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Author: Erin Moore

Detroit – water not flowing

by Francis Mead Motown = Motor City = famous artists = cars = shut-off water supplies = UN = human rights. Huh? Detroit combines all of the above. Two UN human rights reporters – officially they’re called “Special Rapporteurs” – visited the Michigan city recently, after local groups appealed to them for help. Why? Because the city, bankrupt and desperately in need of revenue, had decided to cut people’s water supplies off in an attempt to force them to pay their bills. Almost half the city’s residences were in arrears. The Special Rapporteurs said that it’s a human rights violation to cut water supplies to someone who can’t afford to pay – and they pointed out that some countries have simply made it illegal to cut off anyone’s water for any reason – on public health grounds. The story got international attention – and we (myself, cameraman Antonio Tibaldi, and drone photographer Parker Gyokeres) went to make a film about what it all meant. We filmed with Rochelle McCaskill who’d had her water cut off. She’s struggling with lupus and simply can’t keep up with the bills, because her disability benefits aren’t enough to pay the rent AND the water bill. Essentially, this is a film about urban poverty in a wealthy Western country – not unheard of, of course in many other industrialized countries. But Detroit is an...

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Preserving the Forests in the Solomon Islands

by Gill Fickling Eight pm on a Friday evening.  My skype pings with an incoming message.  It’s my cameraman/fixer, Wade Fairley, in the Solomon Islands where I’m due to be joining him the following Monday to shoot two stories for “21st Century”.  There’s been a tragedy.  The small boat we were to travel in the next week to a remote island in the Western Province to cover a story on sustainable logging has gone down in a storm.  Five of the seven people on board have been drowned, including employees of the non-governmental organisation we were to have worked with and the boat’s captain.  Boat-travel in the Solomon Islands is essential but hazardous.  These small vessels with outboard motors often sail heavily overloaded risking storms, high winds and dangerous currents.   But with few roads across the almost 1000 islands that make up the country and the price of air-travel exorbitant, voyaging by sea is usually the only option for locals. This was a devastating catastrophe for the local people on the island of Vella Lavella, where we were to have filmed one of the few communities in the country who engage in sustainable timber production.  And we now needed a new story – fast! Furious activity, largely by Wade, during the next 24 hours, the real threat of cancellation spurring us on, resulted in an alternative story and the...

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Akhtar’s Story

by GILL FICKLING When I first met Akhtar in 2009, he was dirty, hungry, disillusioned and scared.   He was then living in a squalid camp of flimsy cardboard boxes in Greece’s western port city, Patras, along with 1600 other Afghan boys and men who, like him, had come with hope of finding a new life in Europe. Destitute without food or the right to earn a living, hounded by the authorities and unable to either leave the country, or to legally stay, Akhtar, like those around him, had reached a dead end.   He told me “This is like living like animals … I think I’ve come to the wrong place”. I was in Greece with cameraman, Sebastian Rich, to shoot a story for “21st Century” on Europe’s migration issue, and, in this case, Greece’s inability to cope with the influx of asylum hopefuls.  Akhtar’s was the human face of this “problem”.  The film, called “Dead End”, was distributed in our series in 2009.  It would be four years before I would meet him again, when I shot a follow-up film with him, a long way from where we first met. Amidst the sea of desperation in Greece, Akhtar stood out because of his gentleness, humility and intelligence.  Fluent in 5 languages, including English which he learnt while growing up in a UN Refugee Agency camp in Pakistan,  Akhtar had...

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The Women Shepherds of Somaliland

by Francis Mead We won’t forget Beerato. It’s a village in central Somaliland. Dust, sheep, goats, camels – and bold women, insisting on changing their lives – and knowing how to party – dancing, singing and clapping in the Sufi style. Cameraman Antonio Tibaldi and I arrived in a UN four-by-four. We had to bring eight armed guards in two more vehicles with us – UN rules – since there’s a danger of kidnapping. We travelled with Amina Souleiman, a Somali woman who gained political asylum in the UK during Somalia’s civil war in the 90s. She now spends half her year helping women in her homeland stand up for their rights. The UN Democracy Fund is financing her project. In my opinion it’s a remarkable initiative, though each step forward has to be patient and small, and is met by resistance. We met Sahra – an impressive, highly intelligent woman, a shepherd with no formal education and one of the leading lights in the village. Sahra is one of Amina’s protegés. Water is a central concern year round – and Beerato, when drought isn’t severe, is a major watering hole for the surrounding villages. We watched and filmed as camel herds and flocks of sheep and goats were brought in, lining up to take their turn, almost like aircraft taxiing on a runway. The semi-nomadic families here move...

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Risking Life and Limb in Afghanistan

by Mary Ferreira and Haris Kakar Recently I had the pleasure of working with and mentoring a young journalist from Afghanistan, Haris Kakar, a participant in the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalists Fellowship Programme which ran for 5-weeks this year – one week in Geneva and four weeks in New York. A total of 11 journalists (Radio/Internet/Print/TV) had the chance to work with UN staff and follow coverage of important events. At the end of the fellowship, each journalist had to finalize a project in their field of work. Haris, a print journalist, chose to write an article about humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan who risk everything to help the needy. Elizabeth Scaffidi from SCD assisted in the editing process. Here’s Haris’ story… “United Nations, New York – For 30 years Mohammad Nabi has been delivering aid to his vulnerable countrymen and women in central Afghanistan, risking his life to help others get “better health and education”. As the security situation deteriorates, the conflict in the central Asian nation rages on. Aid workers across Afghanistan continue to worry about the humanitarian situation as well as their own lives. Afghanistan faces a crucial moment: expecting to hold second major presidential elections next year as NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces pull out. Fifty-nine year old Nabi is an aid worker for the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan in the central Wardak province. Forty...

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