Paris: Nearly two decades after France phased out conscription for men, some 2,000 teenagers Sunday began trialling a new national service, a pet project of French President Emmanuel Macron. For a fortnight, the 15- and 16-year-olds will leave home for training in first aid and other basic skills, followed later by another two weeks of volunteering. Macron caused surprise on the campaign trail in 2017 by promising to introduce a month-long compulsory national service, saying he wanted to give girls and boys “a direct experience of military life”. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: LondonThe proposal got a cool response from the army, which baulked at the prospect of having to put millions of teens through their paces, prompting the government to come back with proposals for a compulsory civic service instead. Some 2,000 youngsters were chosen out of 4,000 volunteers for the first part of the trial, which started Sunday at boarding schools, holiday villages and university campuses around the country. Each volunteer will leave home for another region for the two weeks, during which time they will be required to wear navy uniforms and sing the “Marseillaise”, France’s national anthem, every morning. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassadorDescribed as an “integration phase”, the teens will be taught first aid, map reading, and other skills. A second two-week phase, later this summer or during the coming school year, involves work on a “collective project”, such as volunteering with a charity or local government. Macron has billed the service as a way to develop patriotism and social cohesion in a country battling deep divisions between left and right, rich and poor, and religious and non-religious. The programme, which will be written into the constitution, will be rolled out over the next seven years, targeting about 800,000 youngsters per year, eventually becoming compulsory. France requires all citizens to participate in a one-day “Defence and Citizenship” course when they turn 18, which includes a presentation of the country’s military forces and a French language test. Macron is the first French president not to have been called up to serve, having come of age after the compulsory 10 months of military service for school-leaving men was abolished by ex-president Jacques Chirac in 1997, with the last conscripts discharged in 2001. Macron has said his aim is to give young people “causes to defend and battles to fight in the social, environmental and cultural domains.”
21 February 2012Efforts to combat the spread of cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain underfunded, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, saying the lack of access to potable water is the single most important cause of recurring outbreaks of the disease in the country. Over the past six months, the UN-managed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated more than $13 million to support the fight against cholera, according to Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.She told reporters that the UN World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed that cholera had spread to the Bas-Congo province in the east, which means that nine of the country’s 11 provinces have been affected by the disease.The UN and other humanitarian agencies have been working with the Congolese Government for over a year to combat the disease. The response has included establishing cholera treatment centres, providing water chlorination points and refurbishing water points, conducting awareness campaigns using the media, training of medical staff, and disinfecting boats.Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.Meanwhile, more than 16,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have moved to Mitwaba and Pweto territories in the southern Katanga province fleeing human rights violations over the past month, Ms. Byrs.Despite limited time on the ground and severe security restrictions, the inter-agency assessment mission identified the requirements of the IDPs as food, water, sanitation and hygiene, non-food items, protection and emergency shelter.