARDC-occupied zones.

Dietrich said the reprisals were also targeting civilians who have had dealings with the armed groups, adding that FARDC had managed to push the FDLR back.

SOMALIA: Exodus continues despite lull in Mogadishu fighting

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
An IDP camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu (file photo)
NAIROBI, 21 May 2009 (IRIN) - Hundreds of families are still fleeing the Somali capital, Mogadishu, despite relative calm in the past week following intense fighting between insurgents and government troops.

They are joining hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps on the outskirts of the city and in safer neighbourhoods inside Mogadishu.

"Even today [21 May], many families are leaving because they believe the current break in the fighting is just temporary," Ali Sheikh Yassin, the deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organisation (EHRO), told IRIN. "I think many people have lost hope that this city will ever return to normal.

"Many markets and businesses have shut down because of the security situation." He said Suuq Ba'ad in the north, the second-largest open-air market in Mogadishu, was closed.

"There is not a single store or shop open there," Yassin said. "This market did not close at the height of the conflict in 2007-2008."

People's livelihoods have been destroyed, "so anyone who can leave is doing so", he added.

The impact of the current displacement is also being felt in neighbourhoods that had escaped much of the recent violence in the city, such as Madina in the southwest, and Huriwa in the north.

"Almost every family in these neighbourhoods is hosting one or more families," Yassin said.

Photo: ReliefWeb

Relying on relatives

Mogadishu resident Abdiwali Nur returned to the city with his family from an IDP camp in April, hoping the situation would improve. However, he is staying with a relative in Madina, with his wife and three children.

"We could not afford to go the IDP camps again so my relative has given us a small place in his house," Nur said. "All the neighbours are hosting people."

Another returnee, Halima Warsame, mother of five, fled her home in Towfiq, north Mogadishu, last week to Arbiska area near Afgoye, 30km south of Mogadishu, where she was previously an IDP.

"I left a month ago thinking this was the end of our ordeal but I was wrong," Warsame said. "I thought with the Ethiopian troops gone and the new government [in place] everything would be alright, only it got worse.

"I don't see any hope that our situation will ever improve."

Warsame's husband and son were killed in 2007 after a shell landed on their shop. She told IRIN their situation in the camp was desperate: "We have no shelter from the constant rain."

Sporadic shelling has been continuing between government forces and insurgents since major clashes ended on 17 May.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of people displaced since 8 May has reached 45,000.

In a briefing note on 20 May, the agency said the deteriorating security situation was hampering aid delivery.

"Even local agencies that have often provided a lifeline to the IDPs are encountering new risks as they try to help out the needy," UNHCR said.

It said the most urgent needs were shelter and non-food items, "which humanitarian agencies led by UNHCR plan to provide first to over 100,000 people in the Afgoye corridor and neighbourhoods in northwest Mogadishu, and afterwards to others in other affected areas of the city as soon as the security permits".