Food prices spike beyond reach of average Zimbabwean family UN says

This spike in the prices of maize, sugar and flour comes during a period between harvests, when UN agencies expect families to be most in need of food aid, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.Agricultural production is hampered by an estimated 43 per cent HIV prevalence rate among farm workers that is killing the labour force or leaving people too sick to work. Areas under crops declined by 39 per cent in 2003, while yields dropped by almost 60 per cent.With foreign currency to buy spare parts and purification chemicals in short supply, urban water and sewerage systems have been declining rapidly, OCHA said. This lack of safe water heightens the risk of disease.In addition, rural water supplies are in critical condition. “There have already been serious cholera outbreaks in the Zambezi Valley, one of the poorest regions of Zimbabwe. read more

Georgia UN condemns prisoner abuses exposed in television footage

“We call on the Government to ensure that all allegations of such human rights violations – and not only the ones exposed in these videos – are promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva. “Victims of the abuses must have access to the necessary medical and psychological support, as well as redress,” he added. According to OHCHR, the acts of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against inmates at a prison and a juvenile detention facility in Georgia were exposed in at least four videos made public this week. “The videos are shocking and were shown on television in Georgia,” said Mr. Colville. “They showed prisoners being physically and sexually assaulted, humiliated and verbally abused by prison officers. “There is an absolute prohibition against torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in international human rights law and an obligation on the Government to ensure that perpetrators do not enjoy impunity,” he stated. In a statement issued on Thursday, the UN Office in Georgia noted it was “dismayed” by the footage of human rights violations in the country’s penitentiary system. “We urge the authorities to urgently address every case of inmates’ physical abuse and ill-treatment, and to ensure a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation into the matter,” it added. Both the UN Office in Georgia and OHCHR recalled that Georgia is a State party to several human rights instruments, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and the Optional Protocol, which enables regular unannounced inspections by national and international bodies of places of detention. Mr. Colville also noted that concerns about the ill-treatment of prisoners in Georgia have been raised in various UN human rights fora over the years, as well as in reports by Giorgi Tugushi, the Ombudsman – or Public Defender – of Georgia. “We welcome the positive steps taken by the Government so far, including the condemnation of the abuses by the President of Georgia, and the pledges made that these human rights violations will be investigated,” Mr. Colville said, noting that two ministers have now resigned, or offered to resign. “We urge the Government to ensure that their pledges are swiftly translated into effective and transparent action with significant steps undertaken to ensure that prisons and detention centres are managed in line with international human rights law and standards,” he added, while flagging that OHCHR stands ready to assist the Georgia in this effort. read more