Monday, November 12, 2007

Urban sanitation lacking, unrest in northern Niger continuing, Sierra Leone's rise

  • Health and Sanitation issues neglected

The head of at least one development agency claims the donor community neglects health and sanitation issues in rural Africa.

On the coattails of the World Bank admitting it had not placed enough emphasis on the role agriculture plays in African development, a high ranking officer of the KFW German Development Bank says this neglect is due to development agencies concentrating on rural development where sanitation issues are not as serious as urban areas.

According to Public Agenda in Accra, Ghana at least 300 million or 40 percent of Africans do not have access to basic sanitation and hygiene services. This number has increased 70 million since 1990. The paper says people living without access are concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable, and the problem is particularly severe in rapidly growing peri-urban areas.

Africa is predominately a rural continent today, but demographers believe urban areas will hold the majority of the population by the end of the century.

“In economic sense, there is the need to focus on sanitation in urban areas where there are slums and where people are in dire need of sanitation services,” said Brun Wenn, the senior vice president of KFW.

  • Continued unrest in northern Niger

Officials for the government of Niger admitted that four soldiers were killed by Tuareg rebels who attacked a civilian convoy north of Agadez.

The soldiers were protecting the convoy, the government said, when members of the People of Niger for Justice attacked.

However, the PNJ claims to have killed 15 military men and capture four others.

Last month, the rebel group which is fighting for more representation in Niger’s army, political structure and uranium field, claimed to have killed upwards of 30 soldiers and destroyed many army vehicles. Those claims were never confirmed.

Just last week, the Nigerien government announced it had granted exploration and prospecting permit in the Agadez region to a Chinese firm, Forbes recently claimed.

The story says that no financial details have been released regarding the agreement.

The government of Niger shuttered its mining operation in the northern part of the country when the MNJ abducted a Chinese national. The rebel group claimed the abduction was a warning to Chinese companies operating with the Niger army.

The MNJ recently threatened a French mining company operating in the area. The group claims it would like foreign companies to hire more Tuareg workers in the resource-rich area.

Niger President Mamadou Tandja has long refused refuses to negotiate with the MNJ, whom he claims are criminals and drug runners. According to the World War 4 Report:

[T]he most recent attack came as Tuareg leaders were meeting in Algeirs in a bid to revive a peace dialogue with neighboring Mali. Invited were former rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly and Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, who has recently returned to arms. A peace deal was signed with Mali in 2006 but Bahanga broke the pact, taking some 40 hostage[s] in August—mostly government soldiers. Although he announced a truce for Ramadan and released some of them, about 20 are still in captivity.

  • Sierra Leone: New Kid on the Block

Sierra Leone is the new darling of West Africa, says the New Citizen in Freetown.

President Ernest Bai Koroma has recently visited Lagos, Accra, Dakar and Monrovia to hold discussions with his counterparts in the four countries. He also claims that the international community has demonstrated concern for the country’s fight to pull itself from “the claws of poverty, ignorance, disease and hunger within the next five years.”

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