Monthly Archives: April 2019

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UN says more, better trained midwives could saves millions of women’s, infants’ lives

JOHANNESBURG – More and better trained midwives could help save millions of lives in many countries with high death rates among newborns and women giving birth, the United Nations said Monday.

“We have now realized that there is a huge potential in the hands of the midwives that was not being exploited,” Vincent Fauveau, a doctor who co-ordinated a U.N. study of 58 countries, said in a telephone interview from the coastal South African city of Durban. “They can do much more than deliver babies. They can deliver health services.”

Dozens of aid, development and educational institutions endorsed a U.N. Population Fund study that said governments, donors and others must invest in and respect midwives. The study and new recommendations for training and licensing midwives were released at an international midwives conference in Durban Monday. USAID, Save the Children and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health were among the groups endorsing the study.

In Ethiopia, only 6 per cent of births are attended by a doctor, nurse or midwife, the study said. In Niger, many women have more pregnancies than is safe. In Botswana, the AIDS virus is linked to almost 80 per cent of maternal deaths.

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Midwives should be looked to in countries that need to increase the number of births attended by trained professionals if there is a shortage of doctors and nurses, Fauveau said. Midwives, often particularly trusted among women in their communities, can also offer birth control counselling and services, he said.

Fauveau said broad improvements are needed, including increases in other health professionals, but that the role of midwives should not be neglected.

In the West African country of Liberia, midwives often have to handle 10 to 15 deliveries a day during the highest pregnancy case load from February to July, said Tobias Bowen, administrator of a government hospital.

The load “puts a lot of strains on them,” Bowen said. “They are doing a tremendous job.”

Fauveau said the U.N. health agency recommends midwives handle only one or two births a day, to ensure that women and children get the right care, and that the midwives don’t burn out.

The U.N. surveyed health officials in 58 countries identified as “suffering from a crisis in human resources for health.” Two-thirds of the surveyed countries are in Africa.

The countries surveyed accounted for 58 per cent of all the world’s births in 2009 – but 80 per cent of stillbirths around the world, 82 per cent of newborn deaths and 91 per cent of maternal deaths.

Johns Hopkins determined as many as 3.6 million maternal, fetal and newborn deaths a year could be prevented if health services in the 58 countries are upgraded by 2015 and if the women there delivered in or near a clinic or hospital and had a professional to monitor their health during pregnancy and birth and immediately after. Such conditions are the norm in the developed world.

In 2000, the U.N. set Millennium Development Goals that included reducing child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015. Many poor countries are struggling to meet the targets.

“Investing in midwifery saves lives,” Monday’s U.N. study concluded.

Fauveau added other investments were needed, including building more clinics, particularly in rural Africa. War, poverty and hunger also threaten women and children.

“The revolution will not take place in a few months or a few years,” Fauveau said. “It’s a long-term strategy.”

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Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.

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Donna Bryson can be reached on 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/dbrysonAP

Woman who for half-century raised flag over home on Greek-Turkish border dies at 107

THESSALONIKI, Greece – For nearly half a century, she raised a Greek flag every day at the border with Turkey – a simple act that elevated her to national status.

A funeral service was held Monday for 107-year-old Vasiliki Lambidou in the village of Marasia, located in the country’s remote northeast. She died on Sunday.

Lambidou had lived in the same house a few dozen yards (meters) from the Greek-Turkish border along the Evros river since 1962. She raised the flag over her home – the closest one to the border – every day since.

She was much loved by generations of army conscripts, for whom she cooked and did laundry while they manned a guard post near her house. Soldiers would reciprocate by giving her food and wood for her fireplace.

Numerous photographs of soldiers who served there hang on the walls of her house.

Lambidou, whose family was among hundreds of thousands who were part of a population exchange with Turkey following a war in 1921, was honoured numerous times by Greek regional and national authorities. Greek President Karolos Papoulias had visited Lambidou at her home in January.

Lambidou was buried with full military honours. The Greek flag draping her coffin was handed to her granddaughter.

Senior army staff who attended the funeral praised Lambidou’s dedication.

“She was a mother to all soldiers, to all Greeks,” said Greece’s Army Chief of Staff Frangos Frangoulis.

Area military commander, Colonel Nikolaos Manolakos, said the Greek flag would continue to be raised at Lambidou’s home in her memory.

Greece and Turkey have had historically strained relations, but ties have improved drastically over the past decade.

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Australia’s attorney general condemns as unacceptable a surge in young Aboriginal prisoners

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s attorney general on Tuesday condemned as unacceptable the burgeoning number of young Aboriginal prisoners that a parliamentary report branded a “national crisis.”

Aboriginal children are 28 times more likely than other young Australians to be sent to a juvenile detention centre, according to the report on indigenous youth in the criminal justice system released Monday.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said the “alarming statistics” would redouble his efforts with state governments to find alternatives to jail, particularly for less serious offences such as failure to pay fines and unlicensed driving.

“The rate of incarceration of indigenous Australians is plainly unacceptable,” he said.

“There has been an increasing trend with law and order severity which I think the general community accepts, particularly in respect to violent crimes, but I think locking people up for fine defaults and driving offences in circumstances where Aborigines in remote communities … find it almost impossible to get a driver’s license is really taking that philosophy far too far,” he said.

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The report comes as the government strives to close the life expectancy gap of more than a decade between Aborigines and other Australians by addressing poor health, unemployment, low education levels, and alcohol and drug abuse among indigenous people.

While Aborigines make up an impoverished minority of only 2.5 per cent of Australia’s population of 22 million, 25 per cent of the nation’s prisoners are indigenous.

Incarceration rates are far worse for the young, with Aboriginal children accounting for 59 per cent of inmates in Australian juvenile detention centres.

“The overrepresentation of indigenous youth in the criminal justice system is a national crisis,” the report said.

In the past decade alone, the imprisonment rate for Aborigines has soared 66 per cent, the report said.

The 346-page report by a committee of seven government and opposition lawmakers specializing in indigenous issues made 40 wide-ranging recommendations that attack many underlying causes for young indigenous Australians getting in trouble with police.

Paul Henderson, chief minister of the Northern Territory, which has Australia’s highest proportion of Aborigines, said his government would crack down on alcohol abuse by banning problem drinkers from buying it beginning next month.

“The vast majority of indigenous people who find themselves in jail are there because of alcohol-fueled and alcohol-related crime,” Henderson told reporters.

“If you don’t crack down on alcohol, you don’t improve indigenous incarceration rates,” he said.

Wayne Martin, chief justice of the Western Australia Supreme Court, said the report made “depressing reading,” but was not surprising.

“The one thing you can conclude, I think, from the way the figures are getting steadily worse is that whatever the solutions are, we haven’t yet found them,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Milan stocks slump after Moody’s warning on debt, Greek bailout impasse

MILAN – The Milan stock exchange opened sharply lower Monday after ratings agency Moody’s warned it may reduce Italy’s credit rating due to poor growth prospects and high public debt.

The Milan benchmark FTSE MIB index dropped 2.4 per cent Monday morning to 19,619 points. The losses outpaced other European indices, which also opened lower after eurozone finance ministers failed to reach a final deal on getting Greece its next installment of bailout money.

Moody’s put Italy on warning over concerns about its ability to spur growth and reduce public debt, which at around 120 per cent of GDP is one of the highest in Europe. It also cited fragile market sentiment for European countries with high levels of public debt, which pushes up borrowing costs.

The warning followed a similar move by Standard and Poor’s, which cut its rating outlook for Italy’s debt from stable to negative.

Italian banks, which account for a large part of the Milan index, were some of the biggest losers when markets opened on Monday. Montepaschi was down 5 per cent, Intesa Sanpaolo 2.9 per cent and Unicredit 2.9 per cent. Oil stocks were also under pressure.

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The real test for Italy – which will be a factor in determining whether it too will be struck by public debt market jitters – will be interim budget moves that Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti is expected to lay out by the end of the month. The manoeuvr will be considered by Moody’s, which announced Friday it will evaluate whether to reduce Italy’s Aa2 rating, following a similar move by Standard and Poor’s.

The financial manoeuvr “is the crucial event,” said Marco Valli, chief eurozone economist at Unicredit.

“It has to be a credible manoeuvr, with credible cuts and credible measures against evasion. Also measures that are not put off until 2013 and 2014, but that cover the entire time frame,” Valli said.

The government’s key political ally, the Northern League, is pressuring Premier Silvio Berlusconi to lower taxes as one condition for its continued support. Berlusconi’s government has been weakened by a pair of stunning electoral defeats, that also eroded support for the Northern League.

Berlusconi needs the League’s support to complete his five-year term, ending in 2013.

Valli and other analysts said the warnings by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s should give Tremonti leverage to say he cannot cut taxes now.

As US troops withdraw, assistance will focus on Afghan sustainability, sovereignty

KABUL – U.S. officials on Tuesday said they will shift their development priorities from quick-impact stability programs run by international agencies to infrastructure and economic growth projects that can be run by Afghans over the long term.

The description of the shift comes as President Barack Obama prepares to announce the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. officials speaking at a background briefing at the Kabul embassy said hydroelectric dams, roads, gas fields, mines, and increased agricultural production will be the focus of their efforts as the end of 2014 approaches, the president’s promised deadline for the withdrawal of all combat troops.

The U.S. troop withdrawal will be coupled with a reorganization and reduction of western civilians working in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. By the end of 2014, all provincial reconstruction teams and smaller district level mentoring teams will close and U.S. development officials will withdraw to four consulate offices and the large American embassy in Kabul.

The transition to full Afghan control will begin in earnest on July 20th in five provincial capital cities and two provinces.

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U.S. and Afghan officials will convene a two-day conference on June 29 to work out the details of the first group of transition areas. U.S. officials at the embassy briefing said that each province is developing specific plans that take account of their particular security challenges, infrastructure, demographics, and institutional strength.

According to a draft copy of The Helmand Plan, for example, development and security programs will focus in the southern province will be on improving agriculture, linking cities and markets with new roads, and a 33-megawatt hydroelectric dam in the town of Kajaki.

Other transition areas will be identified by August, U.S. officials said.

The officials described the move toward transition as a “paradigm shift” and “evolutionary.”

The U.S. has more than 400 civilians working on development projects in 80 locations in Afghanistan.

The officials said that military operations will also become more focused and less ambitious.

Afghan security forces and judicial institutions are expected to take up many aspects of the counterinsurgency fight by establishing rule of law and respect for government institutions. Those institutions will be vital, even in 2014, the officials said.

“By 2014, there will be probably at least a low-level insurgency they’re fighting in this country,” said one U.S. official. “They’re going to be fighting narcotrafficking gangs. There’s going to be violence in the country.”

Violence is still the main concern.

At least seven people died in two separate attacks Tuesday.

A suicide bomber targeted Abdul Basir Salangi, the governor of the northern province of Parwan, as his car passed Tuesday. Salangi was unharmed, according to the Interior Ministry, but two other people were killed, including a 14-year-old girl.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to the Associated Press.

And insurgents in Shindand district in the western province of Herat, killed a local police commander, three of his guards, and a civilian bystander in a drive-by shooting on Tuesday, according to Shindand district governor Abdul Nadim Bhadori. At least two insurgents shot out of the windows of a white Toyota Corolla and sped away, Bhadori said.

On Monday, two NATO service members were killed during insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan. Forty-two coalition soldiers have died so far this month. The international alliance released no other details about the deaths.

Also on Monday, insurgents in the Shegal district in the eastern province of Kunar were repelled as they attacked a government building, said district police chief Ewaz Mohammad. Thirteen insurgents were killed, the Mohammad said, and two Afghan soldiers were wounded.

In the Gizab district of southern Uruzgan province, a roadside bomb killed two Afghan policemen and wounded a third, according provincial police chief Fazal Ahmad Sherzad.

And a joint operation of Afghan national police and NATO troops in Tarim Kot district in Uruzgan killed four suspected Taliban insurgents, Sherzad said.

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Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan contributed to this report.