Venezuela: Children’s heart hospital opens

The “Dr. Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa” children’s heart hospital is now a reality in Caracas. Venezuela’s health minister, Francisco Armada, sees the hospital as the apex of a national system to identify and care for children affected by heart disease. He says surgery can prevent most of the 3,000 deaths each year among children with cardiac birth defects.

The hospital, its prodigious costs covered by the government’s Barrio Adentro III program, will be available free to children in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.

The new hospital has 144 beds, 30 of them in intensive care. Surgeons will perform 4,500 operations every year, supported by a bevy of other specialists and by extensive monitoring and diagnostic equipment. The Rebelion web site quoted Armada as saying the hospital “demonstrates solidarity with our people and those of Latin America [from] the example of the Cuban people.”

Canada: Autoworkers help rebuild New Orleans

Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove met with the press Aug. 29 in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. The setting was one of three homes being refurbished by members of his union. The occasion — the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina — also marked the first of five weeks in which groups of six unionists would contribute electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills to rebuilding the houses.

The Canadian union members volunteered time and money with the union paying for board, room and travel expenses. They secured leaves of absence through union bargaining sessions with the auto companies.

They are working under the direction of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an organization coordinating voluntary reconstruction efforts. On the union’s web site, Hargrove calls for continued Canadian relief efforts, saying all levels of American governments have failed at salvaging the city.

United Nations: Disability rights treaty launched

The United Nations finalized a far-reaching treaty Aug. 25 to protect the rights of disabled people. This treaty, the first of its kind ever proposed by the UN, will be submitted to the General Assembly for adoption this month.

New Zealander Don MacKay, chairperson of the committee preparing the treaty, said its purpose is “to generate a shift in the way governments think about disabled people.”

Only about 45 countries now have laws dealing with the rights of disabled persons. An Inter Press Service report cites disabled children’s susceptibility to violent abuse, the special vulnerability of disabled people during wars, and disabled women’s high risk of rape and denial of reproductive rights.

Washington reportedly intends not to ratify the treaty on the grounds that appropriate legislation already exists in the U.S.

Kenya: New fence to bar ‘have-nots’

“New fence to separate haves from have-nots” was the headline Aug. 29 in the Nairobi newspaper The East African. At issue is a half-completed 250-mile electric fence running from northwest to southeast in Kenya’s Laikipia district. Promoted by environmentalists and tourism advocates, the barrier figures into a project to expand the Rift Valley game preserves and conservation sites to the north and east. Developers see wildlife enclaves as magnets for well-to-do international tourists.

The fence is supposed to keep wild animals safe from small farmers and laborers who might harm threatened species. Interspersed among the game parks, however, are cattle ranches and estates owned by rich white landowners who may derive comfort from a device separating them from small farmers to the south. The U.S. Agency for International Development turns out to have “been a major supporter of activities of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum,” one of the groups pushing for the fence.

China: Government to fight workplace deaths

Calling the onslaught of industrial accidents in that country “notorious,” China’s Xinhua news service said Aug. 29 the central government will spend nearly $60 billion on its first-ever five-year plan on workplace security.

Last year some 127,000 people died in workplace accidents, 17 of which killed over 30 workers. Coal mine accidents account for 5,000 deaths per year and 58 percent of the incidents that kill more than 30 people. Targets have been set to cut workplace deaths from 3.85 per 100,000 workers last year to 2.8 deaths in 2010.

The funding, divided among nine programs, will cover safety training, monitoring of high-risk situations, and detecting violations of safety regulations. The campaign will focus on mining and the manufacture of chemicals and fireworks. A movement is building to close small coal mines.

Local governments are called upon to incorporate workers’ safety into plans for social and economic development, and to overcome past tendencies of ignoring industrial safety.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (