Zimbabwe Facing Humanitarian Crisis

Zimbabwe Facing Humanitarian Crisis

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – According to the head of medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Rian Van De Braak, cholera will return to Zimbabwe.  The question is when.

“The threat is definitely not over,” he said.  “Everyone expects cholera to be back, at the latest with the nest rainy season [in September or October], because the root causes of the outbreak [in 2008] have not been addressed adequately yet.”

The cholera epidemic first hit Zimbabwe in August 2008 and lasted almost a full year before it was officially declared over in July 2009.

“Although Zimbabwe is not facing armed conflict, humanitarian threats such as food shortages and outbreak of diseases such as cholera pose a significant challenge,” said Agostinho Zacarias, Zimbabwe’s representative from the UN Development Programme.  “The recent [cholera] epidemic resulted in 98,592 cumulative cases, including 4,288 deaths.”

Cholera is a waterborne disease.  The latest epidemic was caused by broken sanitation and water systems.  As a result, more than half of Zimbabweans rely on unsanitary water systems because they have limited or no access to safe water and sanitation systems.  These problems are not likely to be repaired before the next rainy season begins, leaving Zimbabwe vulnerable to another outbreak.

“Several aid agencies are drilling new boreholes in cholera hotspots, which is an important contribution to safe drinking water.  Dealing with those causes before the next rainy season is a race against the clock,” Van De Braak said.  “The dilapidated water and sewage systems are still a major problem.”

In 2008, President Robert Mugabe had banned many NGOs from operation.  This time, however, the aid agencies are prepared for the worst and will “respond immediately” to the next outbreak.

“There is need for Zimbabwe to move from the humanitarian support stage to the recovery stage.  Zimbabwe is no longer a country in crisis but a country in recovery,” he said.                          

Still, UNICEF’s Peter Salama says another outbreak is “almost inevitable.”

He said, “There is a deterioration of infrastructure in the country and Zimbabwe has not made progress in improving this infrastructure.  This will expose people to another cholera outbreak again.”

Zimbabwe also suffers from food shortages and an AIDS epidemic, which takes more than 400 lives every day.

For more information, please see:

IRIN – Zimbabwe: Return of Cholera Expected Soon – 20 August 2009

AFP – UN Receives Less Than Half of Promised Aid – 19 August 2009

BBC – Cholera ‘May Return to Zimbabwe’ – 19 August 2009

CNN – U.N. Official: Zimbabwe’s Woes ‘Pose Significant Challenge’ – 19 August 2009

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) – Zimbabwe: Beyond Borders – Beyond the Crisis? – 19 August 2009

Reuters – Zimbabwe: Return of Cholera Expected Soon – 19 August 2009

Pregnant Women in Gaza Suffer Under Blockade

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East


JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – The Israeli blockade on Gaza is having a disastrous effect on the health of pregnant women in the seaside region, according to a recently released study by the World Health Organization (WHO) office based in Jerusalem.


According to the WHO’s July 2009 assessment, inadequate infrastructure, a lack of proper equipment, and a shortage in trained medical personnel have all led to a decline in the quality of hospital care provided to new mothers and their babies. The WHO attributes these conditions to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which began in July 2007, when Hamas took control of the government in Gaza.


“The Israeli blockade affects the supply of medical equipment and conditions in the maternity wards, and perpetuates the isolation of healthcare professionals, making it difficult to maintain international standards of practice,” said Tony Laurence, head of the WHO West Bank and Gaza Office in Jerusalem.


Munir al-Bursh, head of Gaza’s Department of Pharmaceuticals, reported that ten types of medications essential for proper maternal care, such as Prostin gel, which induces labor, are completely out of stock in the territory. One pregnant woman reported sending her husband to search for a needed medication while she was in the delivery room.


Pre- and post-natal care also suffers in Gaza. The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported that seventy percent of the nearly 1.5 million Gazans suffer from anemia, including forty-four percent of pregnant women. Additionally, women are typically discharged within two hours after giving birth, due to a lack of beds. In its report, the WHO advocated increasing the in-patient time to six hours. Compounding the problem is a lack of adequately trained midwives. The blockade has isolated midwives working in the Gaza Strip, leading to outdated medical knowledge and stifling the flow of information about medical advances.


Israel’s Ministry of Defense has said that medical supplies have priority as imports into Gaza, but that Israel is not obliged to allow anything into the territory aside from basic humanitarian supplies needed for survival.


For more information, please see:


Ma’an News Agency – Gaza Mothers, Newborns Affected by Israeli Blockade (IRIN) – 20 August 2009


Association of International Development Agencies – The Gaza Blockade: Children and Education Fact Sheet – July 2009


The Guardian – No Gourmets in Gaza – 16 June 2009


VOA News – Conditions for Palestinian Refugees in Gaza Deteriorating – 22 May 2009


IslamOnline.net – Blockade Worsens Gaza Malnutrition – 2 June 2008


38 Islamists Arrested in Egypt

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt– On August 17, thirty- eight members of the opposition Muslim brotherhood were arrested in Egypt. According to a security official, the total number of Brotherhood members in detention is four-hundred fifty.

Of those arrested on August 17, thirty members of the Muslim Brotherhood were detained in Suez when they had a meeting at a group member’s home. Another eight members were apprehended in the Nile River Delta the same day.  

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood controls almost one fifth of the seats in Egyptian Parliament, even though the party is technically banned under the Egyptian Constitution, which bans political parties based on religious or class affiliation. The Brotherhood won these seats by fielding independent candidates in the 2005 election. Many Egyptians like the party because of the social services that the group provides.  

In 2007 Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian President Mubarak, and the governing National Democratic Party of using the law that bans parties based upon religious or class affiliation to maintain control of the government, holding a virtual monopoly

Also on August 17, the Islam-affiliated party Al-Wasat al-Jadid (the New Center) was rejected for a fourth time in their application to become a legally recognized political party in Egypt. Al-Wasat al-Jadid has also had their application for party status denied in 1996, 1998, and 2006.  The government considers Al-Wasat al-Jadid a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although the party would ban Coptic Christians or women from heading the country, their platform of peaceful rule through Islamic law is popular among many Egyptians who see the ruling National Democratic Party as corrupt.

Egypt has been cracking down on the Brotherhood, and subsequently, Al-Wasat al-Jadid.  In an interview with CBS news, President Mubarak claimed that the Brotherhood has connections with Lebanese and Palestinian groups Hezbollah and Hamas .

For more information, please see:

AFP- Egypt Police Arrest 38 Islamists – 18 August 2009

Afrique en Lingue- Egypt Rejects Islamist Party – 18 August 2009

AP – Egypt Rejects Request for Moderate Islamic Party – 17 August 2009

Money Biz – Egypt Refuses to Recognize Moderate Muslim Party – 17 August 2009

Teenager Beaten at Camp for Web Addicts

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– Pu Liang, a 14-year old, is in critical condition after being repeatedly beaten at a boot camp in southwest China for Internet addicts.  This comes less than three weeks after a 15-year old was beaten to death at another military-like camp.

Pu is reported to be suffering from kidney failure, which resulted from repeated beatings at the camp where he was being held in solitary confinement.  The boy’s father was quoted in a Chinese newspaper saying, “My son was severely injured after he was beaten three times by the counselor and other students.  All injuries were done by people in the camp.”

The family had paid the camp where Pu was being held 5,000 yuan, which is approximately $730, to treat Pu’s online computer game addiction.  Children at these camps go through rigorous physical exercises and are taught to appreciate other pastimes. 

Wu Yongjing, the man who set up the camp, said, “Physical punishment is an effective way to educate children.”  He further admitted that children are sometimes beaten at his camp.  The camp has been closed and the principal has been arrested.

China internet addiction Internet users in China (Source: BBC)

China has the most Internet users in the world, totaling almost 300 million, and many parents place their children in boot camps to treat their Internet “addiction.”  However, the treatment for Internet addiction remains controversial in China because the rules pertaining to this area are not uniform. 

An expert on Internet addiction at Beijing’s Military General Hospital, Tao Ran, said while “only hospitals and doctors with proper qualifications should provide treatment,” parents send their children to these military-like camps, which are not run by qualified professionals.  Tao added, “Internet addiction is treatable…80[%] of the patients can get away from the addiction.”

China’s Minister of Health has no plans to register or monitor these boot camps.  However, the Chinese officials did ban electro-shock therapy to treat Internet addiction after abuses were reported at Internet addiction camps.

For more information, please see:

AFP – New China web addict attack: state media – 19 August 2009

BBC – China web addict ‘beaten’ at camp – 19 August 2009

CNN – China probe of abuse at Web addiction camp – 19 August 2009

North and South Sudan Sign New Peace Deal

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, Sudan – North and South Sudan signed a deal on Wednesday to implement many of the disputed and neglected items in the 2005 peace accord, therefore making the continuation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement more feasible.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended Sudan’s 22-year civil war, the longest war on the African continent.  This new signed deal will help bolster the 2005 CPA and will result in better cooperation and stronger relations that will hopefully result in a brighter future for Sudan.

The document they signed is the result of months of negotiations between the two sides.  Their hard work has come up with fresh impetus to implement the remaining key issues of the peace deal.  This new agreement covers key areas that both sides will work together on, including upcoming elections (next April), peace efforts in the war-torn region of Darfur, demarcating the north and south border, and power sharing.

This “action plan” witnessed by the United States special envoy Scott Gration, sets out a framework for resolving any of the outstanding issues in the north-south conflict.

Regardless of the recent deal, two major issues still exist where the two sides are divided, although both “remain to be fully worked out,” says Gration.  The bottom line is, this deal does not completely erase the ongoing religious, ethnic, and ideological difference over which the war was fought, it only helps to reduce the violence.

The two major issues are the independence referendum for the south, which is due in 2011, and the disputed census seen as key to the 2010 elections.

Next, Gration will ravel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to resume talks with the leadership of the Darfuri armed movements on unification efforts in support of the to Doha peace process.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Sudan Ex-Foes Sign Deal to Bolseter Peace Accord – 19 August 2009

BBC – Sudanese Foes Sign New Peace Deal – 19 August 2009

Reuters – North, South Sudan Agree on Peace Deal Elements – 19 August 2009

America.gov – Envoy Gration Takes Peace Mission to Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt – 18 August 2009