IRIN-West Africa Update 345 for 1998.11.24

IRIN-West Africa Update 345 for 1998.11.24


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 345 of Events in West Africa (Tuesday 24 November)

BENIN: At least 1.43 million people to die of AIDS by 2025

The World Health Organisation estimates 15,000 people have already died of AIDS in Benin, according to a report received by IRIN today (Tuesday) and a separate national report estimates at least 1.43 million people will have died by the year 2025.

The national report, published on Friday by the National Programme Against AIDS and quoted by AFP, was limited to people aged between 15 and 49. It said 21,510 people had died of AIDS since 1995.

The report says that because of the projected AIDS deaths the population initially projected to reach 14 million by 2025 will be only 12 million, a drop in the population growth rate from 3.1 percent to 2.9 percent.

The national AIDS agency, which questioned prenatal specialists, says AIDS mostly affects the regions of Atakora in the northwest, Borgou in the northeast and Mono in the southwest.

It says 100,000 people are infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS but WHO puts the number of people with HIV, whether or not they have developed symptoms of the disease, and alive at the end of 1997, at 54,000. WHO says 82 percent of HIV transmission in Benin is through heterosexual contacts.

Sub-Saharan Africa still AIDS epicentre

The global AIDS epicentre continues to be in sub-Saharan Africa where some 5,500 funerals take place each day, UNAIDS and the WHO said in a report published today.

It said there were four million new infections in Africa this year and that since the epidemic began, 34 million Africans had been infected and almost 12 million of them had died.

It described the spread of HIV in Southern Africa as dramatic during the past year, with South Africa alone accounting for one in seven new infections. "In contrast, a number of countries in West Africa remain relatively less affected, in part as a result of early and sustained prevention efforts," the report says.

The forces that have fueled the epidemic remain undetermined, it said. For example, in some countries HIV infection rates are much higher than their immediate neighbours. The report says factors such as wars "generate fertile conditions" for the spread of the virus.

Although many people have no access to voluntary HIV testing, it said, many do not want to know their HIV status, where the facility exists, because of the stigma attached to the disease. For example, it said, in Cote d'Ivoire at least 13,000 pregnant women were offered tests to increase the chances of having healthy babies, but fewer than half accepted testing and returned for the results.

[The complete report: New World Aids Day is available on].

LIBERIA: Senate approves drug enforcement agency

The Liberian Senate has approved the establishment of a new drug enforcement agency replacing the national interministerial drug committee, an autonomous body within the Justice Ministry headed by a director appointed by the President of Liberia, to formulate and enforce all domestic anti-drugs legislation.

The office of the UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) in Abidjan told IRIN today that 75 percent of former fighters engaged in the seven-year civil war had used alcohol, tobacco and drugs like cannabis, cocaine and heroin as a means of being combat ready. In an attempt to tackle the problem, Liberia's National Interministerial Drug Committee (NDIC) designed a three-million US dollar project for the rehabilitation of the fighters. The UNDCP recommended the establishment of an anti-drug agency to strengthen the legal capacity of the NDIC and create an alternative resource base.

The drug control strategy in Liberia also included anti-drug sensitisation which covered strengthening local institutions fighting drugs use through training, seminars, conferences, mass-media education, media coverage. The UNDCP office provided US $40,000 in 1998 for equipment and office supplies to the NIDC.

Government to rehabilitate roads and railways

The Liberian government will begin work in December on rebuilding roads and railways in rural Liberia in consultation with logging companies and former railroad workers, Star Radio reported on Monday. Liberian President Charles Taylor said he would suggest to logging companies that they stop work during the rainy season to avoid unnecessary damage to the roads. Taylor said the railroad links between Bong Mines, Monrovia, Buchanan and Yekepa had to be repaired as they were crucial to trade and commerce in Liberia.

American embassy in Monrovia resumes operation

The American embassy in Monrovia resumed operations yesterday (Monday) two months after scaling down its diplomatic activities following a gunbattle outside the embassy in September, the BBC reported. It quoted US charge d'affaires Donald Patterson as saying that his government was satisfied with the apology from the Liberian government over the shooting incident. Government soldiers shot at a former faction leader, Roosevelt Johnson, and his supporters as they tried to take refuge in the embassy.

IMF, World Bank delegations in Monrovia

A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank arrived yesterday in Monrovia to hold talks with leaders of financial and economic management institutions, a bank official in Washington told IRIN. The mission would look at the economic indicators and prepare a country report.

WEST AFRICA: UNHCR and ECOWAS to discuss conflict resolution

The UNHCR and high ranking officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a one-day meeting in Geneva today to discuss ways of bringing peace and stability to areas in West Africa troubled by civil strife and refugee crises, a UNHCR press release said. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, said in a statement before the meeting: "It was vital that UNHCR and ECOWAS work together to prevent war and instability which are at the root of displacement in the region" adding that in "many areas we have the same concerns".

The meeting will prepare the ground for a joint ECOWAS/UNHCR ministerial gathering in West Africa which will tackle refugee issues and regional strategies for conflict prevention and resolution. It will also address the fledgling peace process in Guinea Bissau, where ECOMOG troops are about to be deployed, as well as the difficulties humanitarian agencies have encountered in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ogata is expected to meet ECOWAS Executive secretary Lansana Kouyaute, and General Timothy Shelpidi, the head of ECOMOG.

SIERRA LEONE: EU gives Freetown US $124.8 million

The European Union (EU) signed an agreement on Monday to provide cash-strapped Sierra Leone 111.5 million European currency units (US $124.88 million) to revamp its shattered economy.

An official from the EU office in Freetown told IRIN yesterday that the money, to be disbursed over five years, will support rehabilitation of infrastructure, the development of social and public sectors and good government.

The aid will include eight million ecus ($8.92 million) in risk capital, provided by the European Investment Bank, for projects in power supply, mining and private sector investment. The EU said other sources may provide support for agricultural recovery, humanitarian and refugee aid, mining and structural adjustment.

The EU could provide further aid in the future to back up support already committed to projects including the rehabilitation of social and economic infrastructure now being undertaken in the western and hinterland towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni; artisanal fisheries and community development along the coast northward between Freetown and the Guinea border; and reform and restructuring of public finances. Plans to support the health, roads and electricity sectors will also be made.

The official told IRIN that since January, the European relief aid agency ECHO had provided US $12 million, through NGOs, to help rebuild the health sector and to meet other humanitarian needs.

President predicts war will be over by year's end

Sierra Leonean President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has said the civil war in his country will be over "way before the end of the year", the BBC reported.

In an interview broadcast on Monday, Kabbah said progress had been slow in ending the war because government had been simultaneously fighting the rebels and building a new army.

There has also been a delay, he said, in getting some 5,000 troops to strengthen the 10,000-strong ECOMOG force in the country. But "we should be expecting extra troops soon," Kabbah said."

The force, mostly Nigerian, is supporting the government's effort to defeat rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and their renegade military allies in the north and east of the country. It ousted the military government, that had overthrown Kabbah, from Freetown in February.

Rebels set conditions for priest's release

Sierra Leonean RUF rebels have demanded a satellite telephone and medical supplies in return for releasing the Reverend Mario Guerra, 64, whom they kidnapped on 15 November in the north of the country, missionary sources said.

The rebels are also demanding that the wife of rebel commander Solomon Musa be allowed to speak to her husband on radio telephone. Guerra passed on the rebel demands on Monday when he spoke over rebel radio with missionaries.

NIGERIA: Human rights have improved, UN says

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Nigeria, Soli Sorabjee, welcomed improvements in the human rights situation saying there had been a "sea change" since the Nigerian leader had taken power in June, news organisations reported. The radio station, Voice of Nigeria external service, quoted Sorabjee, a legal expert, as saying that his visit to Nigeria was a sign of the "government's liberalising move". The lawyer's missions to Nigeria had been cancelled by the former hardline military leader, General Sani Abacha.

The BBC quoted a Nigerian human rights activist, Olisa Agbakoba, as saying that although human rights in Nigeria had changed, the real test of the mission would be how the government would respond to its findings.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar began releasing political prisoners shortly after he came to power, and repealed security laws permitting detention without trial.

Abidjan, November 24, 1998 18:30 GMT


Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 18:57:17 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 345 for 1998.11.24

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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