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Sub-Saharan Africa faces grave hunger in 2020 – UN report

At the dawn of the next decade, a new World Food Programme WFP forecast of global hunger hotspots has revealed that escalating hunger will challenge sub-Saharan Africa in the first half of 2020.

According to the WFP 2020 Global Hotspots Report, millions of people in Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Sahel region will require life-saving food assistance in the coming months- the sheer scale and complexity of which will stretch the UN food relief agency’s capacity to the limit and require generous donor support for a ramped-up humanitarian response.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley spelled out ‘’WFP is fighting big and complex humanitarian battles on several fronts at the start of 2020. In some countries, we are seeing conflict and instability combine with climate extremes to force people from their homes, farms and places of work. In others, climate shocks are occurring alongside economic collapse and leaving millions on the brink of destitution and hunger’’

Against the backdrop of an imploding economy and when Zimbabwe is entering the peak of its lean season and food is at its most scarce, WFP observed that the country has more hungry people now than it has had over the past decade. And as concerns grow over the impact of a regional drought that could drag even more countries down in the first months of the year, WFP is planning assistance for some four million people in Zimbabwe.

‘’Last year, WFP was called upon to bring urgent large-scale relief to Yemen, Mozambique after Cyclone Idai, Burkina Faso and so many other crises to avert famine’’ said Margot Van Der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies. ''But the world is an unforgiving place and as we turn the page into 2020, WFP is confronting new, monumental humanitarian challenges that we need to address with real urgency’’

Elsewhere, the report says rapidly evolving political and social crisis in Haiti is raising alarm, while Afghanistan continues to face insecurity combined with drought, leaving millions of people uncertain of where their next meal will come from. WFP is the frontline agency responding to emergencies and strengthening people’s preparedness and ability to cope in the face of crises.

The largest humanitarian agency working to both save and change lives, WFP is primed 24/7 to step up support wherever needed, given sufficient funding and access. However, the agency estimates it will require more than 10 Billion US Dollars to fully fund all of its operations in more than 80 countries around the world in 2020.

According to WFP, Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst drought in decades, with temperatures hitting over 40 degrees Celsius. Food production has been severely affected, driven by climate change, the drought is exacerbating Zimbabwe’s severe economic crisis and causing a humanitarian emergency characterised by hyperinflation and rising food security. Food insecurity levels are the highest in a decade. The report underlined that half the population, 7.7 million people, is food insecure, with the 2019 cereal harvest falling more than 50 per cent short of needs for the 2019-20 lean season.

The group, however, indicated that it will double its assistance to reach up to 4.1 million of the hardest-hit Zimbabweans. It will switch to distributing food in rural areas from January, due to concerns over hyperinflation and reduced availability of commodities in rural markets. WFP is supporting efforts to boost communities’ resilience to crisis, from small dams to retain precious water to vegetable gardens to grow crops.

South Sudan remains embroiled in local conflicts, while trying to rebuild after a fragile peace dealt in September 2018 sought to end a deadly civil war that displaced 3.8 million people. A crippled economy, poorly functioning markets, lack of infrastructure and climate shocks all hamper recovery efforts. The report further indicated that parts of the country were hammered by severe drought and flooding in 2019, which has affected close to 1 million people and destroyed over 730 thousand metric tons of cereals.

Livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep perished, and grazing pasture was wiped out. It was also shared that levels of hunger are expected to dramatically worsen in the coming months unless assistance is increased, with half the population- 7.5 million people- projected to need support inn 2020.01.28 in response to this, WFP reached over 4.6 million people in 2019, including 740 thousand flood-affected people who received food and nutrition assistance.

The group also provides cash and deploys all-terrain vehicles and aircraft to reach the most remote communities, while also carrying out road repairs. Efforts to build resilience to shocks include training smallholder farmers in post-harvest storage and access to markets. Further, Southern African has experienced a stream of devastating climate chocks in the past year, with harvests failing as western and central areas of the region suffer the worst drought in 35 years.

A total 45 million people across Southern African will be severely food insecure at the peak of the lean season from January to March 2020. However, WFP is providing transport and procuring pulses to complement government distributions in Zambia. In addition, WFP is assessing further activities including cash-based distributions in Namibia, as well as technical assistance to the government of Angola’s emergency response.

Meanwhile, WFP called for increased support as eight million people in Zimbabwe face hunger. In a press statement released in December, WFP said roughly half the population of Zimbabwe, or approximately eight million people are not getting enough to eat. Zimbabwe, once known as an African breadbasket, has been hit hard by three consecutive years of drought. As a result, the maize harvest dropped by 50 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018. To meet increasing needs, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance programme in August, months earlier than expected.

Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, visited Zimbabwe in November where she witnessed how women and children are bearing the brunt of the crisis. ‘’In a desperate effort to find alternative means of livelihood, some women and children are resorting to coping mechanisms that violate their most fundamental human rights and freedoms. As a result, school drop-outs, early marriages, domestic violence, prostitution and sexual exploitation are on the rise throughout Zimbabwe’’ she said in a statement following her 11-day mission.

The hunger crisis comes as Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic downturn in a decade. Runaway inflation is just one of the symptoms, and it has put the price of basic goods beyond the reach of the average citizen. WFP reported that bread is now 20 times more expensive than it was six months ago. Increasing hardship is forcing families to skip meals, take children out of school, or sell off livestock, among other desperate measures.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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