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27m people lack safe water in countries at risk of famine



Water shortages, inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene practices and disease outbreaks are posing an additional threat to severely malnourished children in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

UNICEF  made this assertion in a statement it issued on Tuesday.
Across the four famine-threatened countries, nearly 27 million people are reliant on unsafe water which, for malnourished children, can lead to fatal diarrhoeal diseases.
In its response to the severely malnourished children in the northeast of Nigeria, UNICEF is providing safe water to nearly 666,000 people and treating nearly 170,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition over the last 12 months.
 “The combination of malnutrition, dirty water and poor sanitation sets off a vicious cycle from which many children never recover,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “Because unsafe water can cause malnutrition or make it worse, no matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe.”
 In northeast Nigeria, 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure in conflict-affected areas has been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.8 million people with no access to safe water. Displaced families are putting enormous pressure on already strained health and water systems in host communities. One third of the 700 health facilities in the hardest-hit state of Borno have been completely destroyed and a similar number are non-functional.
 In Somalia, the number of people needing access to water, sanitation and hygiene in the coming weeks is projected to increase from 3.3 million to 4.5 million – about a third of the population. Many water sources have dried up or are contaminated, toilet facilities are in short supply, and water-borne diseases are rampant.
More than 13,000 cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea have been reported since the beginning of the year, nearly five times more than in the same period last year. Water prices have risen six-fold in the remotest areas – putting it out of reach of the poorest families.
 In South Sudan, 5.1 million people lack safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene. Half of the water points in the country have been damaged or destroyed. As a result of seasonal dry weather, low water tables are reinforcing competition for water among people and animals, with the result that scarce water sources are being over-used. Lack of adequate sanitation facilities and poor hygiene practices are spreading disease. A cholera outbreak in June 2016 produced more than 5,000 cholera cases and over 100 deaths.
In Yemen, ongoing conflict and mass population displacement have left at least 14.5 million people without adequate drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene, while causing damage to water infrastructure.
In Somalia, providing 1.5 million people with access to 7.5 litres of water per day for 90 days, or until the next rains due in April, promoting lifesaving hygiene behaviours, rehabilitating boreholes, establishing new water sources and ensuring appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene services in cholera treatment centres.
In South Sudan, working with the World Food Programme to fly in nutrition, health, water and sanitation services to children in remote areas; and accelerating hygiene promotion and water safety measures in epidemic prone locations;
 In Yemen, working with partners to keep health facilities functional for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition among the most vulnerable children, and supporting water and sanitation services for 4.5 million people, many of them are displaced

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Senate to FG: Rescue missing Yobe schoolgirls



…warns against Chibok girls’ experience


The Senate, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to speedily rescue the remaining missing students of Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State, who were abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Monday.

The Senate also condemned, in strong terms, the attack by the insurgents and wondered why the Chibok girls’ abduction in 2014 by the same group had not served a lesson for the Federal Government as far as security of schools are concerned.

The resolutions of the Chamber on the Yobe school incident followed a motion sponsored by Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East). Ibrahim, who raised the motion through orders 42 and 52 of the Senate standing rules as a matter of urgent public importance, said that as at the time the insurgents attacked the school on Monday night, 926 students were in the school, but as at Wednesday, 46 were still missing. He said that the missing 46 students could not be said to be abducted yet, since the 880 rescued ones either came by themselves from the bushes around the school or brought by villagers from villages they ran to.

He said: “Nobody can categorically say or conclude now that the still missing 46 students of the school were abducted by the attackers or still trapped where they ran to, but the problem of such attacks needs to be critically looked into, to save the lives of school children generally and sustain their interest in education.

“For now, the situation on ground, as far as the attack was concerned, has not taken full dimension of the Chibok schoolgirls experience of April 2014, many of whom are still in captivity till today and we pray it doesn’t get to that stage.”

Contributing, the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, said that after the Chibok incident, it was the prayer and hope of every Nigerian that such should not happen again in any part of the country. Lawan commended both the federal and Yobe State governments for immediate action toward rescuing the girls, stressing the need to be proactive in protecting the schools in the country.

However, Senator Mohammed Hassan (Yobe South) disagreed with Lawan in commending the state government, saying that the Yobe government deserved no commendation, accusing it of neglecting the primary responsibility of protecting lives of its citizens. Senator Joshua Lidani said that the Chibok incident should have sent a signal to the country that secondary schools, especially girls, were most vulnerable.

“This spate of kidnapping happens whenever the insurgents are being severely attacked or they are on the run. They will devise a means to abduct people so that they will negotiate with the Federal Government for ransom and this empowers them. If government continues to pay ransom, it means that the insurgents will continue with this kind of attack,” Lidan said. In his remark, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the incident provided a reason for another level of policing.

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NNPC facing political interference towards 2019



Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, (NNRC), yesterday, declared that commercial decisions and operational activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be subjected to more political interference as the “2019 elections are looming.”

The Charter, which declared this in its 2017 Benchmarking Exercise Report, launched in Lagos, scored NNPC low on transparency and accountability. Using its 12 Precepts as measurement, the NNRC also scored the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and Federal Government “so low” on local impacts.

“Policies to ensure meaningful participation by the affected communities are absent and the negative effect outweighs extraction benefits. The government agencies responsible for monitoring Environment Impacts Assessments lack the technical and financial capacity to enforce compliance,” the Precepts 5 of the Report read. On the State-Owned Enterprises, the NNRC said that the government still muddle in the NNPC’s businesses. “The observed muddling of the corporation’s business roles with its non-commercial and auxiliary regulatory functions continues.

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$1.2bn debt: 20m 9mobile subscribers face network cut off in 2022



Consequent upon complications arising from the $1.2billion loan default by 9mobile (Etisalat) to a consortium of banks, about 20 million Nigerians who are subscribers of the telecoms company would be cut off from the network services of the company in 2022.

That is even as over four thousand staff of the company risk being laid off in the same year. This was revealed during the investigative hearing by the Senate Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Communications and two others, which was mandated to investigate the loan default which is threatening the existence of the 9Mobile.

This, according to the Committee, can only be averted if a new buyer emerges, takes over the company and pays off the debt before the 15 years operational license given to the company expires in 2022. Speaking at the investigative session, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), represented by the Director of Legal Services, Yetunde Akinoye, stated that the 9Mobile was given a 15 year license in 2007, to operate in Nigeria, which according to her, will expire in 2022.

She said that, given the financial crisis facing 9mobile, the hope was that a new investor (buyer) would emerge to take over the company, pay back the consortium of banks the loans which the original owners of the telecom company collected, and also pay for the renewal of the license to retain the services and subscribers. She said if this was not possible, the banks, in alliance with their security trustees, might push to enforce the loan conditions on the 9Mobile, which she explained, might involve stripping the telecoms company to recover their investment.

Akinoye further recalled that although she was not privy to the loan agreements, the NCC got a letter on the 21st of June, 2017, from the Security Trustee of 9Mobile, notifying them that there was a loan default and that the lenders (banks) wanted to enforce the legal implication.

She said the banks, which had already taken over the telecoms company, wanted the board of the 9mobile to be dissolved and a neutral person brought in, to which they wanted the CBN to takeover. She said the CBN governor who did not want the apex bank to become involved, however dissolved the old board and constituted a new board chaired by the CBN Deputy Governor, to ensure that the 20 million subscribers and four thousand staff were not left high and dry.

On why the NCC could not allow the banks to take full ownership of the company, the NCC representative said “the transfer of license is not allowed by NCC except under certain condition but they can transfer the shares. The banks were only interested in getting their money but not to run the company”.

She also said the NCC, unlike the CBN in the case of banks, does not have powers by the Act establishing it, to take over telecoms company that are collapsing. Akinoye also said that given the way Mubadala and the associate paid $250 million to get the Etisalat license, NCC never suspected that anything would go wrong, adding that the NCC was already doing a forensic investigation.

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