Palestine: Child malnutrition rises

A study by Johns Hopkins University for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shows widespread and growing malnutrition among Palestinian children.

Preliminary findings from the study, due to be released Aug. 5, found 30 percent of children screened suffering from chronic malnutrition and 21 percent from acute malnutrition – up from 7.5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, in 2000.

This year, poverty has escalated among Palestinians as the Israeli government has repeatedly reoccupied most of the Palestinian territories, destroyed the Palestinian economy and cut off permits for Palestinians who work in Israel.

Nearly a third of the 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza now depend on food distributions by the World Food Program and other international agencies. Half the surveyed households said they needed to borrow funds to buy basic foodstuffs, and 16 percent sold assets to do so. The World Bank says 70 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live below the poverty line of less than $2 per day.

Korean peninsula: new talks urged

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea last week called for resumption of inter-Korean talks, including rebuilding the north-south railway link and improving the conditions for family reunions.

The message sent by Kim Ryong Song, head of the northern delegation, to his southern counterpart also expressed regret for a June incident in which a North Korean patrol boat fired on a South Korean boat. The incident, which resulted in deaths and injuries, occurred near a demarcation line at sea that the DPRK does not recognize.

“Feeling regretful for the unforeseen armed clash that occurred in the West Sea recently, we are of the view that both sides should make joint efforts to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents in the future,” Kim said. “We consider that it is not only in line with the common interests of the nation but with the basic spirit of the June 15 [2000] joint declaration calling for settling the issues by the Korean nation itself, to pay attention to the present inter-Korean relations, resume the deadlocked dialogue between the authorities at an early date, and thus take positive steps to bring these relations back to track and promote reconciliation, unity and cooperation.”

Brazil: ICFTU protests killing of unionist

In a letter to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unionists (ICFTU) expressed “outrage” at the assassination of Bartolomeu Morais da Silva, an official of the Federation of Agricultural Workers of Para (Fetagri-PA).

“Information reaching us paints a picture of torture and execution that is shocking to the civilized world,” the ICFTU letter said. The letter noted that Morais da Silva had been collecting evidence of abuses, to be presented to the government’s public security agency.

The ICFTU called on President Cardoso to guarantee that the legal rights of trade unionists to represent workers are respected according to the ILO conventions which Brazil has signed, and urged that the perpetrators be apprehended and dealt with according to the full extent of the law.

Germany: Workers strike Wal-Mart

German retail workers started a two-day strike against dozens of Wal-Mart stores July 26, to press the virulently anti-union retail giant to join the German regional wage bargaining system. Some 2,000 workers at 46 stores joined the strike.

Wage agreements are usually reached between unions and regional employer associations in Germany, and then by law are binding even on employers that don’t belong to the associations. The retail workers’ union believes, however, that Wal-Mart’s signing onto the agreement would make the workers’ situation more secure. The union is currently negotiating a new contract with the retail employers association.

Australia: Uproar grows over child detentions

The plight of two young brothers from Afghanistan – Alamdar Baktiaryi, 13, and his 11-year-old brother Montazar, is again spotlighting the dire situation of refugees detained in Australia.

The brothers, who, with their mother and three sisters, have been held at the razor-wire-ringed Woomera refugee detention center for 18 months, escaped during a mass breakout from the facility in June. They then applied for asylum at the British consulate in Melbourne, but were whisked away by Australian Federal Police the same day, after their request was denied. Currently they are back at Woomera. During their earlier stay, each boy had attempted suicide.

Australian authorities have denied the family’s claim of refugee status, saying they are not Afghanis but Pakistanis, though the father has passed a language test proving he is Afghan.