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New head of Unesco world heritage centre wants to put Africa on the map | Global development

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It covers 9 million sq miles (24m sq km) from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and from the Sahara in the north to Cape Point in the south. And in between lie some of the world’s most ancient cultural sites and precious natural wonders.

However, despite its vast size, sub-Saharan Africa has never been proportionately represented on Unesco’s world heritage list, its 98 sites dwarfed by Europe, North America and Asia.

Now, the first African to be made head of the world heritage centre has said that needs to change – and fast. Lazare Eloundou Assomo, a Cameroonian who led the reconstruction of the Timbuktu mausoleums after they were badly damaged in 2012 by Islamist fighters allied to al-Qaida, has said it will be a priority of his time in office.

“What we think has room for improvement is that, when you look at the list, you still, 50 years after [the signing of the world heritage convention], see that there are some regions of the world that are not equally represented in the list as compared to others,” he told the Guardian.

“This is something that we, together with the [Unesco] member states and other state parties, have … to address.”

Assomo, who started in his new job earlier this month, said small island developing states had also historically suffered from a disproportionately low number of recognised sites. Of the 27 countries with no sites of any kind on the Unesco list, only four are not either in Africa or classed as a small island state.

A photo of Lazare Eloundou Assomo
Lazare Eloundou Assomo says he learned the value of cultural heritage in the aftermath of conflict when he led Unesco’s reconstruction of Timbuktu’s mausoleums, which were damaged by Islamist fighters. Photograph: Unesco

At the other end of the spectrum, wealthy countries – such as Italy (58), China (56) and Germany (51) – have ratcheted up dozens of sites, making the most of the very tangible influx of money and tourism that comes from the more abstract notion of recognising a country’s heritage.

For Assomo, it is not a question of chasing numbers, but of using Unesco’s collective cultural and financial clout to help underrepresented countries overcome the lack of resources and expertise that has proved an obstacle in the complex and costly nomination process.

“The training and capacity-building of heritage experts is an area where we will have to put more emphasis [on] in the future to help address this imbalance,” said Assomo. Unesco would like to see greater cooperation between member states, he added, with countries in Europe and other regions helping to fund training programmes.

“Africa is the cradle of humankind. It has so many cultural, natural sites that are important, which people value a lot,” said Assomo. “But some categories of site in Africa are not necessarily the same type of categories that you find in other regions.”

The “sacred forests” of west Africa – patches of land preserved over countless generations because of their religious and cultural significance – were a good example, he said. According to a recent study in Togo, the forests are as environmentally important as they are culturally precious, and, on a continent bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, their protection is vital.

“Africa is today … on the frontline of the effect of climate change. This is also something … which makes us believe that mobilising our efforts for [existing] world heritage sites in Africa should be a priority,” said Assomo.

aerial shot of an old fortress on a peninsula
San Sebastian fort, which was built on the Island of Mozambique by the Portuguese colonial rulers in the 16th century. Photograph: Dmitry Malov/Alamy

Both natural habitats, such as the Niokolo-Koba national park in Senegal, and cultural treasures, such as Mozambique’s San Sebastian fortress, battered by increasingly intense cyclones and heavy rains, are vulnerable to the changing climate. Assomo, a former Unesco head representative in Mali, is particularly worried about the impact on Timbuktu, the fabled city in the Sahara – and world heritage site since 1988, which has been affected by long-term desertification.

“If we don’t do something about the effect of climate change, about the natural disasters [that] continue multiplying … If we don’t do something about the growing [number of] forest fires; if we don’t do something about hurricanes … these sites are going to disappear.

“Our responsibility is to work with countries to ensure that we maintain them and we preserve them and we pass them on to the next generation. So for me, it’s an urgent matter,” said Assomo.

Africa’s 98 world heritage sites range from the famous – Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kruger national park in South Africa – to the lesser-known, such as Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba, in Togo.

A family sitting outside a mud house with thatched towers
The Batammariba’s traditional fortified mud tower houses of Koutammakou in Togo.
Photograph: Godong/Alamy

Fifteen African sites make up nearly 30% of the “in danger” world heritage list, due to a variety of threats including poaching, illegal logging and conflict. One site that is not yet on the endangered list is Lalibela in north Ethiopia, a place of pilgrimage and home to 11 medieval monolithic cave churches carved out of the rock, which in recent weeks has been fought over by government forces and Tigrayan rebels.

Assomo said he could not comment on “national issues”. But whenever heritage sites became involved in conflict, Unesco has urged those in control to protect the sites from looting and vandalism, he said. Through his work in Timbuktu, where Unesco helped reconstruct the mausoleums wrecked in 2012, he has learned the value that cultural heritage can have in the aftermath of conflict.

He said: “[That work] has shown how culture and cultural heritage are important to help people recover from trauma, start having an economic living after the conflict, but also help bring back the social cohesion that was lost because of the conflict.”

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Ukraine’s Finance Minister Reports Problems Finding Cash to Pay Troops Despite West’s Aid Bonanza

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The US and its allies have approved over $76 billion in military and fiscal aid to Kiev, equivalent to 40% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2021. However, much of this assistance doesn’t seem to be reaching its intended destinations, with CBS issuing (and then deleting) a story last week showing that as little as 30% of the military aid was reaching the front.

Ukraine is having trouble scrapping together the money required to pay soldiers’ salaries and has resorted to money printing thanks to a growing gap between military spending and declining tax revenues, combined with a slowing flow of Western aid, Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko has indicated.

“Every day and night it’s a constant headache,” Marchenko told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.

The minister explained that the government is now spending more than 60 percent of the budget on military-related expenditure, and has received assurances from Western countries of new loans and grants to cover non-military spending.

“The support we get now gives us the opportunity to win this war and to do it sooner rather than later. Without this money, the war will last longer and it will damage economies more,” Marchenko said.

The minister indicated that the government is disregarding concerns from the National Bank about skyrocketing inflation, saying “it is better to risk high inflation than not to pay soldiers’ salaries.” He added that he expects the conflict to turn into a “marathon” lasting for the remaining of 2022 and 2023. “This is a war of attrition. You have to think in these terms,” Marchenko said.

Ukraine has received a total of more than $50 billion in military and non-military aid authorizations from the US alone, including everything from weapons and new defense contracts for the military-industrial complex to replenish old inventories, to fiscal support and loans to help the Ukrainian state stay afloat, pay its creditors on time and avoid paralysis, to humanitarian assistance.
A worker paints a Saint Javelin, a Virgin Mary holding an American-made anti-tank missile, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.08.2022

CBS Deletes Documentary Revealing That Just ‘30%’ of West’s ‘Aid’ to Ukraine Reached Frontlines
US assistance has been matched by nearly $16 billion in aid from the European Union, plus $6.22 billion, $3.34 billion, $2.85 billion, $2.61 billion and $2.11 billion from Britain, Germany, Poland, Canada and France, respectively, for a grand total of over $76 billion.
On Friday, Ukrainian presidential chief economic advisor Oleg Ustenko urged the International Monetary Fund to shell out $5 billion as part of a larger $15-20 billion aid package over the eighteen months to two years to encourage others, including the US, the EU and other countries to go ahead with additional support. Last month, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal told attendees of a Switzerland-based conference dedicated to Ukraine’s economic recovery that the country would need some $750 billion in assistance.
Corruption concerns and questions about the final destination of the tens of billions of dollars doled out to Ukraine aid periodically emerge in mainstream media reporting on the conflict. Last month, Ukrainian-born Republican Congresswoman Victoria Spartz accused Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak of sabotaging the country’s defenses, and of appointing officials engaged in corruption to fight graft. Ukrainian officials dismissed her concerns as “Russian propaganda.”
Fitch Ratings - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.08.2022

Fitch Ratings, S&P Global Ratings Consider Ukraine’s Debt Restructuring as Default
Last week, CBS News posted and then deleted a bombshell documentary which uncovered that as little as 30 percent of the military assistance Western countries had sent to Kiev in the first months of the conflict had actually reached the frontlines. The documentary was quickly taken down to be “updated” to account for new information from the Pentagon and other sources.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the retraction was not enough and called for an “internal investigation” at CBS to determine “who enabled” the documentary’s release and why.



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Brazilian woman and fake seer con elderly mother out of $142 million | International

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A woman was arrested on August 10 by Rio de Janeiro police who charged her with conning her mother out of millions. In a strange story of greed abetted by fake psychics, Sabine Boghici and her accomplices stole more than $142 million in money, jewelry and artwork from Boghici’s mother over a two-year period.

Geneviève Boghici, the widow of a major art collector and dealer named Jean Boghici, was walking out of a bank in January 2020 near the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) when she was approached by a supposed psychic prophesying her daughter’s imminent death unless she underwent “spiritual therapy.” They walked together to Boghici’s apartment, where the psychic threw some shells in a mystical ritual that confirmed the tragic prophesy. The 82-year-old victim knew that her daughter suffered from psychological problems, and her affinity for the supernatural swayed her to transfer $980,000 to the swindlers.

Soon after the two-year con began, the elderly woman became suspicious and halted the money transfers when her daughter started to isolate her from friends. Sabine would not allow her mother to use the phone and dismissed all the domestic workers, justifying them as Covid-19 precautions. Yet Sabine and her cronies entered freely to loot her mother’s home of its valuables. Several psychics took items from the home, saying they were “cursed” and needed to be “prayed over.” The increasingly suspicious Geneviève tried to resist, but Sabine began threatening her life. According to the police, she wouldn’t allow her mother to eat and put a knife to her throat.

Police recover 'Sol Poente' by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.
Police recover ‘Sol Poente’ by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.Policia Civil de Rio de Janeiro (EFE)

The victim told the police that her daughter had some sort of relationship with one of the supposed psychics, Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, who practiced her trade in Rio de Janeiro as “Mãe Valéria de Oxossi” (Mother Valeria), and was a known con artist. Starting in September 2020, under constant threat from her daughter and accomplices, the elderly woman made another 38 bank transfers to the thieves.

Sabine and her cohorts stole 16 paintings and sculptures, and sold them all to art galleries or private buyers. Two of these works – Elevador Social (Social Elevator) by Rubens Gerchman, and Maquete para o menú espelho (A model for my mirror) by Antonio Dias – were bought by Eduardo Costantini, owner of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina), for his private collection. The São Paulo (Brazil) gallery owner who brokered the deal said he was not suspicious because he had known the family for a long time and the seller was the daughter of the deceased art collector. Constantini released a statement saying that he bought the paintings in good faith and was in direct contact with Genevieve Boghici.

In 2012, a fire in the Boghici’s Copacabana apartment destroyed part of their valuable collection, including Di Cavalcanti’s Samba and Alberto Guignard’s A Floresta (The Forest). Sol Poniente (Setting Sun), painted by Tarsila do Amaral in 1929, is one of the most valuable works in the Boghici collection ($49 million). It survived the 2012 fire but not the rampant greed of their daughter. The stolen painting was found under a bed by police, who arrested Sabine and three other people, including the fake seer. In a final twist to the whole bizarre story, the scamming psychic was apprehended trying to escape through a window.

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India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development

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Hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV in India are struggling to access treatment because of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to campaigners.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs.

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

According to Gangte, who has been protesting with about 30 others outside India’s National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in Delhi for 22 days, at least 12 other states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, are facing ARV shortages. He said several state governments have asked patients to change their longstanding drug regimes.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic had already broken our backs. Now this shortage is pushing us further into penury,” Gangte said.

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

According to government figures, 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

The government has refuted Gangte’s claims of a shortage. The Indian health ministry said it had “reviewed the entire situation and held a series of meetings with the protesters. ARV drugs are being provided for [a] duration of less than one month, but at no point in time has there been any shortage of drugs for any of the PLHIV [patients living with HIV]. There is adequate stock nationally for 95% PLHIV.”

Naco did not wish to comment. However, in a letter seen by the Guardian that was dated 30 May, Naco asked all state Aids prevention and control societies, which oversee HIV testing and treatment in each state, to switch to other regimes “to tide through the crisis situation as an interim arrangement”.

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