Worldwide initiative launched to name dead from Sri Lankas war

“We urge Tamils all round the world in the next few months to speak to their families, their friends, and their neighbours to collect the names of the dead. We have suggested a format to collect the information.” said Patrick Ball of HRDAG.“Several groups inside and outside the country have already started collecting lists. Recording the names of the dead is a way of collating the available information.  And we can use statistical models to estimate how many people are likely missing from the data collected. Don’t worry about duplication! We will take care of the lists.” In advance of the tenth anniversary of the end of the war in Sri Lanka in 2009, two international NGO’s are appealing for help to collect the names of the conflict dead to estimate the final death toll.The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) urge groups inside and outside Sri Lanka to share existing casualty listsand go out and record new ones. A decade after the war ended, nobody knows to the nearest ten thousand how many people died in Sri Lanka in 2009, let alone in the deacdes before. The aim of this initiative is to use a statistical approach to estimate the probability of a final death toll. The same approach was recently used by them to estimate the number of surrendees who disappeared at the very end of the war in 2009. “We at least owe the dead the courtesy of collecting their names,”  said ITJP Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka, “the scale of human loss is important to quantify and the final list of names which we will collate can also inform the memorialisation process which is key forcommunities”. Though the initial focus is on collecting information from the Tamil diaspora, the project is also keen to collate information regarding war related deaths among Sinhalese and Muslims.Particulary important is to collate all existing lists so if you know of one please contact us. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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WHO chief announces plans to step up global polio eradication effort

The new head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today announced plans to rapidly step up the global fight to eradicate polio and named a senior agency expert in SARS as his representative to spearhead the effort. “Polio eradication is a top priority. I want to see this disease gone once and for all. We have eliminated it from almost every country in the world. Now is the time to boost our action and resolve, and wipe it out everywhere,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said at a press briefing in Geneva, also announcing that his office has taken direct oversight of polio eradication activities. “I am immediately upgrading WHO’s capacity to support India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt in their efforts to immunize every child against polio,” he added. As part of the effort, the key endemic countries will conduct mass immunization campaigns from the end of August to December aimed at reaching a total of 175 million children. Success in eradicating polio depends on the success of these campaigns in India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt. David Heymann, who led WHO’s effort to contain the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome around the world, was named the Director-General’s Representative for Polio Eradication. “Just as with SARS, polio knows no boundaries,” Mr. Heymann said. “In January, a child was paralyzed by polio in Lebanon for the first time in 10 years. That virus travelled from India. Unless we stop transmission in the remaining polio-endemic countries, polio will spread to other countries and paralyze children, potentially reversing the gains already made.” In the past 12 months, polioviruses have also spread from Nigeria to neighbouring countries that had been polio-free. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The poliovirus is now circulating in only seven countries, down from over 125 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988. The seven countries with indigenous wild poliovirus are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Niger and Somalia. read more

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