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Posts Tagged ‘Zimbabwe’

This is the first of my (intended) weekly posts on resources that encourage readers of this blog to stay abreast of human rights news as well as become aware of interesting sites and articles that assist in activist capacity building and personal enrichment.

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Increasingly, satellite technology is coming into use as a tool to monitor human rights crises and provide infallible evidence of injustices and crime in real time.  I first heard of satellite imagery being used in this manner several years ago when the Zimbabwe government denied razing nearly 5,000 buildings and farms and internally displacing nearly 700,000 of its own country’s people in Operation Murambatsvina (meaning “drive out rubbish”).  

Amnesty International found the following, very clear before and after shots of the forced demolition and evictions:

Amnesty/Digital Globe

Satellite images from 2002 and 2006 showing the destruction of the Porta Farms settlement outside Harare. Photo: Amnesty/Digital Globe

AI also embarked on a satellite imagery project to document the ongoing crisis in Darfur, called “Eyes on Darfur.”  Increasingly, these types of tools and situation reporting, (including social media), seem to foster a greater sense of connection, deepened understanding and impassioned action among activists, journalists, students and others.  Pictures often can drive action more powerfully than words.

Outside the scope of Amnesty’s work with satellite technology, I recently learned that the UN Institute for Training and Research has an Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT)  that uses geographical information systems, field workers, satellite imagery experts and more to deliver “satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the UN system to help make a difference in the life of communities exposed to poverty, hazards and risk, or affected by humanitarian and other crises. ”

I came across Gaza Strip Damage Maps when searching for some of the latest information regarding the Israeli bombing of the UN compound

UNOSAT as you’ll see has maps for many other countries and regions and for various events ranging from train collisions in North Korea to population distributions in Mexico. 

I think we’ll be seeing more and more satellite technology make its way into how humanitarian crises and other human rights news are reported and also digested by readers – perhaps it will be the one extra push some might need toward pursuing action.

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Zimbabwean children picked up corn that had spilled from a truck on a recent Sunday along a road south of the capital, Harare. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

Zimbabwean children picked up corn that had spilled from a truck on a recent Sunday along a road south of the capital, Harare. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

This post will mostly highlight photos from Zimbabwe and key stats/ quotes from today’s NY Times article on Zimbabwe.  According to the Times by CELIA W. DUGGER, “a recent United Nations survey found that 7 in 10 people had eaten either nothing or only a single meal the day before” in Zimbabwe.

They are in their seventh year of hunger as a result of Mugabe’s policy of breaking up the predominately white owned farms that was distributed to his followers.  This year, he contributed to their hunger even more by banning, “international charitable organizations from operating, depriving more than a million people of food and basic aid after the country had already suffered one of its worst harvests” from June to August.

NGO’s and western governments who help distribute food to the poor during Mugabe’s reign have in a way, kept him in power.  They prevented starvation which could have led to social unrest from within the native population that could have potentially unseat the dictator.

“The World Food Program is short of nearly half the food needed for January, said Richard Lee, a spokesman.”

“People rise before the sun. . . to fill metal pails with the small, foul-smelling hacha fruit. . .the fruit is now infested with tiny brown worms. Nevertheless, the women peel it, crush it and soak it in water. Some of the worms float to the surface and can be skimmed off.”

“Maidei Kunaka grinds the animal feed she earns in exchange for her labor on a nearby ostrich farm — an unappetizing amalgam of wheat, soy bean, sand and what she calls “green stuff” — to nourish her three children.”

As a result of Mugabe’s failed agricultural policies, “the annual harvest of corn, the main staple food, has fallen to about a third of its previous levels, the Development Program reported.”

The New York Times

A man dug a grave at a cemetery in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. A ferocious cholera epidemic, spread by water contaminated with human excrement, has stricken more than 16, 000 people across Zimbabwe since August and killed more than 780 people. Photo: The New York Times

The cholera epidemic could devastate the country because of the weakened population.  Hopefully this will change with the new administration, but we must urge both administrations that if we are defenders of democracy, we should support Morgan Tsvangirai who won the first round of voting and force Robert Mugabe out of power first indirectly by sanctions like ones proposed by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

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Today, December 10, is the sixtieth anniversary of Human Rights Day.  Sixty years ago the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which define in 30 points what is our basic rights.

Since I have Monday’s off, I was able to attend the AIDS town meeting hosted by Physicians for Human Rights.  There, the Rev. Gloria White Hammond was one of the panelists who spoke there.  Here are some of her thoughts on human rights day and violence against women.

The cholera epidemic is Zimbabwe is critical because it could spread rapidly in the upcoming months because of the political situation there.

As mentioned earlier, aid agencies will be facing a shortage of food supplies in January when the need is the greatest.  The BBC reported in a podcast that students are foraging in the countryside and abandoning class to find food for their family.  If people are hungry, there immune systems will be weakend therefore being more vulnerable to cholera.  There are also shortages of basic medical supplies in hospitals throughout the country making it more difficult to treat.  In addition, the collapse of the sewage and basic water services has made it easier for the disease to spread.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7771184.stm

Change starts from the bottom up.  Dr. Jim Yong Kim also spoke at the AIDS town meeting.  In it he reminded the audience of the need to stay active in urging for change by quoting Franklin Delanor Roosevelt.  Sidney Hillman, a union representative, urged the new elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt to use his powers to enact stronger protection for workers.

FDR responded.  “I agree with you.  I want to do it.  Now go out and make me do it.”

It is critical that we ask our elected officials to put pressure on Robert Mugabe and ask him to stand down peacefully for the sake of his country.  We need to make them do it.

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In the most pointed remarks made by an African leader, the BBC reports on Thursday that Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga has called for his fellow African leaders to oust Robert Mugabe saying, “it’s time for African governments… to push him out of power,” after the power sharing deal with Morgan Tsvangirai has failed.

Some 12,545 cholera cases have been recorded since August, the UN says.  AP Photo

Some 12,545 cholera cases have been recorded since August, the UN says. AP Photo

The Kenyan PM says that if his South African counterpart asked Mugabe to stand down, he would have no choice but to do so.  He also thinks that Tsvangirai should not participate in the power sharing deal since Mugabe is not truly interested in being a partner.

In the past few monthes, Zimbabwe has accelerated towards calamity as the BBC has reported 10 soldiers rampaged through the capital on Monday because a bankrupt bank could not pay them their wages.

A cholrea epidemic has claimed 565 lives and has infected 12,545 people since August according to the UN.  Scores are fleeing towards South Africa hoping for medical treatment exacerbating a refugee problem in South Africa.

Immigrants, most from Zimbabwe, rush the gate to apply for refugee asylum permits at a government refugee center June 17, 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Officials were overwhelmed by the crowd of thousands that appeared Tuesday morning, after a three day weekend in South Africa. The wave of immigrants crossing illegally from Zimbabwe continues, despite the xenophobic violence against immigrants last month. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigrants, most from Zimbabwe, rush the gate to apply for refugee asylum permits at a government refugee center June 17, 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Officials were overwhelmed by the crowd of thousands that appeared Tuesday morning, after a three day weekend in South Africa. The wave of immigrants crossing illegally from Zimbabwe continues, despite the xenophobic violence against immigrants last month. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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