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Remarks by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the official opening of Empilisweni HIV/AIDS and Orphans Centre, Ndevana, Eastern Cape

Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,

Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle,

MEC for Health, Dr Pumza Dyantyi and other MECs

US Charge’ d’Affaires, Ms Jessye Lepenn,

Executive Mayor of Buffalo City, Cllr Xola Pakati,

Chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission, Prof. Nevhutanda,

Chairperson of Empilisweni Board, Ms Zakhele Kaleni,

Development partners and sponsors,

Religious and traditional leaders,

Our special guests, the Vuyo Mbuli family,

Our distinguished caregivers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Molweni! Dumelang! Good Afternoon!

This afternoon is simply Sharp! Sharp!

In his deep quiet, never to utter a word again, we can still hear in our hearts the warm echoes of Sharp Sharp from our late beloved and distinguished son of this community, VuyoMbuli.

Today is sharp sharp because it is simply well with our souls.

It is sharp sharp because the community monument of Empilisweni efforts tells us that indeed we stand tall on the shoulders of giants.

Sithi Enkosibantu base Ndevana ngokumelana nokufa. Enkosi ngokusipha ithemba.

Empilisweni is us. It embodies the death-defying spirit and enduring resilience of our people. It is the life-giving gift we shall bequeath to the beautiful ones yet to be born.

It is the unbroken continuation of the gift of Biko and Black Community Projects at Zanempilo Community Health Centre near ‘King’. From Empilisweni, life everlasting shall spring and join the tributaries of the ancient Buffalo River. It will rise and stand steady like the Amathole Mountain; and from its top, it will carry our hopes and dreams to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Zanempilo is here to heal the sick and console the heart-broken.

Our mothers and our fathers, our sons and our daughters will till its soil to produce the food we need. They will create thriving industries for our people to work and trade.

It will be a shining monument to Madiba and our Constitution for we shall work to keep it a sanctuary of our children. We salute our mothers and women of the cloth to whom it dawned earlier that it takes a village to raise a child. We bow in reverence to you descendants of Hintsa, Faku,Sandile, Nongqawuse ,Mqhayi, and Sontonga for gifting us with Empilisweni as a fort for our humanity and dignity.

Enkosi!You have shown us that we are not children of a lesser god.

In your humility, dignity, and justness, you have confirmed that the seed of development can only take root, grow, and blossom if it is driven by people themselves. You have said to the naysayers that our people are not idling around waiting for manna from heaven.

You are the testimony that power is with the people. You are the revelation that people are the real agents of change. You are a living testament revealing that death, disease, and hunger cannot stand in the way of a courageous and determined people whose hearts and aspirations are with children and the downtrodden.

Your deeds and love have made us believe again in the Promised Land and the New Jerusalem.

You have said that as long as you are here, the name intandane or orphan, must be banished from the vocabulary and experiences of the people of Ndevana.

Ndevana, our rock of ages, you are light showing that our future will be better than our past.

You have said Ndevana is a home of all care givers and nation builders. You have said the doors of Ndevana are wide open for friends from the four corners of our land and across the seas.

Because you are invested in the future of our vulnerable children, because you have plans to create enterprise, because you are keen to teach and develop the capabilities of our children, we shall always return to you to take the lessons on how a community can defeat death and create abounding prosperity.

We will bring the world to you to learn what it means to be made in the image of God. We will be with you to build a new civilisation where there is no discrimination for the sick, no exclusion for the disabled, and no marginalisation for the hungry.

We shall tell our friends, here at home and abroad, that Ndevana simply inspires. We will tell Vuyo Mbulis’s friend, Leanne, to keep telling the story of hope and not to stop the tune of joy because Ndevana where Empilisweni stands, is simply Sharp Sharp.

We will tell Leanne to announce to the nation that at the Vuyo Mbuli House, the welcoming laughter of the children of Ndevana awaits to meet all friends of their local hero.

She must tell the nation that a community is undergoing a renaissance in this part of the Eastern Cape.

Programme Director,

Please allow me to extend my profound sense of gratitude to both the Board of Directors and the Management of Empilisweni. We are both humbled and proud of the work you are doing to transform the lives of the people of Ndevana and surrounding communities.

We have been touched and moved by the vision you have crafted of achieving a community that is not haunted by poverty and shackled by injustice. You have done much to demonstrate that it is possible that when we work together, we can expand the frontiers of freedom and human fulfilment.

That only by working together can we achieve peace and social cohesion where all citizens enjoy their right to a life with dignity.

Thank you for caring for the welfare and wellbeing of the vulnerable children of our land. Thank you for loving them and for allowing them to dream even when they face hunger, discrimination, and alienation for circumstances they did not choose.

I also wish to pay tribute to the unsung heroes and heroines of this story. These are the good women and men of this community who make sure that children with HIV feel they belong and have a place under the warm African sun.

They are the care-givers who visit children in homes where there are no mothers and fathers. They are there to close the eyes of the deceased and comfort the living. They refuse to let the soul of our nation to be corrupted by the cardinal sin of neglecting hungry and homeless children.

They feed, bathe, and clothe the sick and the weak. It is them who show our vulnerable children the door of the classroom. It is them who sing lullabies for children who had the misfortune of being parentless.

We salute them for caring about the dignity and dreams of the most innocent among us. Heaven is theirs to claim. They do all this work in an environment where there is lack of funding for non-profit organisations. They do it simply because they care a great deal about our country.

We remain inspired by the visionary leadership of Empilisweni which has already crafted grand plans to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. They have internalised our National Development Plan and they have identified the areas that can yield positive results.

They have done their part. They deserve our unreserved commitment. They are worthy of our full support. What they have achieved so far was made possible by the collaboration of social partners.

These are social partners who say � this government is our government.

They are social partners who embrace the basis of African philosophy, that you are because I am � umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. They are the true champions of our people. They are the true friends of the founding father of our nation, Nelson Mandela. Despite irritations and the noise, they can never betray the ideal of social justice and the promise of a better life for our people.

Among them are our American partners who continue to support our efforts in ending human suffering and deaths related to HIV and TB. Thanks to the US Charge’ d’Affaires, Ms Jessye Lepenn, for your government’s contribution to training, prevention, and health awareness initiatives.

We applaud the National Lotteries Commission for being an excellent corporate citizen. Through their generous contribution, today we have the awe-inspiring Empilisweni building.

Empilisweni is also a proud achievement of our national and provincials Departments of Health, Social Development, and Public Works. The mobilisation of resources and support from our various partners will impact positively to this community.

As announced earlier today by the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Ms Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, the commitment to support the Empilisweni Care Centre with ICT services is a significant step in bringing this much needed service to the community. The computer centre at the clinic will be developed in partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), MTN and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA).

This is indeed an initiative which must be replicated in other areas of our country to close the information technology gap and prepare our children for the knowledge economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We also want to acknowledge and call upon past, present and future potential partners to continue strengthening the work of this remarkable care centre.

In this regard, Aspen Pharmacare has committed to provide the centre with solar water heaters for installation soon after today’s unveiling event.

This is the type of tangible outcomes that will assist the Empilisweni Centre and community to be better equipped to manage its operations. Institutions like Empilisweni Care Centre and the army of care workers play a critical role in strengthening primary health care.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) identify them as the bedrock of an efficient, inclusive, and equitable national health system. We thus applaud Empilisweni for being an artery that supports the ideal of universal health care for all South Africans.

We applaud you for being an effective Constitutional instrument to make our children and their families realise their fundamental rights to life, health, and above all, dignity.

Before I say Sharp Sharp, allow me to leave you with these words uttered by Nelson Mandela in December 1993:

The children must, at last, play in the open veld, no longer tortured by the pangs of hunger or ravaged by the diseases or threatened with the scourge of ignorance, molestation, and abuse, and no longer required to engage in deeds whose gravity exceeds the demands of their tender years.

It is in our hands to attain this ideal for the vulnerable children of our land.

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

Human Rights

Millions of World’s Children Lack Any Record of Their Births

MASAKA, UGANDA � Would a 15-year-old girl be married off by her parents in violation of the law? Would another girl, who looks even younger, get justice after an alleged statutory rape at the hands of an older man?

In their impoverished communities in Uganda, the answers hinged on the fact that one girl had a birth certificate and the other didn’t. Police foiled the planned marriage after locating paperwork that proved the first girl was not 18 as her parents claimed. The other girl could not prove she was under the age of consent; her aunt, who’s also her guardian, has struggled to press charges against the builder who seduced and impregnated her.

“The police were asking me many questions about proof of the girl’s birth date. How old she is? Where she goes to school,” said the aunt, Percy Namirembe, sitting in her tin-roofed shantytown home in Masaka near the shores of Lake Victoria in south-central Uganda. “I don’t have evidence showing the victim is not yet 18.”

As Namirembe spoke, in a room decorated with a collage of Christ and the Madonna, her niece sat beside her, her belly swollen and a vacant stare on her face.

In the developed world, birth certificates are often a bureaucratic certainty. However, across vast swaths of Africa and South Asia, tens of millions of children never get them, with potentially dire consequences in regard to education, health care, job prospects and legal rights. Young people without IDs are vulnerable to being coerced into early marriage, military service or the labor market before the legal age. In adulthood, they may struggle to assert their right to vote, inherit property or obtain a passport.

“They could end up invisible,” said Joanne Dunn, a child protection specialist with UNICEF.

With the encouragement of UNICEF and various non-governmental organizations, many of the worst-affected countries have been striving to improve their birth registration rates. In Uganda, volunteers go house to house in targeted villages, looking for unregistered children. Many babies are born at home, with grandmothers acting as midwives, so they miss out on the registration procedures that are being modernized at hospitals and health centers.

By UNICEF’s latest count, in 2013, the births of about 230 million children under age 5 – 35 percent of the world’s total – had never been recorded. Later this year, UNICEF plans to release a new report showing that the figure has dropped to below 30 percent due to progress in countries ranging from Vietnam and Nepal to Uganda, Mali and Ivory Coast.

India is the biggest success story. It accounted for 71 million of the unregistered children in UNICEF’s 2013 report – more than half of all the Indian children in that age range. Thanks to concerted nationwide efforts, UNICEF says the number of unregistered children has dropped to 23 million – about 20 percent of all children under age 5.

Uganda is a potential success story as well, though very much a work in progress. UNICEF child protection officer Augustine Wassago estimates that the country’s registration rate for children under 5 is now about 60 percent, up from 30 percent in 2011.

While obtaining a birth certificate is routine for most parents in the West, it may not be a priority for African parents who worry about keeping a newborn alive and fed. Many parents wait several years, often until their children are ready for school exams, to tackle the paperwork.

Maria Nanyonga, who raises pigs and goats in Masaka, says lack of birth registration caused her to miss out on tuition subsidies for some of the seven nieces and nephews she is raising.

“I tried my best to get the children’s certificates, but I didn’t even know where to start,” she said. “I didn’t know when they were born, and the officials needed that.”

Even now, two years after losing out on the financial aid, Nanyonga is uncertain about the children’s ages.

“I can only guess,” she said. “I think the oldest is 10 and the youngest is 5.”

Henry Segawa, a census worker in the Rakai administrative district, is among those who’ve been trained to do the registration outreach. Their efforts have been buttressed by public awareness campaigns; radio talk show hosts and priests have been encouraged to spread the word.

“When you go to a home, you explain the benefits of birth registration, and people have been responding well,” Segawa said.

On one of his forays, Segawa was on hand in a remote village as a midwife delivered a baby at a decaying health center with a leaky roof, no running water and outhouse walls smeared with excrement.

Upon hearing the newborn’s piercing bawls, Segawa strode toward the birth register to record the newborn’s details.

The baby, Ben Ssekalunga, was the ninth child in his family, said his grandmother, Mauda Byarugaba.

“I want this baby to be her last one,” she said of her daughter. “Nine children are too many.”

Birth registration plays a pivotal role in Uganda’s efforts to enforce laws setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage.

Child marriage remains widespread, due largely to parents hoping to get a dowry from their daughters’ suitors. In the rare cases where the police are alerted, investigators face an uphill task pressing charges if they cannot prove, with a birth certificate or other official document, that the girl is a minor.

But in the recent case in Rakai, police detective Deborah Atwebembeire was able to prevail in a surprise raid on a wedding party because the bride-to-be’s birth certificate proved she was 15.

“When we reached there, I heard one man say, ‘Ah, but the police have come. Let me hope the girl is not young,'” Atwebembeire recalled.

The girls’ parents claimed she was born in March 1999, which would have made her old enough to consent. Yet only months before, the girl’s parents had told birth registration officials she was born in October 2001.

The wedding was called off, and the parents spent a night in jail.

“We achieved our objective, which was to stop the wedding,” Atwebembeire said.

The girl, Asimart Nakabanda, had dropped out of school before the planned marriage. “The man is out of my mind now. I don’t want him anymore,” she said. “I want to go back to school and study.”

The birth registration campaign in Uganda dates back only about five years and there’s still uncertainty as to whether the government will invest sufficient funds to expand and sustain it.

In India, by contrast, the major progress in birth registration results from a decades-long initiative. Public health workers, midwives, teachers and village councilors in remote areas have all been empowered to report births. In areas with internet connectivity, online registration has helped boost overall coverage.

Chhitaranjan Khaitan, an official with the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, said 15 of the country’s 29 states had reported a 100 percent birth registration rate, and seven more states surpassed 90 percent. Many states have successfully linked registration to a nationwide effort to provide every Indian citizen with an identification number.

An added motivation is India’s effort to stem its skewed gender ratio, due largely to families’ preference for sons. By requiring health workers and village officials to register all births, authorities hope fewer newborn girls will be killed by their families.

Pradeep Verma, a 28-year-old car mechanic in the village of Gram Mohdi in the central state of Chhattisgarh, was thrilled to obtain his daughter’s birth certificate earlier this year.

“It was the first thing I did after my daughter was born,” Verma said. “My parents did not register my birth. It was not considered important or necessary in those days.”

Verma has had repeated problems with proving his identity, particularly in getting a government ration card that entitled him to cheap rice and sugar.

“I know how difficult it has been to get an official identity document or enroll in government welfare programs, since I have no proof of birth,” said Verma, who dropped out of school in 10th grade. “My daughter will not have to face such hassles.”

Verma’s state of Chhattisgarh was recording just 55 percent of births in 2011. Amitabha Panda, the state’s top statistician, said reasons included lack of registration centers, outdated data collection methods and wariness of extending outreach to areas where Maoist rebels held sway.

In 2013, with help from UNICEF, the state government launched a campaign using street theater, graffiti and notices distributed at markets to get the word out. Today, the state says it registers virtually every birth.

The West African nation of Mali is another success story. It’s now reporting a birth registration rate of 87 percent – one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa – despite a long-running conflict involving Islamic extremists.

Michelle Trombley, a UNICEF child protection officer in Mali, admires the parents and local officials who persisted with registration efforts even when their communities in the north were occupied by rebels.

“They were so dedicated to having children registered, they would smuggle in the official registration books,” she said. “People were literally putting their lives at risk.”

For all of the progress, huge challenges remain for UNICEF and its partners to attain their goal of near-universal registration by 2030.

In Somalia, wracked by famine and civil war, the most recent registration rate documented by UNICEF, based on data from 2006, was 3 percent – the lowest of any nation.

In Myanmar, the overall registration rate has surpassed 70 percent, but is much lower in the western state of Rakhine, base of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority. Human rights agencies say many thousands of Rohingya children there have no birth certificates because of discriminatory policies.

More broadly, there’s the massive problem of children without birth certificates or other identification who make up a significant portion of the millions of displaced people around the world, fleeing war, famine, persecution and poverty.

In Lebanon, tens of thousands of Syrian children have been born to refugee parents in recent years without being registered by any government. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has pushed Lebanese authorities to ease barriers to registration, such as requirements to present certain identity documents.

Major efforts to register refugee children also are under way in Thailand and Ethiopia.

Monika Sandvik-Nylund, a senior child protection adviser with UNHCR, said birth registration can be crucial to enabling refugee children to return to their home countries or to reunite after being separated from their parents.

There are no comprehensive statistics on the extent of such separations, but Claudia Cappa, author of the upcoming UNICEF report, says they can be heartbreaking for a parent.

“How can you claim your child if you don’t have proof he or she really existed?” she said. “Imagine how devastating this might be to a mother.”

Source: Voice of America


Urgent Action Under Way to Prevent Spread of Cholera in West Africa

GENEVA � An emergency vaccination campaign is getting under way in northeastern Nigeria to prevent a deadly cholera outbreak from spreading to other countries.

The World Health Organization reports the potentially devastating cholera situation is emerging in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. During the past few months, it says 2,600 suspected cases of this fatal disease, including 48 deaths, have occurred in this former stronghold of Boko Haram. The militant group has been waging war to establish an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

Dominique Legros is cholera coordinator for WHO’s department for pandemic and epidemic diseases. He says the outbreak, which is centered in camps for internally displaced people, is spreading to other areas of northeastern Nigeria, toward Chad and northern Cameroon.

He says 900,000 people in the state will receive the oral cholera vaccine to quickly contain the spread of the disease.

Once it is out of the box, once it has spread, it is very, very difficult to contain and we have a huge number of cases and deaths,” he said. “So, this outbreak in Nigeria, hopefully, will not reach Chad, because in Chad already, we have an alert in the eastern part of the country towards the border with Sudan, 344 cases, 49 deaths.

Legros says this comes to a 14 percent case fatality. He notes this is very high for a cholera outbreak, which usually has a case fatality rate of less than one percent.

WHO estimates the global cholera disease burden at around 2.9 million suspected cases, including 95,000 deaths. It reports Yemen has the world’s worst cholera epidemic, with nearly 690,000 suspected cases and more than 2,000 deaths.

The agency expresses concern about the situation in Africa, where it reports tens of thousands of suspected cases and thousands of deaths in, among others; Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

Source: Voice of America