India: Union supports tea workers

Two recently released studies documenting the plight of unemployed tea workers in India have backed up the campaign of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF) to force the Indian government to come to their aid. The IUF has filed a lawsuit in support of the workers.

According to IUF estimates, about 165,000 workers have been affected by tea plantation closings and the theft of the workers’ funds, wages and benefits by errant employers. About 1,000 of the workers have died from starvation.

The lawsuit seeks to bring the employers to justice, to create a relief fund from the assets of abandoned tea plantations, to allocate land to the workers, prohibit evictions, and require planters and the companies to provide immediate food, water and medicine to prevent further suffering and loss of life to workers and their families.

Zambia: Gov’t invests in health care

A newly introduced government health care plan that eliminates rural clinic fees will affect the lives of millions of people in this southern Africa country.

Under 1990s policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, prohibitive user fees were required to get medical treatment in Zambia, where 65 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Anticipating that patients who have never before received medical attention will flock to health clinics, attention is now being turned to training more health workers.

Henry Malumo, national coordinator for the Global Call to Action against Poverty in Zambia, told Oxfam International, “This is the first step towards addressing the health crisis in Zambia. More money is now urgently needed for medicines and to improve the working conditions of doctors and nurses.”

The health care program is funded from money received from debt cancellation and increased aid from abroad.

Cuba: Haiti’s Preval affirms regional cooperation

Cuba hosted a visit from President-elect Rene Preval last week. Preval was accompanied by a large delegation of Haitians, including 60 young people who have scholarships to study medicine at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Havana and 535 low-income patients who will receive surgery for eye problems as part of the Operation Miracle program.

Underscoring the need to develop economic and political stability in his country, Preval reiterated the importance of integrating Haiti into the Latin American and Caribbean region.

According to Prensa Latina, Preval said, “If we do not unite with the region, we will face serious problems of development, so we will do everything we can to politically, economically and culturally integrate with the region.”

Namibia: Living conditions improve

Two recently released studies show that Namibia is making progress in improving living standards.

A national study called the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that Namibians are better off now than they were 10 years ago. Households in the “severe poverty” category fell from 8.7 percent to 3.9 percent, and the number classified as “poor” fell from 38 percent to 28 percent.

Despite these gains, income disparity between rich and poor is still high.

A report from the World Health Organization says Namibia has made health gains in comparison to neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Namibia now stands at 54 years, compared to South Africa’s 48, Lesotho’s 41 and Botswana’s 40.

Although the AIDS crisis has held back development in health, Namibia has made progress in reaching UN Millennium Development Goals to cut poverty, observers say.

Pakistan: Regional forum against globalization

The third and final regional World Social Forum 2006 was held in Karachi, Pakistan, last month. It was attended by about 35,000 people from 59 countries.

The Karachi meeting brought together activists in the Asian region to voice their concerns and their opposition to militarization, globalization and imperialism and was a powerful statement of solidarity with the Pakistani people.

Women’s groups, peasants, fishermen, trade unionists, youth organizations, human rights activists, national liberation groups and regional political parties came from South and Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. The largest delegations were from Pakistan and India.

Nepalese human rights activist Nirmala Despande told the Khaleej Times, “We are going back to our country fully satisfied and with a confidence that the WSF will continue mounting pressure on the imperialistic approach and policies of the developed world.”

The Africa Regional WSF in Bamako, Mali, and the Americas Regional in Caracas, Venezuela, were held earlier this year.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (psaffer@pww.org).

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