Tag Archives: CommunicableDiseases

Sierra Leone's missing Ebola millions

FREETOWN, 30 March 2015 (IRIN) – More than half of US$18 million of treasury and public donation funds supposedly spent on fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone, where the disease has claimed 3,764 lives, lacks complete paperwork and almost a third is officially “unaccounted for” according to an audit report.

Anti-corruption and National Ebola Response Centre officials are investigating findings by the Audit Service that around $6 million may have gone to the wages of non-existent or “ghost” workers.

The service found that between May and October 2014, $3.7 million that was disbursed from the Emergency Health Response Account and the Ministry of Health Miscellaneous Account, intended for Ebola response activities, had no supporting documentation to show how the funds were used. 

An additional $2.6 million was taken from the same accounts without “adequate” supporting documentation, such as receipts. The auditors also reported that $3.9 million, which was supposedly used to purchase ambulances and help construct the Port Loko Ebola Treatment Center, is unaccounted for.

“The findings of the report makes a sad rhythm because it alleges that money otherwise meant to provide relief and to rescue lives wasn’t used, for the most part, towards the purpose it was intended,” said Ibrahim Tommy, the coordinator for Sierra Leone’s Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, an independent organization that advocates for institutional transparency. “And, according to the report, this might have even adversely affected the government response to the crisis.”

Tommy added: “It makes one wonder how a serious humanitarian crisis was used as money-making machine.”

Both the Clerk Office of the Public Accounts Committee and the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) declined to comment on the report, telling IRIN only that the allegations are currently under review by the Parliament. 

“Probing is still underway, so supporting documentation could still be produced,” said Transparency International’s regional coordinator for West Africa, Samuel Kaninda.  “But this is money that taxpayers contributed, in a country where many people can’t afford their own basic needs, so we need to show them that their money went where it was meant to go and actually helped people.”

“Business as usual”

For years, audit reports in Sierra Leone have highlighted “poor” financial management systems as one of the biggest weaknesses within the public sector, particularly among the government ministries. 

“We are well aware that the management of public funds is a huge challenge in Sierra Leone,” said Lavina Banduah, the executive director of Transparency International Sierra Leone. “And with the unprecedented outpour of funds for anti-Ebola activities, we were concerned that it would end up being utilized in a ‘business as usual’ manner, as has become the trend.”

Banduah said a similar misuse of funds is believed to have happened during the 2012 cholera outbreak, when a state of emergency was declared in Sierra Leone, but few inquiries were made.

“Unfortunately this happens quite a lot,” Kaninda said. “Many of the countries that face such crises are not only highly corrupt, but also underdeveloped, so there are low levels of transparency. Funds often need to be released immediately and they don’t have the time or resources to make sure the money is used as it was intended…So it’s easy to have an abuse of funds.”

However chronic corruption is in Sierra Leone, Freetown businessman Amin Sesay said he was “very disappointed” by the latest audit.

“Our people are suffering, the economy of the country is in dire need of recovery, but selfish people are misusing the money meant to eradicate Ebola. If it weren’t for the international donor response and that of humanitarian NGOs…the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone would have been far worse,” he told IRIN.

Ghost Workers

Tommy lamented the government’s failure to ensure public funds stopped going to “ghost workers.” Public outrage over the phenomenon led the Ministry of Health in February to promise to clean up its payroll.

“I think most public sectors do it on purpose…to basically defraud the state and that is not acceptable,” he said. “It is not helpful to our efforts to overcome development aspirations. There’s no way we can be able to deliver basic services to the vast majority of the  people who are poor…if we are not able to…manage those resources in ways that we are minimizing to an absolute minimum waste and fraud in the public sector.”

A need for reform

Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Committee says it is now closely working with the National Audit Service, the Ministry of Health and other government institutions to ensure that the unaccounted for funds are recovered and that all guilty parties are prosecuted.

“The report, [along] with the 2013 report of the account of the Sierra Leone government, clearly shows that the Health Ministry needs massive improvement in terms of the way it manages public funds and resources meant for the delivery of health care services,” Tommy said. 

Last year, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development along with the Anti-Corruption Commission launched its third National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2014-2018, which aims to become a “corrupt-free society” by 2018.  

Among its key initiatives are plans to strengthen the auditing system by requiring that assets are declared both electronically and on paper, and that random checks are performed by independent bodies.  

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#NigeriaDecides

Africa’s largest democracy holds elections tomorrow. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a tough re-election battle with longtime rival Muhammadu Buhari. With the Boko Haram insurgency raging, these elections are exceedingly consequential. Here are some resources to keep you informed about the elections and their significance.

A Good Think tank Policy Brief  (Council on Foreign Relations http://on.cfr.org/1FOoWkR)

A Good 14 minute podcast explainer: Global Dispatches Podcast: http://bit.ly/1ycCvCO

A Good explainer on the nuts and bolts of how the election will work. (BBC http://bbc.in/1FOpBmp)

More Nigeria News

Nigeria holds journalist…The Al Jazeera news organization says Nigerian forces have held two of its journalists in custody since Tuesday, as the country tightens security ahead of Saturday’s national election. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtwtA)

United Nations refugee chief António Guterres said masses of people fleeing the terrorist group Boko Haram have created a crisis comparable to the refugee situation caused by Syria’s civil war. A shortfall of international funding is hampering the UN’s ability to alleviate the situation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtBxw)

Sat of the day: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that widespread violence and turmoil in the past year have taken a toll on United Nations worker with 33 detained and one missing. Two contractors have also been abducted. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOf5x)

Africa

An international court has denied a request from former Liberian president Charles Taylor to serve the rest of his 50-year prison sentence in Rwanda. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtmmb)

Dozens of senior officials in Burundi’s ruling party have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon a quest for a third term this June to avoid renewed violence in the landlocked central African nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhem)

South Sudanese opposition officials and civil society activists have condemned as self-serving and unconstitutional a move by parliament to extend the terms of the country’s elected officials, including themselves and President Salva Kiir. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLm1N)

Sierra Leone is preparing for another lockdown to fight the Ebola epidemic. It is believed that against all medical advice, some people continue to bury the dead themselves, bringing them into contact with the virus. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLlLl)

A former child soldier from Democratic Republic of Congo told the United Nations Security Council he was sorry for the harm he caused after he was forcefully recruited from his school by an armed group at age 12. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZteDc)

A Somali businessman is betting on a biometric fingerprint system to keep alive vital money transfer firms which face closure after Western banks cut ties due to fears remittance cash may be channelled to militant groups. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLgXP)

Sierra Leone authorities have again delayed the reopening of schools shut down for months to combat the spread of Ebola. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmyL)

The three nations hardest hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic recorded the lowest weekly total of new cases so far this year in the week leading up to March 22, the WHO said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZtiTt)

Liberian health ministry officials say a woman, the country’s first Ebola patient in more than a month, has been quarantined and stabilized and is responding to “supportive” treatment. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZttOk)

Nigeria’s main presidential candidates signed a second peace accord ahead of general elections on Saturday, the government said on Thursday, promising to hold peaceful polls and not incite religious or ethnic tensions. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhuQ)

MENA

The global chemical weapons watchdog will investigate allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syrian villages that killed six and wounded dozens this month, a source said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOJZj)

The long-running conflict with Israel claimed the lives of more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than any year since 1967, the United Nations said Thursday, in a damning report on the humanitarian situation. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLaf2D

The United Nations accused the Islamic State of committing shockingly widespread and extremely severe human rights violations against the people of Iraq. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmij)

Amnesty International says Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by firing rockets and other crudely built, indiscriminate projectiles into Israel during last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtyll)

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that Palestinian militants committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9KFF)

The flag of once-independent South Yemen is visible everywhere around this port city, once the country’s capital. The banner — red, white, black and blue with a red star — is painted on walls, flown from homes, and flutters from the vehicles and checkpoints of militiamen in the streets. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HLadrz)

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in a widening conflict in Yemen to obey the rules of war, voicing concern at reports of civilian casualties following Saudi-led air strikes. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOKwb)

Asia

The U.S. government and major business leaders are renewing their call on the Thai government to crack down on slavery in its fishing fleets, and to punish people who force migrant workers to catch seafood that can end up in the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9d6T)

Myanmar is increasing the salaries of its government employees — doubling some of them — as of next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOH3t)

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope with a growing number of people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1bxuun5)

The Americas

The death toll in Chile rose to four after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 22 others were unaccounted for as the military rescued stranded villagers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOL3b)

A delegation of U.S. telecommunication officials is in Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts as part of talks to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOAVy)

The heaviest rains to hit Chile’s northern desert regions in 20 year have left at least two people dead and 24 missing as the torrential downpours caused mudslides and rivers to breach their banks, leaving thousands of residents stranded. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsODB0)

There’s an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana, tied to widespread injectible drug. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1IBb9fG)

…and the rest

Mass abductions of children by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are on the rise, with the practice now becoming a tactic of war, a UN envoy warned. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLa8Eh)

Opinion/Blogs

Why gender equality by numbers will never measure up (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bxuljx)

Hollywood made a zombie movie but replaced the zombies with Asians (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BsN59Z)

Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BsPYI3)

How dealing with climate change is like playing cricket (Guardian http://bit.ly/1BsQIg1)

Is social media fuelling a Mexican Spring? (BBC http://bbc.in/1EHkZc9

Education as a Cornerstone for Women’s Empowerment (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1EHl13y)

What’s Up With Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Children? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1bxuC5Z)

Discussion

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Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen

With most of the country’s major cities under rebel control and the president reportedly having fled the country by boat, Riyadh is mounting an intervention against the Iranian backed Houthi rebels. “Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday it had launched military operations in Yemen, carrying out air strikes in coordination with a 10-country coalition seeking to beat back Houthi militia forces besieging the southern city of Aden where the country’s president had taken refuge. At a news conference in Washington, Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir said Gulf Arab allies and others had joined with the desert kingdom in the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He declined to give any information on Hadi’s whereabouts.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/18YHikY)

Malawi/Global Fund Fracas…There was a report, erroneous it turns out, that the Global Fund cut $574 million to Malawi. That’s not exactly what happened. Here’s the statement from The Global Fund. “In early 2015, following concerns about financial management at the National AIDS Council, the Malawi Country Coordinating Mechanism, a panel representing a range of stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, decided to channel US$574 million in funding to be implemented through different partners. Future funding will go through the Ministry of Health and ActionAid, a non-governmental organization. The National AIDS Council will no longer be a Principal Recipient of Global Fund grants. (Global Fund “bit.ly/1CYUJz4)

Vanuatu is Still Being Ignored…Less than two weeks after Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, 110,000 people have no safe drinking water and some 75,000 urgently need shelter, the United Nations said on Tuesday as it launched an appeal for $29.9 million. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1FV98LI)

Nigeria Elections

Your 15 minute Nigeria elections explainer: Mark interviews the Nigerian American journalist Dayo Olopade who offers a sophisticated take on elections in Africa’s biggest democracy. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/18YGtZr)

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the closure of the country’s land and sea borders before this weekend’s general election, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HFACXB)

As Nigerians prepare for Saturday’s presidential election, the integrity of the vote will hang in large part on the success of a new voter card system that includes thousands of hand-held electronic card readers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CYujgW)

Africa

A Liberian woman who last week became the country’s first Ebola patient in more than one month has not passed on the infection to anyone else, a senior official said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HFABTv)

A court in Chad on Wednesday found 20 current and former security agents who served under ousted ruler Hissene Habre guilty of atrocities committed during his rule in the 1980s, including war crimes and torture. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BnhVRq)

A row over a law banning homosexuality in Uganda has been reignited after it emerged that the government paid a US public relations firm to offset negative publicity, a report said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BM9rlP)

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, fresh from being extended in office for another three years, said on Wednesday the threat of international sanctions would not keep him from retaliating against his rival. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1BnhQgu)

Government workers in Togo went on strike for the second consecutive day over pay, a union official said, raising pressure on the government a month ahead of an election. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1HFAjMH)

Politicians, activists and conservation experts meeting in Botswana on Wednesday vowed to fight the booming illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Bnibjt)

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara appointed a Catholic archbishop on Tuesday to head the West African nation’s flagging post-war reconciliation efforts ahead of elections later this year, a senior official with the presidency said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BM9oqa)

Some 10.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school — the largest number in the world, according to the UN. Many children in the Muslim-majority north have little choice, with schools closed or destroyed by six years of fighting between Boko Haram and the military. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BM9sWY)

Two former child brides have taken Zimbabwe’s government to court in a ground-breaking bid to get child marriages declared illegal and unconstitutional. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FV93aT)

Two years after Séléka rebels ousted the president of the Central African Republic and plunged the country into chaos, farmers urgently need seeds and tools to plant crops and avert food shortages. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1y7akVE)

The EU has restored political ties to Guinea-Bissau nearly five years after a military coup threw the country into chaos and soured relations with the international community. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1y7afRV)

MENA

Activists speaking up against abuses in war-torn Libya face reprisals from all sides in the chaotic conflict, and are increasingly being threatened, attacked, abducted and killed, the UN warned in a report Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HFAJ5u)

Sweden is seeking to quell an unprecedented diplomatic spat over human rights with Saudi Arabia which has seen ambassadors recalled and arms sales cancelled, drawing comparisons with Denmark’s Mohammed cartoons controversy. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BM9pKy)

A new U.N. report said the delivery of aid to millions inside Syria is becoming even more difficult as the Islamic State group closes down humanitarian efforts and Syria’s government puts more obstacles in the way. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y7a498)

Asia

Authorities in Myanmar have filed criminal charges against 69 student activists and their supporters who were arrested two weeks ago when police cracked down on peaceful protests against a new education law. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Bni9Ij)

US President Barack Obama’s decision to slow the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will hamper peace efforts, the Taliban said Wednesday, vowing to continue fighting. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HFAVBV 

Sri Lanka has started releasing private land occupied by the military during the country’s 26-year civil war, in a major step at reconciliation with minority ethnic Tamils. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BniiLD)

Hong Kong’s leader said on Wednesday the city was prepared for a fresh flareup of pro-democracy street protests, while issuing a call to arms against opposition democratic lawmakers who have disrupted government policy-making in the legislature. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FV8VI8)

Online freedom advocates in India are hailing a court ruling that struck down a controversial law seen as infringing free speech on the Internet. But in a country expected to have the world’s largest number of web users by 2018, some concerns about net censorship remain. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y7a3lA)

China

China says its proposed Asian bank might have regional offices in other countries in a new move to mollify concern it will be a Chinese political tool. (AP http://yhoo.it/1FV8SMA)

China on Wednesday rejected growing international calls for the release of five women’s rights activists and accused critics of violating the country’s judicial sovereignty by appealing for the women’s freedom. (AP http://yhoo.it/1FV8T3f)

Leaders of Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics said Wednesday the capital’s notorious air pollution will be much improved by the time of the games. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HFAQ0Q)

The Americas

Seven people were killed and more were feared dead in Peru after a massive landslide buried parts of a town amid heavy rains, authorities said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BM9w9d)

Strong winds and unusually hot weather in southern Chile are fueling out-of-control forest fires, which are consuming large swaths of national parks and ancient woodland parched by a prolonged drought. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CYumJw)

The European Union and Cuba will intensify negotiations aimed at normalising ties, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1y7a8FZ)

…and the rest

A group of large companies, mainly in the food sector, have promised to reduce their role in the destruction of the world’s forests, and a new online portal launched on Wednesday aims to hold them to their word. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HFApDK)

The Coca-Cola Co has made a good start in axing land grabs from its supply chain, but it must work harder in proving that its bottlers and sugar suppliers do not violate land rights, development experts told the company. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1BM9lL1)

Health watchdogs should regulate online sales of breast milk, so prone to contamination that babies may be placed at risk, the BMJ medical journal said in an editorial on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BM9iPk)

Opinion/Blogs

This week I may be jailed for writing a book on human rights abuses (Guardian http://bit.ly/1LZE5U7)

Death by fire in India a big risk for women (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1E0HFsN)

Global Citizenship Essential for Gender Equality: Ambassador Chowdhury  (IPS http://bit.ly/1HFIVCM)

A Top Weedkiller Could Cause Cancer. Should We Be Scared? (NPR http://n.pr/1BnorHQ)

Does the wage bill affect conflict? Evidence from Palestine (ODI http://bit.ly/1HFK4dG)

Innovation in Somalia: Launch of E-Transfer Cards in Bossaso (WFP http://bit.ly/1y79kAY)

How Did Ebola Volunteers Know Where To Go In Liberia? Crowdsourcing! (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1y79lF3)

Maximising effectiveness of GAVI aid: when less can mean more (Devpolicy Blog http://bit.ly/19Rer2U)

Four trade priorities for the global development agenda in 2015 (ODI http://bit.ly/1GWeBAk)

Is Going Local the Answer?  OxFam America’s New Report: “To Fight Corruption, Localize Aid” (GAB http://bit.ly/19ReNGK)

Ambitious goals for sustainable development (virtual economics http://bit.ly/1GWeOn2

Making development work for humanitarian response (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1GWfglj)

Discussion

comments…

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Ghanaians Urged To Be Vigilant In Fight Against Ebola

26

Mar 2015

A medical officer has appealed to Ghanaians to be vigilant in the fight against the Ebola disease since it takes a single positive case for an entire community to get infected.

Dr. Leveana Gyimah, the leader of the mental health team of 42 Ghanaian health workers who traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help combat Ebola, said this in an interview with the GNA when the team arrived at the Kotoka International Airport.

The mental health team was a sub unit of the 42-member team.

Dr. Gyimah, who was with the Liberian group, said there was the need to ensure that all the measures needed to prevent the disease were taken with a strong sense of urgency.
 

“It is just about strongly revisiting what should be done. Sometimes it is about your district. The things needed should be provided by the authorities in the right quantities and at the right time,” he said.

She said although Ebola had raised strong concerns, there were other deadly diseases such as cholera, which could also cause several human deaths and destabilise the society.

Touching on the trip, she said the key reasons for the high levels of Ebola infection in Liberia was lack of adequate awareness during the onset of the disease, weak systems as a result of the civil war as well as a poor human resource base in the health sector.

Dr. Gyimah said in the past, Ebola was only recorded in small communities in East Africa, which made it easy for it to be contained, adding that in the case of Liberia, infected people were mingling with uninfected people in buses and other large social gatherings and this contributed to the rapid spread of the disease.

She said a very relevant fact also was that the education of the public did not seem to have gone down well enough for the citizenry to take precautions.

The 42-member team was trained by the Ministry of Health, and spent three months in the affected areas.

On their way back to Ghana, they were quarantined for 21 days in Cote d’Ivoire to make sure they were free of the virus.

They are to rest for a month before resuming work in their various organizations.
 
 
 
 
 
Source: GNA

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Lowest weekly total of Ebola cases in 2015 reported, UN health agency says

25 March 2015 – The first case of Ebola in three weeks was found in Liberia, prompting heightened vigilance, while the United Nations health agency noted some improvements in Guinea, where the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Guinean Scouts held campfire sensitization sessions as part of its efforts to overcome community resistance to health interventions.

“Investigations into the origin of the newly reported case in Liberia are ongoing,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest update. “Heightened vigilance is being maintained throughout the country” along with efforts to reinforce surveillance networks and cross-border controls.

The one new confirmed case was reported from the greater Monrovia area of Montserrado county, where the patient went to a hospital on 19 March, and was laboratory confirmed as Ebola positive the next day, according to WHO.

The agency went on to say that the patient is not a contact associated with the country’s last confirmed case, who tested negative for a second time on 3 March.

In its latest report, WHO said 79 new confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the week to 22 March: the lowest weekly total in 2015 from the epidemic in West Africa that has affected nearly 25,000 people with more than 10,000 deaths.

“With the exception of the case in Liberia, transmission has been restricted to districts in and around Conakry to the north and Freetown to the south,” WHO said, referring to the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone respectively.

And “response indicators for Guinea suggest some improvements compared with recent weeks,” the agency reported. “Case incidence declined compared with the previous week in every prefecture to have reported a case in the past 21 days.”

However, WHO cautioned, “the fact that fewer than half of cases arose from known contacts, and the number of reported unsafe burials has increased suggests that the outbreak in Guinea continues to be driven by unknown chains of transmission.”

UNICEF conducted several social mobilization and community engagement activities in its fight against Ebola in Guinea, where religious leaders at the Grand Mosque of Kourouss delivered Ebola sensitization messages following the reading of the Quran with 14 imams reaching more than 500 people, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) said in its daily report.

In partnership with the Guinean Scouts, UNICEF is working to overcome community resistance to Ebola-related humanitarian interventions in numerous locations. And as part of this effort, UNICEF and the Scouts held campfire Ebola sensitization sessions and screened sensitization films during evening gatherings, according to UNMEER.

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News in Brief 25 March 2015 (AM)

25 Mar 2015

Listen /

Working towards zero cases of Ebola. Photo: UNMEER/Martine Perret

First trial of Ebola vaccine begins in Guinea

The first trial of an Ebola vaccine began this week in Guinea, one of the three West African countries worst affected by the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says ring vaccination tests of the VSB-EBOV vaccine, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, have been well received by the community in a small village in the Coyah prefecture.

The ring vaccination strategy entails identifying recently infected patients and vaccinating all their contacts, thereby creating what is called “a ring of immunity” around them.

Number of displaced people rising in South Sudan

The number of people who have been displaced by the conflict that broke out in December 2013 in South Sudan has kept rising with no likelihood that people will be able to return to their homes in the near future.

That’s what the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as she introduced a report on the young African nation.

She said there are over 1.3 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan, over 100,000 of whom live in UN protection sites, while about half a million others are refugees in neighbouring countries.

Memorandum of Understanding signed to boost ICTs in developing countries

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) in Geneva on Wednesday.

UNCTAD said that the memorandum of understanding is part of the efforts to boost the local information and communications technology industry in developing countries.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations.

Duration: 1’35″

 

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Zimbabwe on alert over cholera threat

By Foster Dongozi

Welcome to Harare – Mbare bus station

HARARE, 25 March 2015 (IRIN) – Children play on the dumpsite in the Budiriro suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, scrambling through the garbage and ignoring the clouds of flies and overpowering stench from the rotting, untreated waste.

This was the epicenter of Zimbabwe’s last and worst cholera epidemic, which between 2008 and 2009 killed 4,300 people and infected over 100,000. Now, with the emergence of a cholera outbreak in neigbouring Mozambique, which has already infected 14 people in Zimbabwe’s border towns, the question is whether the authorities are ready and better able to cope should cholera spread to Harare.

Joseph Mpofu lives in a compound of three homes just 10 meters from the dumpsite in Budiriro. “Our children are always going down with diarhoea and we have made numerous reports to Harare City to collect the waste, but they have never done so,” he told IRIN, waving away flies settling on nappies hung out to dry.

“The last cholera outbreak started here in Budiriro and we are manufacturing ideal conditions for another outbreak to occur. If the cholera in Mozambique finds its way to Harare, it would spread rapidly,” said Mpofu.

Welcome to Harare

Given the extent of cross-border trade and travel in southern Africa, one of the likely entry points for the highly infectious cholera bacillus would be bus stations like the Mbare terminus, which welcomes people from across the region.

Food vendors preparing snacks and meals in open-air makeshift stalls told IRIN they were taking extra precautions to keep their environment sanitary. “Our only concern is that sometimes the public toilets are not cleaned on time and regularly and they overflow with human waste, which could encourage the spread of cholera,” said vendor Tanatswa Machingura.

Confirmed cholera cases in Zimbabwe have so far only occurred in Mudzi, Chipinge and Chiredzi – on the borders with Mozambique – and Beitbridge, the busy crossing point to South Africa. Harare City Health Director Dr Prosper Chonzi said the capital was on high alert as “it only takes a bus for the disease to get into Harare”. 

What made controlling cholera so difficult six years ago was Zimbabwe’s dilapidated water and sewerage systems, the result of a long-running economic crisis that starved local authorities of investment in public infrastructure. Since then, a US$144 million loan from China has been used to rehabilitate the city’s waste water treatment plant, which means raw effluent is in theory no longer being discharged into Harare’s main water supply. 

School children picking through the Budiriro dumpsite

But, as an editorial last week in the state-controlled Herald newspaper pointed out, this seems still to be a work in progress. “The city of Harare has come under fire for failing to collect refuse around the city and the provision of smelly and dirty-looking water. Burst sewerage and erratic water supplies for most high density suburbs of the city and Chitungwiza [a satellite town] are also a cause for worry. Adequate toilet facilities at public places like bus termini should also be provided without fail.”

Really ready?

Harare City spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told IRIN the situation had markedly improved since the last cholera outbreak. Then, pipes to some of Harare’s suburbs were completely dry as the city could only provide 200 million litres of water a day against a need of 800 million litres, forcing people to use unsafe sources of supply. Since the rehabilitation work, output has almost trebled to 550 million liters of water a day, he said.

While prevention remains a concern, Chideme said he was confident Harare’s health system would be able to handle an initial cholera outbreak. “Each of our health centres, which include two hospitals, 46 clinics and polyclinics, have the capacity to deal with 20 cases in the event of an outbreak.”

But Dr Ruth Labode, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, is less sanguine. “In terms of containing [limited cases], we are able to do that. However, if there is an [epidemic] then we would be in dire straits because we would not have the capacity to deal with that. At government hospitals there is low staffing, some medical staff would require retraining while some hospitals have challenges on accessing basics such as water,” she told IRIN.

Despite the alert in Zimbabwe, it is Mozambique that has borne the brunt of the cholera outbreak following heavy rains and flooding in December 2014, with 6,737 cases and 51 deaths. However, new cases are now decreasing in all of Mozambique’s provinces except central Zambezia, where “existing capacities for treatment are limited and overstretched”, according to the humanitarian Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS). 

In neighbouring Malawi there have been 148 cases since 11 February.

fd/oa/am

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BOTSWANA REDUCES TB MORTALITY RATE

BOTSWANA REDUCES TB MORTALITY RATE

25/03/15

The Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi, says Botswana is among the 147 United Nations member states that are committed to re-enforcing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as halt Tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases by 2015. Speaking at the World TB Day commemorations in Francistown on Tuesday (March 24), Mr Masisi said one of the MDGs was to combat HIV, TB and Malaria and reverse incidences.

The Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi, says Botswana is among the 147 United Nations member states that are committed to re-enforcing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as halt Tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases by 2015. Speaking at the World TB Day commemorations in Francistown on Tuesday (March 24), Mr Masisi said one of the MDGs was to combat HIV, TB and Malaria and reverse incidences. Mr Masisi said Botswana had made a commendable progress because although TB remained one of the infectious killer diseases, with the global deaths of 1.5 million annually, the country had managed to reduce TB mortality rate. He said the research had indicated that one third of the TB patients were HIV positive and noted that the government of Botswana’s commitment to providing ARVs led to the control of not only HIV/AIDS but TB as well. Mr Masisi said, “quality health service is key to a more compassionate, just and caring, which is not only in line with the MDGs but the National Vision 2016 as well.” The Vice President said government had made TB treatment accessible to all and it was estimated that 10 000 new cases of TB were recorded annually. He said though the country has made strides in the fight against the disease there are still challenges such as the emerging Multi Drug Resistance (MDR TB), which needs complicated treatment as one of them.

PROGRESS

Mr Masisi said, “it is estimated that 100 cases of MDR TB are recorded in Botswana annually and it is everybody’s responsibility to keep TB at bay.” He appealed to the corporate world to partake in the fight against TB because by doing so they would have a healthy workforce which in return would maximise business production. Earlier, the Minister of Health, Ms Dorcas Makgato said the objective of the commemorations was to join the rest of the globe in sensitising the communities about TB. Ms Makgato said though TB was preventable, it still existed in Botswana and days such as World TB day accorded stakeholders an opportunity to to introspect and establish the gaps on the fight against the disease. “A day such as this helps us to look back and reflect on how far we have come and what more still needs to be done in the fight against TB,” she said. Francistown mayor, Ms Sylvia Muzila said an estimated 600 new cases of TB were registered every year. For his part, Francistown South MP, Mr Wynter Mmolotsi noted that shortage of drugs in health facilities in Francistown and long queues at Area W clinic were some of the factors that reverse efforts to quality health provision. (BOPA)

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Saved on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 9:12 AM

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