News in the Humanosphere: British court acquits doctor charged with country’s first FGM offense

Students and teachers of the Midwifery School in El Fasher, North Darfur. They all recently signed a pledge to stop the practice of female genital mutilation in Darfur. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID.

A doctor charged in Britain’s first prosecution for female genital mutilation has been acquitted. “A jury deliberated for less than half an hour Wednesday before finding 32-year-old doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena not guilty. A second man, Hasan Mohamed, was cleared of abetting the offense. … Defense lawyer Zoe Johnson said Dharmasena had been ‘made a scapegoat’ for shortcomings by the hospital, which failed to identify that the woman had undergone genital mutilation as a child in Somalia.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1DyFrfZ)

A new study says the vast majority of unwanted pregnancies every year could be avoided if women had access to modern contraception. The findings appear in the online version of Human Reproduction. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3RV4)

Norway will cut its emissions of global warming gases by at least 40 percent by 2030, aligning itself with the target set by the European Union, the government said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DyEuEl)

Ebola

Doctors Without Borders made the “big mistake” of focusing too much on treatment early on in the Ebola epidemic rather than speaking to people about tackling the disease, a senior member of the medical charity said. (TRF http://bit.ly/1za1TIi)

Sierra Leone said on Wednesday it would reopen the country’s schools on March 30, after a seven-month shutdown to limit the spread of the Ebola virus. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1DyENz2)

Reports that rates of sexual assault and teenage pregnancy have soared in Sierra Leone since the start of the Ebola outbreak have prompted the government to plan a raft of measures to protect girls and the U.N. to investigate the scale of the increase. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1zLjjjO)

Africa

Nigeria may delay its Feb. 14 presidential election if the electoral commission cannot distribute enough voter I.D. cards by Feb. 8, an electoral commissioner told Reuters on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zL7ZEe)

The United Nations has threatened to withdraw support for a planned Democratic Republic of Congo military campaign against Rwandan rebels if the government does not remove two generals accused of human rights abuses by the end of next week, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1u9YIoh)

The leaders of South Sudan’s warring factions signed a peace deal on Feb. 1, in the latest attempt to end a conflict that has raged for more than a year. Analysts say, while not perfect, this deal could be more promising than previous peace agreements. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CvF35f)

A South Sudanese civil servant and two other people traveling from a government-controlled area aboard a U.N. World Food Program helicopter were detained on Tuesday after their aircraft landed in a rebel-controlled area, officials said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3PwF)

Around 50 people were injured in riots in the town of Labé in northern Guinea when people protesting a shake-up in the civil service clashed with security forces, the government said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1DyEu7k)

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram is reported to have killed dozens of people in a cross-border raid into Cameroon. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3N7O)

At least 14 men and seven women were killed overnight in the town of Mayangose in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo by machete-wielding attackers who, unusually, spared their children, a civil society leader said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1za1Wnx)

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe may be allowed in to the European Union to attend high-level meetings in his new role as chairman of the African Union, despite a longstanding travel ban, the EU said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1za1WUi)

Gabon lifted its ban Wednesday on the main opposition party National Union, which was outlawed after its leader declared himself president of the oil-rich west African nation in 2011. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1DyEO65)

The Committee to Project Journalists is calling on the Nigerian government to “ensure that international journalists are allowed to cover the Feb. 14 elections.” CPJ said a number of reporters are having difficulty getting visas to enter the country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1za4m5n)

MENA

Wealthy nations should agree to accept hundreds of thousands of Syrians because they cannot safely remain within the region, Amnesty International argued Wednesday in a damning report on the international response to the Syrian refugee crisis. (AP http://yhoo.it/1u9YpK0)

An Egyptian opposition party led by a moderate Islamist said on Wednesday it would boycott a long-awaited parliamentary election because it lacked democratic credibility given a clampdown on political freedoms by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1DyELHv)

Asia

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena pledged Wednesday to pursue national reconciliation in a country still divided by a decades-long civil war that ended nearly six years ago. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3Oc0)

Myanmar has slammed a visiting United Nations official for using the term “Rohingya” to refer to a beleaguered ethnic minority group that the government does not officially recognize. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CvEWXj)

The North Korean diet has changed little over the past 50 years, according to a study of U.N. data by the Washington, D.C.,-based magazine National Geographic. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3JFc)

During President Obama’s recent visit to India, he and India’s leaders committed to work more closely to promote stability and peace in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. But even as New Delhi makes a significant shift in aligning itself with Washington to contain China’s growing influence, it also is working to smooth ties with its Asian neighbor. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CvEZSV)

The Americas

An Argentine prosecutor found dead in mysterious circumstances last month had drafted a request that President Cristina Fernandez be arrested for conspiring to derail his probe into the deadly bombing of a Jewish center, the investigator into his death said. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/18O85AD)

The Obama administration has defended its diplomatic opening with Cuba before U.S. lawmakers who are deeply divided on the issue. It remains unclear whether the new, Republican-led Congress will assist or hinder the president’s initiative to normalize relations with Havana. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CvEU1y)

A nurse who was trying to help newborns to safety as a dangerous gas cloud formed at a Mexico City hospital has died of injuries she suffered when it ignited in a massive fireball, authorities said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DyERyX)

Opinion/Blogs

Is U.S.-led campaign against IS making much progress? (Global Dashboard http://bit.ly/1KsgzsR)

Islamic State slaps branding on U.N. food aid (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1u9xLRC)

Modi’s clean India needs more actions than photo-ops (Policy Innovations http://bit.ly/1KsgDZB)

How the U.S. and the U.N. helped defeat Ebola in West Africa (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1KsgyFe)

Islamic State brutality could backfire (VOA http://bit.ly/1DG3R7u)

Do banks matter in developing countries? (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1za4nGH)

Briefing: How the world’s top donor spends its aid (IRIN http://bit.ly/1za4ulr)

Noncommunicable diseases and aid: an update (Development Policy Centre http://bit.ly/1DGdh32)

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.