Demobilized Child Soldiers

Demobilized Child Soldiers
A very special moment:Childhood restored- Demobilized child soldiers returning home in South Sudan, 2001

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reuters: Kenya has made impressive gains under new constitution, but the hard work is just beginning.

On August 27 2016, Kenyans celebrated not just the promulgation of the new Constitution six years ago, but also the tangible gains made throughout the country.
The 2010 Constitution heralded a new era of open and inclusive governance best epitomised by devolution, which is helping to bridge the development gap between rich and poor regions.  This gap was first created by colonialists who zoned the country into high-potential and low-potential agricultural areas.
The new Constitution must guide Kenya towards being seen as a beacon of hope for democratic values, good governance, rule of law and social inclusion for all of Africa. 
Towards this vision, the United Nations will remain a resolute partner of the Government and the people of Kenya.
My take: 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Reuters: Youth key to the success of the SDGs in Kenya

Consider this: in 1956 Sweden and Kenya’s population was roughly at 7 million. Today Sweden has about 9.8 million, while there are about 44 million Kenyans.
Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. It is estimated that there will be 85 million people in Kenya by 2050, with three quarters of these being below 35 years.  While Kenya’s median age is 19, Sweden’s is 42.
Kenya’s mushrooming population presents an extraordinary opportunity and several challenges. The opportunity lies in the potential for a so-called demographic dividend of sustained rapid economic growth in the coming decades.There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that Kenya’s working age population will grow to 73 percent by year 2050, potentially bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment. (NCPD Policy Brief: Demographic dividend opportunities for Kenya, July 2014.)
But Kenya’s demographic dividend is not guaranteed by its changing demographics alone. Key actions are required if children of today – who will be entering the labor force a decade’s time – are skilled, dynamic and entrepreneurial.
Here is a perceptive: 

Huffington Post: Kenya’s health sector challenges present the ideal setting for creating shared value

In the words of Michael Porter; “for too long have business and society been pitted against each other”. The PSHP is showing the way in how different sectors with separate mission statements can be galvanized to find intersections in solving social problems.
For long, suspicions about the private sector’s motives have created a wedge, preventing social programmes from accessing the knowledge, ideas, capabilities and resources that abound in private companies.
Shared value propositions will enable different sectors to leverage each other’s assets, connections, creativity and expertise to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
We must continue finding new and creative ways to increase collaboration between government, the private sector and non-profits if we hope to reach Sustainable Development Goals.
Here is a perspective: 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Reuters: Falling Short: Police Apathy To Rape In India

India, a country best-known for its rising economic might, is the worst place to be a woman.
On Sunday, 25 July 2016, an Israeli woman was gang raped in Manali, India.
The incident is a gruesome reminder of the uncomfortable truth that India is not prepared to deal with the deluge of crimes perpetrated against women daily - a woman is raped every 22 minutes.
Consider this. Reports emerged this month that a young woman was gang-raped by the same men who had raped her three years earlier in Rohtak, Haryana in North India. Frankly law enforcement authorities should be ashamed of themselves. That the criminals were free all along and had the temerity to repeat the crime on the same victim can only point to the abysmal failure by Indian law enforcers to deal with rape crimes.
Clearly, the attackers’ decision to track the victim and repeat the crime was meant to thumb their noses at her family and authorities, fully aware that they would get away with it again.
My take:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Huffington Post: Time for Tough Action to Stop Sexual Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

“Gentlemen, there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers”, said Napoleon Bonaparte to his military staff after they complained that the poor quality of soldiers was inhibiting success on the battlefield. We as former Army officers, totally believe in the sage words of Napoleon.
In the face of some vile and sickening allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation among United Nations (UN) peacekeepers, questions the moral integrity of the people who are commissioned to be protectors, but who end up abusing the trust bestowed on them. Thus tarnishing the reputation of the entire UN.
UN peacekeeping missions perform a crucial service in resolving conflicts, saving lives, building peace, restoring and rebuilding broken states. Their humanitarian services have been meritorious on all counts.

However, incidents where troops seconded to the UN by member states under its command become sexual predators to the helpless civilians under their care have continued to present a cyclical challenge to the United Nations.

The Secretary General of the UN, Mr Ban Ki-moon recently called the rogue peacekeepers “a cancer in our system.” He added that, “a failure to pursue criminal accountability for sexual crimes is tantamount to impunity”.
My opinion piece with Lt General(Rtd) Daniel Opande, Kenya's former Vice Chief of General Staff:

Reuters: Breaking the silence on Gender Based Violence

The Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is establishing and strengthening sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) recovery centres in the country.
One such center was launched at the Kilifi County Hospital on 01 July 2016 in collaboration with the Kilifi County Government.
It must rank as among the most confounding realities that SGBV, though acknowledged globally as one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, is also one of the least prosecuted crimes.
It is a crime that cuts across all races, income-levels and religions and it continues to be largely visited upon one half of humanity.
When four in every ten women in Kenya have suffered one form of violence or another from a close partner, it must be clear that the silence on violence against women and children must end now.  It is the time to stop seeing SGBV as an issue for gender activists, but as a prerequisite for sustainable development.
My opinion piece with the Minister of Gender, Youth and Public Affairs, Mrs Sicily Kariuki:

Reuters: Let 5-year-old Sherry tell you how handwashing with soap saves lives

For twenty-six year old Eunice from Migori County,Kenya, celebrating her daughter Sherry’s fifth birthday is a milestone that few of her friends have enjoyed. As with many areas of Africa, a child born in Migori is seven times more likely to die before the age of five, compared to a child in Europe.
Despite recent gains in improving maternal and child survival rates in Africa, the continent still rates the lowest in the world.  In Kenya, child mortality stands at 52 per 1000 live births and more than 6000 mothers die every year giving birth
For many mothers like Eunice, the survival of a baby is  often a hit or miss ,  four in ten newborn babies die within the first 28 days of life. These first days are when newborns are highly susceptible to infections such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and septicaemia, which require hospital treatment or intensive care in severe cases.
With almost one third of women in Kenya giving birth away from health facilities, it is easy to see how the odds of survival are poor.  Due to different factors such as infrastructure and culture, many mothers opt to deliver their babies in less than hygienic conditions.
My opinion piece with Dr Myraim Sidibe of Unilever:

Reuters: Political contests must not push Kenya over the precipice again

Kenyans, and friends of Kenya, are once again hoping that the five-yearly ritual of elections will not take the form of widespread ethnic violence and destruction of property.  However, recent intransigent positions over the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) are a cause for apprehension and concern.
The social and economic effects of the 2007 election dispute are still being felt, and key sectors of the economy, including tourism, are still struggling.  The violence had also left its scar on the survivors in the form of anxiety and post-traumatic stress.  Statistics on sexual and gender-based violence show that whenever election-related violent conflict occurs, it is the innocent women and children who suffer most.
As a development partner of Kenya, and guided by the core values of respect for human rights, diversity, equality and inclusion, the United Nations (UN) family is determined to do all it can to help prevent a recurrence of violence and conflict. 
I join a phenomenal opinion leader of Kenya, Dr Francis Ole Kaparo in co-authoring this piece:

Huffington Post: Stepping up the fight to end cholera and chikungunya outbreaks in Mandera County, Kenya

Mandera’s double whammy, the concurrent outbreaks of cholera and chikungunya, is bringing to the fore the need for accelerated epidemic preparedness and prevention systems.

 is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

 virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue ,yellow fever and zika virus. Its symptoms include high fever, joint pain, rash and headache. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.
The twin epidemics have hit the expansive north-eastern county in Kenya, with half the population coming down with chikungunya virus infection. Since April, almost 1,103 cases of cholera has been reported in Mandera including 16 deaths, 3 being children.
My take:

Huffington Post: County Governments in Kenya Must Take Lead in Fight for Gender Equality

The 3rd Devolution Conference that took place in Meru, Kenya between 19 and 21st April was an opportunity to discuss how the post-2015 development agenda will be localized and how county governments will deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that devolution is vital in helping the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this is beautifully aligned to Kenya’s own Vision 2030, which is to create a globally competitive and prosperous Kenya with a high quality of life by 2030.
Devolution is all about inclusion and participation. Devolution is therefore also an opportunity to champion gender equality.
My opinion piece with Ambassador Tarja Fernandez, of the Finalnd Embassy in Kenya:

Reuters: Religious Leaders Can End Harmful Cultural Practices & Advance Women’s Empowerment

When Pope Francis recently endorsed the use of individual conscience in deciding whether to use contraceptives in view of the spread of the Zika virus, it was not just a landmark moment but it underscored the need for faith leaders to get involved more closely in contemporary health challenges.
In Northern Nigeria, a former global epicenter of polio transmission, Islamic clerics, who were once opposed to immunization, turned into advocates for vaccination. As a result Nigeria, one of the three remaining countries where polio is still considered endemic, has for the first time been polio-free for 18 months, a development that brings us significantly closer to eradicating this terrible disease.
A profound realization has lately emerged among health professionals about how well-equipped health systems alone cannot solve today’s public health challenges.  Stemming from various highly complex causes, these problems can never be solved by a single approach, but by an array of stakeholders working at a number of long-term solutions.
My opinion piece in Reuters with Dr Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Guardian: Can India’s military veterans join the fight for women’s rights?

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, an average of 92 women are raped in India every day. A survey compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation lists the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Somalia as the five worst states for women’s rights in descending order.

The Indian armed forces instil powerful leadership skills in their ranks that don’t vanish on retirement, combined with a deep sense of honour and discipline. Moreover, veterans who have retired often still feel a sense of purpose and service that can be channelled into upholding the rights of women and girls. This then serves a dual purpose – that of furthering human rights and equality in India and that of providing ex-service personnel a sense of community and usefulness.

They can add value by becoming champions by speaking up at the community level for the rights of women and girls, supporting and assisting local authorities in a massive advocacy campaign throughout India on gender equality and human rights. This can be easily taken to scale, from house to house and community to community.

All evidence points to the fact that India’s future is dependent on its youth and its women. Empowering, educating and employing India’s women is critical for India’s economic progress. The ex-service personnel are a formidable “soft power” that can uphold the human rights of India’s women and girls and ensure their future, thus ensuring our own.

My take:

Reuters: Gender equality and equity in Health will anchor drive towards sustainable national development

As the UNDP Administrator, Ms Helen Clark remarked, “Women are powerful agents of change – and empowering women benefits whole societies.”  A good place to begin is empowering Kenya’s youth, especially girls. The multiplier effect of girls’ education on several aspects of development is now well documented.  Education reduces high fertility rates, lowers infant and child mortality rates, lowers maternal mortality rates and increases labour force participation.
Empowering, educating and employing Kenya’s women and girls will launch our economy to new heights and ensure Kenya reaps a demographic dividend. His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta, has stressed that “Progress for women is progress for all …….”
 For development to be sustainable and resilient, it must be inclusive and equitable, given that half of humanity are women, their empowerment is a must and not an option.
My take:

Reuters: Promise not peril: Can investing in health deter violent extremism?

The concept of “health as a bridge for peace” may be resonating in this county, which has seen the scourge of internecine conflicts and cross border attacks.
In her paper 'Health as Bridge for Peace' presented in Paris in 1997, Judith Large introduced the concept of health care as bridge for peace. In her typology of violence she coined the term structural violence. She argues that structural violence is not always synonymous with armed conflict.
“The nexus between effective health services and security is now becoming clearer. An adequate and equitable health care system gives an essential form of security and we are quite optimistic that this project is the beginning of a new narrative for communities here,” says Mandera County Governor Ali Roba.
According to WHO, it works even better when all actors get involved in post-war reconstruction. What happens is that health workers, a key pillar in delivering health programmes in conflict and post-conflict situations, contribute to peace-building initiatives.
My take:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Huffington Post: India's Youth -- A Blessing or a Curse

An incendiary and violent jobs reservation protest by young people from a community known as Jats in Haryana was close to bringing the capital of India, New Delhi to a standstill.
Is this an ominous sign of social upheaval that looms in the horizon?

Henrik Urdal of the Harvard Kennedy School
 finds that globally, it is nearly all young men who fight in wars or commit violent crimes and found that a "youth bulge" made them more strife-prone. When 15-24-year-olds made up more than 35% of the adult population--as is common in developing countries--the risk of conflict was 150% higher than with a rich-country age profile.
My take: