Innovative Project Provides Green Energy to Vulnerable Communities in Madagascar

The World Food Program and Madagascar government have launched an innovative green energy project to help rural communities develop their economies and withstand climate shocks.

Madagascar is famous for its flora and fauna, as well as its inclement weather. The northern and central parts of the country are subject to cyclonic rains while drought conditions prevail in the south.

The World Food Program reports more than 2.2 million people in the southern regions suffer from food insecurity leading to high rates of chronic malnutrition among children under five.

To alleviate this situation, WFP and the government have launched the so-called Rapid Rural Transformation Initiative in two southern regions, Androy and Anosy. Hot and dry weather is the norm in these regions, so is the abundance of sunlight.

That, says WFP spokesman, Tomson Phiri, makes them ideal for establishing solar-powered hubs, a sustainable water source, and information and communication technology.

Speaking from the Madagascar capital, Antananarivo, Phiri says the project will provide essential services, such as energy, water, and digital platforms to communities in remote areas.

“I visited two of those villages serving upwards of 2,500 villagers in a very environmentally responsible, sustainable manner,” said Phiri. “Now, these hubs as well are providing digital classrooms for learners. I saw young people who were nurturing dreams there.”

He says the solar-powered hubs allow various partners to set up integrated community services, such as training centers for women and young people. He says he has seen communities brought together by technology.

“We have brought connectivity. We are enhancing agricultural productivity,” said Phiri. “We are going to hone peoples’ business skills, and we are giving opportunities to people, especially women and the youth, so that they can start embarking on their own enterprises.”

Phiri calls the project a game changer. For example, he notes women in villages in the south who previously were unable to consult medical practitioners, now can do so through the digital hubs.

He says the initiative is making it possible for people in remote communities to stand on their own two feet without waiting for handouts from the international community.

Source: Voice of America

Tanzania Opposition Holds First Rally Since Ban Lifted

Tanzania’s main opposition party held Saturday its first mass rally since the lifting of a ban imposed in 2016, raising hopes the government is committed to increased political freedom in the East African nation.

“It was not easy after those seven years of banning political meetings,” the director for communications and foreign affairs for the Chadema party, Jon Mrema, told cheering supporters.

Thousands of Chadema supporters gathered at the Furahisha grounds in the lakeside city of Mwanza, draped in the party’s blue, red and white colors.

“We have been silent for almost seven years but finally, our right is restored, and we are ready to move ahead,” Mwanza resident and party supporter Mary Dismas said.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan this month lifted the ban introduced by her hardline predecessor John Magufuli, who was nicknamed “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.

The government’s change of heart comes as Hassan, in power for 22 months, seeks to break with some of Magufuli’s policies.

The move was cautiously welcomed as a gain for democracy by rights groups and the country’s opposition parties.

Magufuli had banned political rallies early in his tenure, saying it was time for work, not politics.

But critics said the ban applied only to opposition groups, with the ruling party free to assemble, and rival gatherings were violently broken up by police and their officials jailed.

‘Opening new page’

There was early optimism when Hassan, the first woman elected as the country’s president, reached out to rivals, reopened banned media outlets and reversed some of Magufuli’s most controversial policies.

But her presidency fell under a shadow when Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, along with a number of other senior party officials, were arrested in July 2021 just hours before they were to hold a public forum urging constitutional reforms.

Mbowe, who spent seven months in prison on terrorism charges, is attending the Saturday rally, organized in the port city where they were arrested.

“We are now going to strongly campaign for a new constitution and an independent electoral commission,” Dismas told AFP.

Chadema officials said a series of grassroots rallies had been lined up.

“We will organize as many rallies as possible to reach all wards and villages in the country,” said Sharifa Suleiman, acting chairperson of the Chadema women’s wing.

“This is our time to build the grounds for 2025 elections,” she said.

Another official, Hashim Juma Issa, said the party was “opening up a new page” as it celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Source: Voice of America

UN Rights Chief Launches $452 Million Appeal to Protect, Defend Human Rights

The U.N.’s top human rights official, Volker Türk, appealed Friday for $452 million to fund the critical work of the high commissioner’s office in protecting and defending human rights throughout the world this year.

The high commissioner’s office is the guardian and defender of human rights. It is the global watchdog of abuse and violence. As such, it puts the spotlight on violators of human rights to pressure a change in bad behavior.

In his appeal to donors, human rights chief Volker Türk noted there can be no durable peace nor sustainable development without human rights. He said it was important to bring human rights to life in every part of the world to achieve stability and attain justice.

“We need to insist on action–globally, regionally, and domestically—so that we address inequalities, that we strengthen social protections, that we eliminate discrimination in whatever form, and other root causes of conflict, and that we address environmental crises and misery,” said Türk.

The high commissioner’s office has a difficult task. There are many egregious human rights crises that need to be addressed. They include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the deadly protests in Iran, the continued internment of more than a million Muslim Uyghurs in so-called reeducation camps in China’s Xinjiang region, and the Islamist insurgency in Africa’s Sahel region.

Türk emphasized protecting human rights is essential in combatting these ills. He said human rights are at the core of the United Nations charter and guide the world body’s principles and purposes.

“We know that now more than ever, we need human rights to keep the world stable and provide us a roadmap for a better future as part of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human rights) 75 initiative and beyond,” said Türk.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or UDHR. High Commissioner Türk said he plans to use the anniversary to bring the words of that seminal document to life.

He is urging donors to support his appeal for funding so his office can strengthen its ability to provide a better future for all.

Source: Voice of America