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Geopolitics

Prisoners Release In Myanmar Ahead Of Historic Obama Visit

IRRAWADDY(Myanmar), BBC NEWS (UK), REUTERS, YAHOO NEWS

Worldcrunch

RANGOON- Myanmar is set to free 452 prisoners in a goodwill gesture ahead of President Obama’s visit next week. This comes as the latest in a series of reforms implemented by President Thein Sein over the past 18 months after nearly 50 years of repressive army rule.

Reuters reports that former political prisoner, Nobel laureate and head of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, had received no information that any detainees released were political prisoners. Similarly, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) had not heard of any among those released by mid-afternoon Thursday.

Obama’s visit will be the first to Myanmar, also known as Burma, by a sitting president as he seeks to forge links and promote the U.S. on his November 17-20 visit. He will also travel to Thailand and Cambodia on his Southeast Asia trip.

Burma Campaign UK believes that the prisoner release is a manipulative way to propel the country into the spotlight just before a key international moment. The independent Burmese magazine Irrawaddy reports that prominent activist and former detainee Ko Ko Gyi echoed the criticism of activist groups saying that “The release of prisoners of conscience should not be used as a bargaining chip”.

According to Yahoo news, Samantha Power, a top Obama advisor, has signaled that the U.S. President will use the talks to put pressure on the civilian government to do more on human rights for its people.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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