Drum beats mark UN remembrance of slave trade

“Break the Silence, Beat the Drum” brought together artists from Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Caribbean and the United States, as well as students, diplomats and UN officials, to launch a series of events to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.Designated by the General Assembly in 2007, the Day honours the millions of Africans violently removed from their homelands and cast into slavery. It is estimated that up to 28 million men, women and children were taken from Africa from the 16th to 19th centuries and shipped across the notorious “Middle Passage” of the Atlantic – mainly to colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies.Addressing the event, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that that the elevation this year of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States marks a milestone in the 400-year struggle of the descendants of African slaves for justice, assimilation and respect. He said that although slavery was abolished, the people of African descent around the world must still fight daily against entrenched prejudice that keeps them disproportionately in poverty. In addition, racism and contemporary forms of slavery continue to pollute the world. “It is essential that we speak out loud and clear against such abuses,” he stressed. Last night Mr. Ban launched an exhibit of drums sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Cameroon, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union, highlighting the significance of drums throughout the slave trade and beyond, from Africa to the Americas. “We must beat the drum to proclaim that whatever our colour, whatever our gender, we are one people, with one common future,” he declared at the opening of the exhibit.As part of the commemoration, Emmy Award-winning musician Peter Buffet and hip-hop star Akon will debut a new song, “Blood into Gold,” at a star-studded concert this evening in the General Assembly Hall, produced by the not-for-profit group Culture Project.“We are delighted that many artists and celebrities have accepted to add their names and voices to this event,” Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, told a news conference prior to the performance.“Tonight’s performers represent many countries where the slave route either originated or ended, that is from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas,” he noted of the event, which will bring together over 30 artists ranging from musicians Salif Keita and the Blind Boys from Alabama to actors Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad. “I love it when we all come together with all generations, all genres, all countries to create and ignite a positive spark on today’s generation,” Akon told reporters. “I think that it’s very important that we continue to do things like this that kind of reminds us of where we came from and how far we’ve come.” Peter Buffet added that “commemoration is critical, otherwise we’ll forget.” And while the Day celebrates the end of slavery, it is important to keep in mind that modern forms of the scourge, such as human trafficking, continue today, he noted. 25 March 2009The powerful sounds of musicians, drummers and steel bands echoed through the United Nations complex in New York today in a celebration of the world’s common humanity and in commemoration of the victims of the African slave trade. read more

NHS will send thousands of patients home sooner to end long stay

“Intensive support” will be offered by health officials to help trusts tackle levels of “bed-blocking” by ensuring more care is available outside hospitals. Failure to cut long-stays by 25 per cent will be deemed a safety issue, with extra monitoring of struggling hospitals, trusts will be warned.Charities welcomed the initiative, but said the plans would only work if hospitals and councils were able to put in place enough care in people’s homes.It comes as social services chiefs warned that the care sector was becoming “increasingly fragile” with one in three councils seeing home care providers close within the last six months.Andrea Sutcliffe, the chief inspector of social care, has previously raised concerns that pressures to empty hospital beds could see vulnerable patients moved into inadequate facilities.Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Improved support to ensure patients can stay as well as possible in their own homes, whether immediately after an admission or as a way to prevent one, will be vital in ensuring the NHS meets the changing needs of our population.” There will be more support for care home staff so residents can be treated without being admitted to hospital.Officials say acting now should free up 4,000 beds ahead of next winter.Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester today, Mr Stevens will say: “Over this past year hospitals and local councils have successfully worked together and have turned the corner on delays in patients being discharged. Now they need to go further in order to ensure patients are treated with dignity and looked after in the right setting for them.”Officials want to avoid a repeat of the crisis last winter, with A&E delays the highest on record, and the highest number of cancelled operations for 25 years. This year, trusts are being advised to start their planning earlier, to free up thousands of beds. The NHS is to send thousands of hospital patients home sooner in a bid to end a “long stay” culture on the wards, the head of the service will say today.Simon Stevens will pledge to cut long stays in hospital by one quarter, to free up beds for those most in need.Nearly 350,000 patients spend at least three weeks stuck on a ward each year. They take up one fifth of all beds – the equivalent of 36 hospitals.Officials say too many elderly people are being forced to endure miserable stays on wards, which strip too many of their independence and mobility – often permanently – when what they need is help at home.Today Mr Stevens will order hospitals to do more to ensure patients can be sent home sooner, with the right help. Trusts will be told to speed up assessments so more patients can be discharged at weekends, instead of being stuck waiting for checks by care workers. Hospitals will be told to carry out more routine treatment as day cases. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more