Sudanese migrants who fled fighting and turmoil in Darfur are facing war once again, caught for three weeks in the crossfire as Libyan unity government forces battle strongman Khalifa Haftar.
After often brutal journeys, they have been forced to take refuge at a school in centre of Tripoli which was shuttered by authorities last week as fighting near the capital peaked.
In the building’s multi-coloured corridors, children laugh and race past classrooms where chairs and desks have been pushed aside to make way for mattresses.
Laundry dries in the yard under the sun as adults huddle in the shade.
“I fled one war only to find another war,” sighed Alawia, a mother in her forties.
The Sudanese woman from Darfur was living in Saadia southwest of Tripoli with her three children when the clashes erupted.
“At first, we thought the fighting would stop after two or three days, then the planes started dropping bombs”
“I took my children and left without knowing where to go.”
‘No life here’
The UN says fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has displaced at least 35,000 people since Haftar’s forces on April 4 launched their bid for the capital, seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord.
They include some 100 people mostly from Darfur that have taken shelter at the Ahmad Ibn Chatwan school, with help from the Libyan Red Crescent.
“We are feeling some safety. We heard news that the fighting continues but we get the smile of life here. There’s water and food,” said 38-year-old Abdelrassoul, speaking in English, his voice quivering.
For him, like many others at the makeshift shelter, the school is the umpteenth stop of a painful odyssey.
Tears roll down his cheeks as he recalls his “totally destroyed” village in Darfur where his family was killed in 2003, the refugee camp he was forced to move to, and the arduous journey north to Egypt and then Libya a few years later.
The brutal conflict in his home region claimed some 300,000 lives and saw the government accused of war crimes as it battled ethnic minority rebels.
Abdelrassoul said he was kidnapped three times in Libya before arriving to Tripoli in September with plans “to cross the sea to Europe”.
“And suddenly, the war broke out.”
A week into the fighting, he fled with his wife, two young daughters and a number of other families including pregnant women and small children.
They walked for hours, following directions from locals towards field stations run by the Libyan Red Crescent.
As front lines shifted, they kept moving, from the suburbs of Gasr ben Ghachir and Ain Zara to two different schools in Tripoli.
“Every time we arrived somewhere, the war followed us,” he said.
‘We have no choice’
Most migrants in Libya share the same goal -Europe- hoping their perilous journeys will not have been in vain.
Visibly exhausted, one man said he was detained by a non-Libyan armed group in the desert on his way towards the capital.
“They raped my wife.. she is two months pregnant and I don’t know if it’s my child or not,” he said.
Standing not far from him, 26-year-old Jihan Hussein arrived Tripoli some seven months ago after a dangerous trip through the desert with her husband and two children.
“We suffered on the road… we’ve suffered here,” she said, her face framed by a striped black-and-white veil.
She says that after they arrived in the capital a man approached her husband and asked if he was looking for work.
“He took him and since then we’ve had no news.”
She has sought shelter in the skeletons of destroyed buildings, living a life on the streets where she says she’s been raped.
“We’re tired,” she sighed.
“I have no money.. I’m ready to sell one of my organs. If I have to sell a kidney I’ll do it and I’ll take the journey by sea to Europe. We have no choice.”
Ex-health minister arrested for embezzling Ebola funds in DR Congo
Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July, was detained while hiding in an apartment in Kinshasa
Former DR Congo health minister Oly Ilunga has been arrested over allegations he embezzled public funds to tackle the Ebola epidemic, police said on Saturday.
Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July after being removed as head of the country’s Ebola response team, was detained while hiding in an apartment in the capital Kinshasa ahead of a bid to flee the country, officers said.
He is in custody due to “misdemeanors of the mismanagement of funds allocated to the Ebola response,” police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP.
Ilunga will be referred to prosecutors on Monday, he added.
It comes after Ilunga was questioned in August as part of an inquiry into the management of funds to fight the outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives since August 2018.
Ilunga, 59, had already been banned from leaving the country.
He stepped down after criticising plans by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce a new, unlicensed vaccine to fight the epidemic.
His lawyer told AFP in September that some payments had been made to local chiefs after the killing of a WHO doctor in April.
More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.
It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.
Telemedicine revolution saving lives in Ivory Coast
The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.
Every time Catherine Coulibaly’s 19-year-old son had to make a routine appointment with the cardiologist for his heart condition, she gritted her teeth as she silently counted the financial cost.
It wasn’t just the hospital fee — there was the transport, food and accommodation, too, all of it amounting to a hefty burden for an Ivorian family on a modest income.
But thanks to telemedicine – consultations that doctors conduct through the internet or by phone – this cost is now a fading memory.
Her son can book an appointment at a telemedicine facility in a nearby town in northern Ivory Coast.
There, he is attached to monitoring machines which send the data sent to Bouake University Hospital in the centre of the country, where it is scrutinised by a heart doctor.
The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.
Ivory Coast has become an African testbed for it, thanks to a project linking the Bouake hospital’s cardiac department with health centres in several northern towns, some of which are a four-hour drive away.
Telemedicine “caused a sigh of relief for the population of Bouake, Boundiali, Korhogo, everyone,” says Auguste Dosso, president of the “Little Heart” association, which helps families with cardiac health issues.
Some 45 percent of the Ivorian population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank’s latest estimate in 2017. And the minimum monthly wage — not always respected — is only around $100, or 90 euros.
Heart disease surging
The pioneer behind the scheme is cardiologist Florent Diby, who set up an association called Wake Up Africa.
In Ivory Coast, heart disease, diabetes and other “lifestyle” ailments are surging, Diby explained.
“Urbanisation is making people more sedentary, and there’s the rise in tobacco consumption, changes in diet, stress,” Diby said.
Three decades ago, only around one in eight of the Ivorian population had high blood pressure — now the figure is one in four, on a par with parts of Western Europe.
But in Ivory Coast — and across Africa — well-equipped cardiology units are rare.
“Ninety percent of heart attacks can be diagnosed by telemedicine, so for us cardiologists it’s a revolutionary technology,” said Diby.
The beauty of the telemedicine scheme is that neither the doctor nor the patient has to travel far.
The cardiac patient is hooked up to the electrocardiogram (ECG) and other diagnostic machines with the help of a technician in a local health centre, which is connected to a computer in Bouake’s University Hospital.
The cardiologist there can then see the results in real time, provide a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
The five-year-old project has already linked 10 health centres to the seven cardiologists at Bouake, enabling 4,800 patients in other towns to receive consultations by telemedicine each year. The goal is to expand this to 20 sites, doubling the intake.
Expertise France, the French public agency for international technical assistance, subsidises up to 185,000 euros of the network, which pays for equipment such as computers, artificial intelligence software and internet connections.
Diby is now calling for telemedicine to be expanded in other medical fields such as neurology and psychiatry, not just in the Ivory Coast, but across West Africa too.
That opinion is shared by other experts. Sixty per cent of Africans live in rural areas, where shortages of doctors are usually acute.
But numerous hurdles need to be overcome, especially investment in computers and access to the internet, according to a 2013 analysis published by the US National Library of Medicine.
Moroccan journalist arrested over “Illegal abortion”
Rights groups urged Moroccan authorities to release her, as her lawyers have firmly denied the “illegal abortion” charge.
Hajar Raissouni writes for the Arabic-language daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities.
She was arrested as she left a clinic in Rabat where her lawyer Saad Sahli said she had been undergoing treatment for internal bleeding.
But the 28-year-old was examined by a medic and the prosecution said she showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.
In a statement, it insisted her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.
On Friday, Rights groups urged Moroccan authorities to immediately release her, as her lawyers have firmly denied the “illegal abortion” charge.
Raissouni, who is religiously but not yet legally married, is also accused of having “sexual relations outside marriage” and faces a court hearing on Monday.
Her lawyers are lodging a complaint against police for forcing her to have a medical examination, her uncle Souleymane Raissouni told AFP.
Also arrested were her fiancee, a doctor, a nurse and a secretary.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Friday joined social media users in calling for her release.
“Instead of intimidating Hajar Raissouni by prosecuting her on unjust charges, the authorities should immediately and unconditionally release her,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director.
Ahmed Benchemsi, regional communications director at HRW, echoed Morayef’s call for all charges to be dropped.
The case had “a whiff of political manipulation since the defendant is a reporter from one of Morocco’s last newspapers,” he said.
Touafik Bouachrine, the owner of Raissouni’s newspaper, was sentenced in November to 12 years in prison on charges of rape and other offences.
He also denies all charges and his lawyers say his trial was politically motivated.
Raissouni’s arrest sparked heated debate online, and some 150 journalists signed a petition against “campaigns of defamation” against her.
Moroccan law punishes abortions with up to five years in prison, except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger.
However, NGOs say up to 800 women have clandestine abortions every day in the North African country.
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