Thursday, 20 June 2013

Obama Committed Speeches on Climate Change and UNFCCC

In recent times President Barack Obama of the United States has been making strong statement about fighting climate change. In the last one week he made two of such statements.

First during the Chinese President Xi Jinping's official visit to the US; he said he would join with China to fight climate change. It was agreed the two countries would work together to phase down the use of potent greenhouse gas known as HFC OR HYDROFLUOROCARBON. According to´President Obama, "cooperation with China is essential if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change".

Again during his official visit to Berlin Germany, in the presence of thousands of people he re-emphasised that he was committed to fighting climate change for the sake of future generations.President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the United States understood it had to do more to fight climate change and he pledged that more action was coming. "Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down, but we know we have to do more. And we will do more," he told a crowd of cheering Germans in Berlin.

But Environment Activists from different parts of the world are challenging President Obama to move from mere speeches to decisive actions. One of such critic is the US former vice-president, Al-Gore who told Obama to proof his recent committed speeches on climate change with actions.In his words, Al-Gore pointedly called on Obama to go beyond "great words" to "great actions."

Some environment activists are persuading Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Sand Tar project is been executed by the Canadian government. During the 2011 and 2012 United Nation Summit on Climate Change in South Africa and Qatar respectively, youth delegates from Canada disrupted some meetings to show there anger on why there government was carrying the sand tar project. The youths described the project as one of the worse environment unfriendly project of the 21st century.

The United States has been faced with different climate change impact which are yet to be accepted as climate change impact but natural disasters and weather conditions. Last year, it was super sandy surge, then this year there have been tornadoes and heavy flooding in Okhaloma, wildfire in Colorado.

A recent report released by the World Bank termed "turn down the heat" has indicated that tougher times lie ahead due to the impact of climate change.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim stressed that urgent action is needed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to help countries prepare for a world of dramatic climate and weather extremes."

Will this new committed speeches by President Obama change anything in the global negotiation on climate change during the next United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC COP 19 in Poland?

Experts believe that if President Obama and Xi Jinping can work together on forging climate change agreement, other nations will follow.

Freedom of Information Law and Africa's Development.

As far back as 1946, the United Nations General Assembly recognised that Freedom of Information is a Fundamental Human Rights and the basic to all freedoms to which the United National is consecreted.

Freedom of Information Laws allow access by the general public to data held by national governmets.

Experts from Africa at the Sixth Global Media Forum in Bonn Germany, during a workshop session explored the role of freedom of information in enhancing good governance and development with public awareness and mobilization strategy in South Africa, to lobbying governments and monitoring of budget implementation and appropriation in Nigeria.

Nigeria's 2013 budget is estimated at 32 billion US dollars. Hence Africa's biggest oil producer is being closely monitored by its citizens and other interested parties to ensure that the budget is effectively implemented. This way, the over 170 million people can benefit through goverment projects and policies and keep the government in check.

Seember Nyager, the Procurement Programme Coordinator of the Public and Private Development Centre in Abuja Nigeria said through access to information they have been able to gauge whether budget funds allocated for projects and contracts were being properly used.

"Public Procurement in Nigeria has helped in budget implemetation and appropriation. If you have access to appropriation plans, you can monitor and identify areas of challenge in the budget appropriation. There is an attitude that government officials are not meant to give information. But people sue government agencies before they give out information".

Seember challenged Nigerians to use the freedom of information law in the country to deman accountability from there leaders as this would bring about the dividends of democracy to the people.

The Executive Director of Open Democracy Advice Center in Cape Town, Mukelani Dimba who also took part in the Global Media forum told participants that through access to information, they have worked with communities in ensuring they get basic services, such as access to health care, education provided by the government. However he explained that the demand for social and economic rights can not be challenged in a court of law, and only through awareness can people know and demand for such rights.

By the nature of social and economic rights they are delivering on there rights but because of the principles of separation of powers, you find out that Judges are very conscious when you come to issues of social and economic rights because they are matters of policies. They are under the sole preserve of the executive. He said though social and economic rights are not justiciable but they have helped communities through enlightening them on other ways of ensuring there leaders provide basic facilities for them.

According to Mukelani democracy is necessary but it is not a sufficient ingredient for development.

Henry Maina is the director of a coalition known as Article 19 which advocates for freedom of information, in Africa. During the discussion, he stressed that their coalition has made an impact in helping locals gain access to information. He said they did this through consultation in countries where they have worked with respective governments.

we have made significanct progress. There are number of other countries where our consultation has helped in democratic process.He stated Tanzania,Kenya and Sudan as countres they are working with the government to include freedom of information in there constitutions.

Henry Maina explained that though the freedom of information law has been included in some African countries constitution,it is still a challenge for it to be implemented and accessible to the people.

The experts agreed that if more people have access to information as required in the Freedom of Information law, it would help strengthen democracy and enhance transparency. This in turn will fuel economic and social development in the African continent.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Global Media Forum

The Global Media Forum will be taking place in Bonn Germany between the 17-19th of June, 2013. The International Media Forum which is in its sixth edition is theme: The Future of Growth-Economic Values and the Media.

The Forum seek to discuss and proffer ideas and solutions to global issues like sustainable economic development, climate change, role of media in global development amongst other.

Experts from the fields of politics, business, finance, culture, academia, civil society and the media will jointly explore fundamental concerns.

Key Speakers include Professor Avram Noam-Intellectual Father of the Occupy Movement and Renowned Philisopher, Dr. Ibrahim A. Abouleishan-Egyptian Chemist and receiver of the Right Livelihood Awarad of 2003, Professor Vandana Shiva, Indian Physicist, environmental advocate and Right Livelihood Award of 1993.

Also Nigerian Toyosi Ogunseye, multi-award winning journalist, will be speaking on investigative journalism in emerging economies.

Toyosi who won the 2011 CNN African Journalist Award in the Health Category, will be discussing on the important role of investigative journalism in raising awareness, and revising public opinion regarding unknown social and environmental risks.

Citizens Migration Within West-Africa Receives Regional Support

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, is organizing a brainstorming workshop on common migration policy for ECOWAS on June 20 and 21, 2013.

The workshop, which will be held at the Novotel Hotel in Dakar, Senegal, will serve to guide the development of a modern day migration policy that responds to the aspirations of the region’s citizens and that conform to present-day realities. It will bring together officials from member states and experts dealing with migration policy issues.

The 15 member ECOWAS Commission was established in May 1975 to promote an integrated socio-economic space for the region’s citizens. One of ECOWAS’ objectives is to enable the free movement of persons, goods and services. In 1979, the ECOWAS Commission adopted the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, which establishes the right of residence and establishment.

The first phase of the Protocol – which became effective 1980, guaranteed free entry of citizens from Member states without visa for 90 days. The second phase of the Protocol, dealing with Right of Residence, became effective in July 1986. However, Right of Establishment is yet to come into force.

The citizens of ECOWAS are among the most mobile in the world, and trends indicate that they mainly migrate within the ECOWAS region. This trend has been formalized since the ratification of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. In addition to the ratification of the Protocol, ECOWAS countries have introduced a common ECOWAS passport, and have abolished entry visas for Community Citizens.

While these moves have led to significant improvement in the ability of ECOWAS citizens to move across borders, recent labour and migration trends have begun to reveal gaps in the Protocol of Free Movement. This is especially so with respect to the Rights of Residency and Establishment, as well as issues of the mutual recognition of qualifications, which neither facilitate social mobility of the migrants, nor leverage migration for development both in receiving and sending countries. These issues pose a major policy challenge.

A major aim of the workshop is the streamlining of a technical and political approach as well as generating recommendations that can guide the development of a modern day migration policy that responds to the aspirations of the region’s citizens and conforms to present-day realities.

Specific objectives of the workshop are: to provide opportunity for stakeholders, including the civil society and private sector to make input into the policy-making process; to provide inputs that will help the development of the common regional Policy on Migration for the ECOWAS; to provide inputs that will guide work on the related subject of remittances; and to define modalities for the review and modernization of the Protocol on Free Movement of persons and the Rights of Residency and Establishment.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

War between Israel and Palestine Strains Familiy Ties

When Israeli Arabs search for a spouse, they
don't just worry about looks, job prospects or future in-laws. They
must think about whether their partner will be allowed to live with

The problem is - many Israeli Arabs, who are ethnically
Palestinians, want to marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza
Strip. But relations between the Palestinian territories and Israel
are testy at best and violent at worst, resulting in limits that even
love can't overcome.

For the past decade, Israel has largely restricted Palestinians
from joining their spouses inside the Jewish state, citing security
concerns like Palestinian militants using entry permits gained
through marriage to carry out attacks in Israel.

For ordinary people, though, the restrictions have undone
countless romances, created stressful living arrangements and frayed
family ties.

About 1.6 million Arabs are Israeli citizens. About 4.4 million
Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza. They are linked by
ethnic and family ties, but the lines between Israel and Palestinian
areas divide them.

There are no official statistics, but thousands of Palestinians
are believed to be living illegally with their Israeli Arab spouses
inside Israel, threatened with deportation.

Israel's Interior Ministry did not say how many have actually been
deported, if any, and no one volunteered stories of relatives or
acquaintances who had been arrested or expelled.

Still, the perceived threat hanging over them compels the
Palestinians in Israel to stay near their homes.

"I'm living on my nerves," said Sahar Kabaha, a 33-year-old
Palestinian woman. After her Israeli Arab husband died last year, she
was denied the right to remain in the country, even though her four
children are Israeli citizens. She now lives without legal papers in
the Israeli Arab town of Bartaa. She does not take her children to a
doctor, fearing arrest if she's discovered.

"All I want is permission to be with my children. They don't have
anybody else to care for them," Kabaha said.

Critics argue the restrictions discriminate against Israel's Arab
citizens. Israeli Jews marrying fellow Jews living in West Bank
settlements do not face such restrictions. Critics say it also
discriminates against Palestinians, since foreign spouses of Israelis
are eligible for citizenship.

The Difference is Security Aspect.

Israel "sees Palestinians and Arabs as forming a threat to
Israel's security without an individual check, or any ability to
prove his or her innocence," said attorney Sawsan Zaher of Adalah, a
legal organization fighting the restrictions.

According to official Israeli figures, some 130,000 Palestinians
acquired Israeli citizenship in the decade before the restrictions
took effect. Of them, five were imprisoned for security-related

In 2002, a Palestinian spouse of an Israeli killed 15 people in a
suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Haifa. In another case, a
Palestinian spouse drove a suicide bomber who killed seven people
riding a Jerusalem bus.

Israel's Interior Ministry introduced the restrictions in 2003,
saying they were a temporary measure to combat the violent
Palestinian uprising against Israel in progress at the time.

Israel's parliament has renewed the restrictions each year since.
The Supreme Court upheld the measure in 2006 and 2012.

The restrictions have been eased in stages, allowing Palestinian
men over 35 and women over 25 from the West Bank to apply for
temporary permits to live and work in Israel. Even so, they may not
drive, access health care, welfare or apply for citizenship.

Palestinians from Gaza, ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas, are
banned from living in Israel.

The Interior Ministry said 8,000 Palestinian spouses hold
temporary permits. It wouldn't say how many others applied or
estimate how many Palestinian spouses are living illegally in Israel.

Critics say the violence was quelled years ago, and the number of
Palestinian spouses involved in militant attacks is small. They claim
the real aim is preventing Palestinians from obtaining citizenship in
a country obsessed with maintaining its Jewish majority.

"The security argument and the term 'temporary measure' are merely
a deception aimed at 'koshering' discriminatory legislation for
demographic reasons," wrote Amos Shocken, publisher of liberal
Israeli daily Haaretz, in an April editorial.

Government spokesman Mark Regev insisted security was the only
reason. "It's too dangerous," he said. "The idea that you could have
enemy nationals having blanket residency is a bridge too far."

Few Israeli Arabs want to join spouses in the Palestinian areas,
where unemployment is rampant. Israeli law bars its citizens,
including Arabs, from living there.

Israeli Arabs continue to bring their spouses home, because many
have family relations with Palestinians that predate the Jewish
state, particularly in towns like Bartaa that straddle the line with
the West Bank. Even so, such marriages are dropping off because of
the difficulties involved, residents said.

A Jerusalem taxi driver meets his Palestinian wife from Gaza in
neighboring Egypt every few weeks. The couple, both previously
divorced, met when the woman came to Jerusalem with an Israeli permit
for medical care for her daughter in 2010. They married before she
returned to Gaza. Nightly Skype sessions bind their long-distance

An Israeli Arab woman lives illegally in the West Bank city of
Ramallah with her 32-year-old husband and daughter. Her husband is
too young to apply for a permit to live in Israel, and she risks
losing social welfare benefits if Israel discovers she's living in a
Palestinian city.

They requested anonymity, worried that identification would affect
their ability to obtain future permits.

Palestinian Nujoud Kabaha, 32, a mother of three, married her
Israeli Arab relative a decade ago, but obtained permission to live
in his hometown of Bartaa only in 2011.

In 2009, in labor with her third child, she said a hospital guard
tried to evict her from the maternity ward because she didn't have a

A decade ago, Israeli Arab Rim Badran, 32, of the village of Beir
el-Sikkeh married a Palestinian man who worked in her uncle's
restaurant. For the first eight years of their marriage, her husband
lived without papers in Israel. He rarely left their home, fearing
arrest. He began obtaining permits four years ago, after he turned

"He is scarred from the experience," Badran said. "To this day he
lives in fear."

Monday, 10 June 2013

Nigeria Joins G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwumi Adesina attended G8 Food Security and Nutrition events this weekend where Nigeria was announced as a partner country in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a G8 initiative to catalyze private-sector investment in African agriculture.

Speaking at the New Alliance meeting as the representative of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Minister Adesina noted that inclusion in this global partnership of G8 nations and private sector partners will help Nigeria achieve its Agricultural Transformation Agenda to create 3.5 million new jobs and provide over N300 billion (US$2billion) of additional income for Nigerian farmers.

“We have bold targets for Nigeria’s agriculture transformation and the world is noticing,” said Minister Adesina. “And Nigeria’s inclusion in this initiative backed by all the G8 countries, Nigerian agribusinesses and major multinationals will leverage our domestic resources to deliver on our country’s agricultural promise. We are already seeing results from bold policy reforms, donor country support and private sector commitments. This is our moment. The New Alliance will ultimately help Nigerian farmers and agribusiness to sustain this momentum.”

As one of the newest members of the New Alliance, Nigeria will be a strong advocate for substantive initiatives to improve agricultural production and incomes, focusing attention on empowering women farmers. The country’s new partnership will continue to drive the imperative to reduce food import bill, promote domestic and regional markets, and create jobs across the entire value chain, ultimately keeping the country on track to meet its agriculture target of increasing food production by 20 million metric tonnes of food for 2015.

“Nigeria believes that agriculture is a business and that the role of government is to provide an environment that enables the private sector to succeed,” said Minister Adesina. “What joins all our food policies is the imperative to reduce our import food bill, promote domestic and regional markets, and create jobs across the entire food value chain.”

This global partnership reinforces Nigeria’s ties with the private-sector to strengthen investment, create jobs and diversify the country’s economy. To date, 28 companies have signed letters of intent to invest a total of more than $3.3 billion in the country’s agriculture sector. "These companies are not doing this for charity. They see the rapid growth in our agricultural sector and vote for Nigeria with investments", said Minister Adesina.

Nigeria has adopted bold policy reforms that have led to the creation of a major farmer registration program that has reached 10 million farmers in two years, innovative agricultural financing to leverage financing from commercial banks in agriculture, the use of mobile technology for reaching millions of farmers with seeds and fertilizers, access and security to land, and increased bio-fortification to improve nutrition.

As a part of its membership in the New Alliance, Nigeria is committed to improving food security and nutrition by impacting on 10 million farmers by 2015 and lifting them out of poverty. Working in partnership with G8 countries, Nigeria will focus on generating greater private investment in the agricultural sector, scaling innovation, achieving sustainable food security outcomes, increasing income especially of smallholder farmers, and ending hunger.

Friday, 7 June 2013


The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has lauded the State of Osun Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for his effort at making education accessible to the pupils of public secondary schools in his state.

This came on the heel of the launch of "Opon Imo", the computer tablet stored with 53 textbooks, in the Senior Secondary School (SSS) curriculum, past Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board's Unified Tertiary Examination (UTME) questions dating back to the last 10 years, e-teaching videos and allied materials, distributed free to Senior Secondary School pupils in Osun public schools.

Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran commended the innovation of Comrade Rauf Aregbesola and his thoughtfulness at making education accessible to the children of the poor.

"This giant stride of the State of Osun government is highly commendable and worthy of emulation for government of other states. Even if education is made free, it would still be lopsided because some poor parents may not be able to afford materials, most especially textbooks, but with this great innovation, every pupil in the senior secondary school will have access to educational materials.

Likewise, this innovation will in no small measure, put the youths of the state, many of them from humble background, on the digital education super-highway, which by so doing, would bridge the digital gap between the children of the affluent and those of the masses. It will also expose the pupils to Information Technology judging from the fact that we are in an IT-dominated world,"Adeniran averred.

No love lost on Russia as climate talks delays in Bonn Germany

Climate Action Network (CAN) has slammed blocking moves by Russia which have stalled progress during the first week of the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

CAN - a network of over 850 NGOs all working together to combat climate change - voted to give Russia the nation the weekly fossil award for the country which does the most to block progress in the talks a day early.

Kaisa Kosonen, senior political adviser from Greenpeace International, said so far five days have been wasted as Moscow insisted the rules on agreeing laws in the UN climate process be discussed - meaning many negotiation sessions could not begin - and all efforts at compromise so far have been blocked.

“It’s in everybody’s interest that the rules of the game are respected, but frankly, the Russians broke the rules first by pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and by not taking any climate action even though they are a major emitter,” Kosonen said.

Moscow’s actions seem to stem from their anger over the way their objections to the Doha Decision - which quite rightly removed tons of poor quality emissions permits from the system - at last year’s major climate talks was ignored.

However, governments have as few as five negotiating sessions left before the 2015 climate agreement has to be signed. This behavior derails progress towards this deadline.

It comes as science finally re-enters these political negotiations with the kick off of the First Periodical Review to measure the adequacy of and the progress towards the global agreement to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees C.

Scientists told country delegates that the 2 degree limit was still achievable - but its clear there remains a huge gulf between the action governments have currently committed to and what the world needs.

Furthermore, with deadly climate impacts already being felt around the world and the carbon concentration breaking through the 400 ppm landmark, scientists said the world is currently experiencing the “worst-case climate change scenario” envisaged by the IPCC in 1990.

The kind of progress that Russia is blocking includes workshops that would help developing countries do more on climate. For example, unable to proceed are:

•a workshop designed to help developing countries prepare and implement emissions reduction targets
•efforts to help developing countries implement forest related emission reduction efforts more effectively

This process has the real potential to change lives on the ground by agreeing a global agreement that provides assistance to countries looking to use technology to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce their emissions, but right now the interests of a few are holding back its potential to move forward.

As talks continue to delay in Bonn Germany, the impact of changing weather pattern are ravaging different parts of the world with Central Europe hits by devastating flood in parts of Germany,Austria and the Czech Republic.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pope Francis and World Environment Day

Pope Francis can best be termed the "Pope for the Poor". He has continued to call out for the rich to always consider the poor. This he took a step further as the World Environment Day is celebrated today.

Pope Francis today denounced what he called a "culture of waste" in an increasingly
consumerist world and said throwing away good food was like
stealing from poor people.

"Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away
leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting
food daily and we are unable to see its real value," Francis
said at his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square.

"Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those
who are poor and hungry," he said.

Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has said he wants
the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church to defend the poor
and to practise greater austerity itself. He has also made
several calls for global financial reform.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or one third of what is
produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year,
according to the United Nations' food agency.

In the industrialised world the majority of waste is by
consumers, often because they buy too much and have to throw
away what they do not manage to eat.

A U.N.-backed study released on Wednesday said simple
measures such as better storage and reducing over-sized portions
would sharply reduce the vast amount of food going to waste.

In U.S. restaurants, diners wasted nine percent of the meals
they bought, partly because of a trend to increase the size of
everything from cheeseburgers to soft drinks, said the report by
the World Resources Institute and the U.N. Environment

Pope Francis said the "culture of waste" was especially
deplorable given the prevalence of hunger in the world. The
United Nations says hunger affects some 870 million people,
while 2 billion suffer from at least one nutritional deficiency.

The Argentinian-born pontiff warned that too much focus on
money and materialism meant financial market dips were viewed as
tragedies while human suffering had become normal and ignored.

"In this way people are discarded as if they were garbage,"

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

World Environment Day: Reducing Food Waste

Tomorrow is World Environment Day.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually. Some countries are, unfortunately, greater culprits than others; according to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), the total amount of food wasted in the U.S. exceeds that of the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany combined. In addition, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global food production accounts for 70 percent of fresh water use and 80 percent of deforestation. Food production is also the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and creates at least 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But UNEP’s recently launched Think.Eat.Save initiative is working with groups around the world to develop and coordinate projects to prevent the environmental problems that can result from food loss and food waste. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint

As the Worl Environment Day is celebrated tomorrow, kindly do me a favour and not waste food. Many people go to bed without food somewhere,someplace.

Bonn Appetit as you eat and Happy World Environment Day.

Fatal floods hit central Europe

Cities in southern and eastern Germany are on high alert as heavy floodwaters swell rivers including the Elbe.

In Halle, an appeal has gone out to residents to help reinforce flood defences while Dresden is preparing for water levels 5m higher than normal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised 100m euros (£78m; $130m) in emergency aid for flood-hit areas.

Meanwhile, river levels in Prague have begun to fall, say the Czech authorities, as floodwaters move north.

In the industrial city of Usti nad Labem there's nothing more to do but wait. The houses along the riverbank have already been evacuated.

New metal flood barriers were hurriedly erected on Monday. They have sandbagged the most vulnerable areas - though it's more in hope than in any real anticipation their efforts will hold back the waters.

The Elbe has been rising since Monday lunchtime and the decision to open the flood dams on the Vltava River overnight will have implications. The authorities in Usti nad Labem expect the water to rise several metres higher through the day.

Tuesday morning roads that we used to get into the city centre are now completely under water and impassable. Further downstream the village of Hrensko which sits in a valley on the River Elbe has been completely evacuated. Tens of thousands of people in the Czech Republic are now sitting it out in shelters.

On Monday the authorities were confident they had avoided a repeat of the worst flooding in 2002. Now they are not so sure. It is still raining here and the hillsides are saturated.
Overnight, flood barriers on the River Vltava in the south of the country were raised, releasing a torrent of water.

However, Prague's flood defences appear to have held, and the risk of severe flooding in the city centre seems to be receding.

The city of Regensburg has declared a state of emergency, while in the state of Saxony - which includes Dresden - officials were warning of higher water levels than during the record floods of 2002.

The bodies of two people, a man and a woman, were found separately around the southern town of Guenzburg. At least seven people have died in the Czech Republic and two in Austria after days of heavy rain.

Hungary has also declared a state of emergency. Floodwaters on the Danube are expected to peak there on Thursday.

Germany has drafted in the army to help with flood defences.

In the Bavarian town of Passau, floodwaters reached a level not seen since the 16th Century, but have now begun to recede.

Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the worst affected regions on Tuesday, flying over Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia by helicopter.

She promised 100m euros in immediate aid, of which 50m euros will go to Bavaria.

In the Czech Republic, a nationwide state of emergency is still in force. Water levels are expected to peak in the north later on Tuesday.

Around 3,000 people have been forced to leave their homes across the west of the country.

As a precaution, Prague's metro system and central sewage treatment plant were closed, metal flood defences were erected and sandbags built up along the banks of the Vltava