Daily Archives: March 24, 2019

Pope Prays for Nicaragua, Victims in African Attacks

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis prayed on Sunday for the victims of attacks in Nigeria and Mali, and for the success of talks underway in Nicaragua aimed at solving a yearlong political crisis in the country.

“Let’s pray for the numerous victims of the recent inhuman attacks in Nigeria and Mali. May the Lord welcome these victims, heal the wounded, console loved ones and convert cruel hearts,” Francis said.

At least 134 people were killed on Saturday in a massacre in Mali, according to the United Nations. In Nigeria, dozens have been killed in Boko Haram attacks this week.

Francis also addressed the crisis in Nicaragua after leading a prayer Sunday to a crowd at St. Peter’s Square. Francis, who is from Argentina, described the talks between Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s administration and opposition delegations as “important.”

“I accompany the initiative with prayer and encourage the parties to find a peaceful solution for the good of all as soon as possible,” the pope said.

The Nicaraguan crisis was triggered last April when cuts to social security benefits led to protests that evolved into calls for Ortega’s resignation. Security forces responded with violent repression. Human rights groups say at least 325 people died and hundreds were imprisoned.

The unrest also devastated Nicaragua’s economy.

Source: Voice of America

Kenyan Who Gave Earnings to Poor Wins $1 Million Teacher Prize

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES A Kenyan teacher from a remote village who gave away most of his earnings to the poor won a $1 million prize on Sunday for his work teaching in a government-run school that has just one computer and shoddy Internet access.

The annual Global Teacher Prize was awarded to Peter Tabichi in the opulent Atlantis Hotel in Dubai in a ceremony hosted by actor Hugh Jackman.

Tabichi said the farthest he’d traveled before this was to Uganda. Coming to Dubai marked his first time on an airplane.

I feel great. I can’t believe it. I feel so happy to be among the best teachers in the world, being the best in the world, he told The Associated Press after his win.

Tabichi teaches science to high schoolers in the semi-arid village of Pwani where almost a third of children are orphans or have only one parent. Drought and famine are common.

He said the school has no library and no laboratory. He plans to use the million dollars from his win to improve the school and feed the poor.

Despite the obstacles Tabichi’s students face, he’s credited with helping many stay in school, qualify for international competitions in science and engineering and go on to college.

At times, whenever I reflect on the challenges they face, I shed tears, he said of his students, adding that his win will help give them confidence.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that Tabichi’s story is the story of Africa and of hope for future generations.

As a member of the Roman Catholic brotherhood, Tabichi wore a plain floor-length brown robe to receive the award presented by Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The prize is awarded by the Varkey Foundation, whose founder, Sunny Varkey, established the for-profit GEMS Education company that runs 55 schools in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar.

In his acceptance speech, Tabichi said his mother died when he was just 11 years old, leaving his father, a primary school teacher, with the job of raising him and his siblings alone.

Tabichi thanked his father for instilling Christian values in him, then pointed to his father in the audience, invited him up on stage and handed him the award to hold as the room erupted in applause and cheers.

I found tonight to be incredibly emotional, very moving, Jackman told the AP after hosting the ceremony and performing musical numbers from his film The Greatest Showman.

It was a great honor, a thrill to be here and I just thought the whole evening was just filled with a really pure spirit, he added.

Now in its fifth year, the prize is the largest of its kind. It’s quickly become one of the most coveted and prestigious for teachers. Tabichi selected out of out 10,000 applicants.

The winner is selected by committees comprised of teachers, journalists, officials, entrepreneurs, business leaders and scientists.

Last year, a British art teacher was awarded for her work in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country. Her work was credited with helping students feel welcome and safe in a borough with high murder rates.

Other winners include a Canadian teacher for her work with indigenous students in an isolated Arctic village where suicide rates are high, and a Palestinian teacher for her work in helping West Bank refugee children traumatized by violence.

The 2015 inaugural winner was a teacher from Maine who founded a nonprofit demonstration school created for the purpose of developing and disseminating teaching methods.

Source: Voice of America

Mozambican Families Hunt for Loved Ones Separated by Cyclone

BUZI, MOZAMBIQUE The young mother huddled on a wooden boat clutching her 2-year-old daughter, headed for the unknown: The flooded town of Buzi, which thousands have fled with little but the clothes on their backs.

Fishermen’s boats have been ferrying out Buzi’s displaced, sometimes scores of people crammed into a single vessel. But Veronica Fatia was going against the tide, up waters that only recently carried corpses to the sea. She was looking for her mother, hoping she was still alive.

Ten days after the fierce rains and winds roared in, the death toll stood at more than 750 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi � a count that was certain to rise. Thousands of families swept apart by the storm were now seeking to reunite.

After a three-hour journey Fatia stepped carefully out of the boat and walked into the remains of Buzi, a once bustling riverside city of 200,000 now reduced to homelessness and despair.

She passed the shuttered Jesus Saves Bank and a nearby three-story building where residents clustered on the rooftop in search of a signal for their cellphones. She passed people living in the open along the sandy main road. Some were cooking, others building crude shelters. A young boy read a textbook. Her mother might be at the school, Fatia thought.

A cry went up as she approached the building and people came running.

Mama! she shouted as she caught sight of her mother. They embraced on a concrete walkway now filled with cooking fires and small children, one nodding off beside a pile of warm ashes.

My home is gone, but I’m still happy because I can see my family, Fatia said.

Her mother, Maria Antonio, said she last saw her daughter two days before the storm. I didn’t know anything about her, she said. I’m very happy to see her.

But the fate of her other daughter, in Quelimane further north, remains unknown.

It is a common heartbreak for thousands of families in central Mozambique, who have no way to learn about missing loved ones as destroyed communications networks struggle to return. People are desperately searching for family members separated by the flooding, destruction and death. Many will not be as lucky as Fatia.

The fishing boats between Buzi and the cyclone-shattered port city of Beira about 125 miles (200 kilometers) away are now a lifeline carrying survivors and essential supplies, braving bursts of rain, rolling waves and the ever-pervasive stench of death. Near Buzi, a dog’s carcass hung from the branches of a tree.

Cut off from the world, people can easily panic. One member of the Mozambican Red Cross, Assane Paul, tried to calm a knot of people in Buzi who had heard a rumor that another cyclone was on the way.

Others tried to adapt however they could, from the Bible reader on the rooftop who blamed the cyclone on people’s sins to the man walking down the road in soaking wet trousers. They were the only clothes he had, he explained. It was very much wash and wear.

Many people were still on the move. Dozens waited at Buzi’s small pier for the fishermen’s boats to pull up, bags of belongings at their feet and concern on their faces. Others simply watched for news.

At the other end of the journey, the beach in Beira, children and barefoot women were carried off a fishing boat and gathered together by aid workers in the rain. Some looked lost. Few carried much. One small girl stood alone, hugging herself, her eyes wide and pleading.

I hid in the mosque, said 12-year-old Ramadan Gulam. I was there for a week. He had come from Buzi with nothing but a bag of clothes and his brothers. My father said to go because the floods would come again. … I don’t know what to do now.

Christina Machado came with her two children and a bandage on her ankle. It was cut by a tin roof during the cyclone, she said. It was treated just yesterday.

I’m looking for my husband, she said. He had been working in Beira for two months. She didn’t know where she would be taken next.

Francisco Mambonda spent about a week on a rooftop with nothing to eat. He and his wife and sons drank muddy water to survive.

Barefoot, shivering and in tattered shorts, he added another plea to the growing chorus: I don’t know what to do now.

Still, there was a ray of hope for emergency crews.

As night fell and one wooden boat from Buzi approached the flickering, generator-lit Beira skyline, another passed in the dusk. It carried soldiers to their duties. Some raised their guns and cheered.

Source: Voice of America

Nearly Half of Cyclone Idai’s Victims Are Children

GENEVA The U.N. children’s fund reports nearly half of the 1.7 million people affected by Cyclone Idai in southern Africa are children. The official number of deaths across the region has now risen to over 700. But this figure is expected to increase once the waters have receded and the bodies of those who have drowned and gone missing are found.

Conditions in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe remain critical. Thousands of people are still trapped by the flood waters, many huddled on rooftops and in trees waiting to be rescued.

The U.N. children’s fund reports the situation for hundreds of thousands of children caught up in this monumental storm is particularly dire. It says many do not have adequate shelter and are in urgent need of food and safe drinking water.

UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac says children are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases.

Without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at high risk of preventable diseases including diarrhea, typhoid and cholera, and also increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition, he said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports cases of cholera have been confirmed in the city of Beira in Mozambique, the epicenter of the cyclone. It warns the risk of outbreaks of malaria, water-borne and infectious diseases is high due to the prevailing conditions.

UNICEF reports many schools and hospitals have been destroyed or damaged or are being used as collective shelters. As a consequence, thousands of children are unable to go to school. It says it is crucial for children to go back to the classroom as soon as possible.

Officials explain many children are suffering from physical and emotional distress. They say school provides them with a structure and a sense of normalcy that can help them better deal with their anguish in this time of extreme chaos.

Source: Voice of America

UN: Death Toll From Central Mali Massacre up to 134

BAMAKO The death toll from a massacre in a central Malian village rose to 134 dead, the U.N. said, as new video emerged Sunday showing victims strewn on the ground amid the burning remains of their homes.

An ethnic Dogon militia already blamed for scores of attacks in central Mali over the past year attacked an ethnic Peuhl village just before dawn on Saturday.

Among the victims in Ogossogou were pregnant women, small children and the elderly, according to a Peuhl group known as Tabital Pulaaku.

Graphic video obtained by The Associated Press shows the aftermath of Saturday’s attack, with many victims burned inside their homes. A small child’s body is covered with a piece of fabric, and at one point an ID card is shown covered with blood.

In the capital of Bamako, visiting U.N. Security Council President Francois Delattre, condemned the killings as an unspeakable attack” late Saturday.

At least 55 people were wounded and the U.N. mission in Mali said it was working to ensure the wounded were evacuated.”

In New York, the U.N. secretary-general condemned the attack and called on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Islamic extremists were ousted from urban centers in northern Mali during a 2013 French-led military operation. The jihadists scattered throughout the rural areas, regrouped and began launching numerous attacks against the Malian military and the U.N. mission. Since 2015, extremism has edged all the way to central Mali where it has exacerbated tensions between the Dogon and Peuhl groups.

Members of the Dogon group accuse the Peulhs of supporting these jihadists linked to violent groups in the country’s north and beyond. Peulhs have in turn accused the Dogon of supporting the Malian army in its effort to stamp out extremism.

In December, Human Rights Watch had warned that “militia killings of civilians in central and northern Mali are spiraling out of control.” The group said the ethnic Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou and its leader had been linked to many of the atrocities and called for Malian authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.

Mali’s Dogon country with its dramatic cliff landscapes and world renowned traditional art once drew tourists from Europe and beyond who hiked through the region’s villages with local guides. The region, though, has been destabilized in recent years along with much of central Mali.

Source: Voice of America