Burkina Faso - Wiping out the daughters: Burkina Faso's controversial mosquito experiment
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by FricNews
Nov 18, 2019 - 9:11
A radical experiment to genetically modify a strain of mosquito in order to stop them breeding malaria-carrying daughters is one of the latest efforts to tackle the deadly scourge of malaria.

At 6.30am five-year-old Osman Balama and his mother reach the state hospital of Bobo-Dioulasso, the second-largest city in Burkina Faso. He hasn’t been feeling well for a few days and his mother is worried that he has contracted malaria. The waiting room is already full of mothers and grandmothers with young children on their laps, all with the same tired look as Osman.

“The rainy season has started,” says Sami Palm, head of the clinic. “That means more mosquitos. I’m certain that almost everyone here has malaria.”

Two red lines on the detection strip confirm malaria. “He doesn’t need to stay in the hospital, because he isn’t vomiting and isn’t extremely sick,” Palm says. Osman is sent home with medication – the Burkinese government covers treatments for children aged five and under.

Each year around 400,000 people worldwide die from malaria, half of them in seven countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso. Despite progress in reducing deaths since 2000, cases have been gradually increasing. “We’re having more and more problems with resistance – from the parasite, which knows how to counteract the medicines, and from the mosquitoes, which are getting less sensitive to the insect poisons applied to the mosquito nets,” says Palm. “On top of this, there are many remote areas we can’t reach.”

A radical trial using “gene drive” technology is currently taking place in Burkina Faso, that will see the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in an attempt to wipe out the carriers of the disease.

“We’re developing mosquitoes here that can only have sons. Those sons will also only be able to produce sons, causing the population of females, the only gender that bites, to dwindle until the mosquito is extinct,” says Moussa Namountougou, head of the insect farm of the Institut de Recherche et Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), just a few kilometres from the hospital.

“To do this we have added a bit of genetic information from a slime mould to the mosquito DNA. That extra bit contains the instructions to break down any sperm cells that could produce a daughter mosquito.”

Namountougou and his team have at their disposal a gene drive, which they want to use to stop the genetic instruction diluting as modified mosquitoes mate with those that don’t have the new genetic information. This uses a sort of genetic copier so breed offspring with the new trait – with the intention of wiping out female malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “This way the trait spreads rapidly through the entire population, over just a few years,” says Namountougou. “Such a gene drive has never been released into the wild.”

The village of Bana, near Bobo-Dioulasso, is where GM mosquitoes using this technology will eventually be released. The government gave the go-ahead in June.

Bana is like many others: mud huts around a central square, no sewage system or electricity, the ground strewn with drying shea nuts, whose harvest has just begun.

“We have two major problems here: water pollution and malaria,” says village elder Tchessira Sanou. “I used to go into the forest to gather sticks and leaves from specific trees and shrubs to treat the symptoms. Now we receive mosquito nets from the government and we have medicine, but the disease persists.” Even if no one dies, the disease has a huge impact. “If you or your child get sick, then you can’t work in the fields for several days. That can cost you your entire harvest, leaving you with too little to eat.”

For seven years, Target Malaria, the organisation behind the project – has been sending teams of theatre performers to Bana to explain what scientists are doing in their village.

“It’s very important to us that everyone in the village understands what’s going on here,” says Lea Pare, of Target Malaria.

“Not everyone in the village can read or write, so this helps everyone understand. We need that, or they won’t support the project.”

More than 100 local people have toured the insect farm in Bobo-Dioulasso, where scientists explained mosquitoes’ life cycle, and answered questions.

Genetic modification is controversial, and gene drive technology takes it a step further. Introducing “ordinary” GM produce to agriculture has led to widespread resistance. Several countries have also outlawed the technology.

And there are substantial objections in Burkina Faso. “It makes us puppets of the west,” says Ali Tapsoba, director of Terre à Vie, a community organisation in the capital Ouagadougou. “We believe genetic modification is never a solution. There is always a risk that the mosquitoes will mutate and we will lose track of them. People in our country must learn to live more hygienically, then the malaria mosquito will disappear in a safer way.”

There are doubts too in the academic world. Recently, entomologist Willem Takken from Wagening asked in the Volkskrant newspaper whether another type of mosquito wouldn’t simply take the place of the exterminated insect.

Namantougou already knows the work he’s doing is not nearly enough. “In Burkina Faso there are four mosquitoes that can carry malaria, and we need to tackle each.”

The genetic instruction taken from slime moulds only works in this one type of malaria mosquito, and not in others. “Those will continue to have daughters,” he says.

Bart Knols, mosquito expert at the Radbouduniversiteit in Nijmegen, says bed nets are far more cost effective. “The development of gene-drive mosquitoes is expensive, while a mosquito net costs next to nothing. I think that it’s more effective to invest more money in distributing those.”

Last year, a group of around 160 social and environmental organisations called for a for a moratorium on the experimental use of the gene drive at a UN meeting. It failed by a narrow margin, and many African countries voted against it.

“Opponents of the gene drive should be required to come live here in Burkina Faso for a while and see what malaria brings,” Pare says. “Then they can see for themselves how much we need a solution here.”

As evening falls in Bana, men with mosquito nets arrive and begin swishing them through the air. “These are test mosquitoes, without the gene drive,” says Namountougou. “They have a modification that makes them sterile: no eggs are formed after mating.”

These mosquitoes serve a primarily scientific purpose. “We want to know, for example, how far the mosquitoes travel. We also train people to catch and analyse the mosquitoes.”

One of the catchers shines a flashlight on his net, and at least 10 mosquitoes fly about. The men carefully place their filled nets in a freezer. The following day the mosquitoes will be removed one by one and transported to the lab, where Namountougou will inspect whether they are modified or not. He has great optimism for future possibilities: “The malaria mosquito isn’t the only mosquito causing misery. With a gene drive we can also make dengue, Zika, and chikungunya disappear.”
 A mosquito catcher at work in Bana, Burkina Faso Photograph: Joost Bastmeijer
World - 246 children die of measles daily –Expert
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by FricNews
Nov 15, 2019 - 10:11
About 246 children die of measles daily across the world. 

An official of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Adetunji Adeoye, disclosed this while speaking at the flag off ceremony of Introduction of second dose measles into the Regular Immunisation (RI) in Akure, the Ondo State capital, yesterday.

He also disclosed that Nigeria is in the fourth position in the ranking of measles infected countries in the world and third in Africa.

According to him, measles affects ears, brains and eyes of children and eventually kill them.

He said the window was opened for second opportunity for children who couldn’t take first vaccination within age nine months, noting that the exercise would last seven days.

Adeoye enjoined parents to take their children between one day and 23 months to nearby health centres and not to entertain any fear, saying health workers had been trained to administer the vaccine

He added that apart from measles vaccine, children between five and 14 years would be given deworming drug, nothing that health personnel would go to all schools in the state to administer the drug.

Commissioner for Health, Wahab Adegbenro, said over 17,000 cases of measles occurred in Nigeria annually despite huge amount of money expended by government.

The commissioner said the second dose would provide high immunity against measles.

In his remarks, Executive Secretary of Ondo State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Francis Akanbiemu, said introduction of Measles Containing Vaccine 2 (MCV2) is not a replacement for MCV1, which is always given to children at nine months old.
Nigeria - Nigeria urged to ban chaining people with mental health issues
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by FricNews
Nov 11, 2019 - 10:11
Human Rights Watch calls on government to probe mental health centres as it documents abuse in various facilities.

An international rights group has called the Nigerian government to ban chaining as it condemned the "terrible" abuse faced by thousands of people with mental health conditions across the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Monday that detention, chaining and violent treatment of mental health patients was pervasive in the country "in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centres, traditional healing centres, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities".

"People with mental health conditions should be supported and provided with effective services in their communities, not chained and abused," said Emina Cerimovic, senior disability rights researcher at HRW.

"People with mental health conditions find themselves in chains in various places in Nigeria, subject to years of unimaginable hardship and abuse," she said.

Home to some 200 million people, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four Nigerians - some 50 million people - are suffering from some sort of mental illness.

WHO says the country has Africa's highest rate of depression, and ranks fifth in the world in the frequency of suicide. There are less than 150 psychiatrists in the county and WHO estimates that fewer than 10 percent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need.

Abuse victims

The HRW report came days after Nigerian police rescued nearly 259 young people from an Islamic rehabilitation centre in the southwestern city of Ibadan.

Many captives have said they were physically and sexually abused and chained up to prevent them from escaping.

It brought the total number of people released from abusive institutions in the country since September to nearly 1,500.

At the time, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that "no responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation of the victims".

But HRW criticised the government for failing to acknowledge that this abuse was rife in government-run facilities too.

The rights group said it visited 28 facilities providing mental healthcare in eight Nigerian states and the federal capital territory between August 2018 and September 2019.

It found that people with actual or perceived mental health conditions, including children, were placed in facilities without their consent, usually by relatives.

HRW said in some cases, police arrest people with actual or perceived mental health conditions and send them to state-run rehabilitation centres.

"Once there, many are shackled with iron chains, around one or both ankles, to heavy objects or to other detainees, in some cases for months or years," the report said.

"They cannot leave, are often confined in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, and are sometimes forced to sleep, eat, and defecate within the same confined place," it said. "Many are physically and emotionally abused as well as forced to take treatments."

Deep wounds

According to HRW, adults and children in some Islamic rehabilitation centres reported being whipped, causing deep wounds.

People in Christian healing centres and churches described being denied food for up to three days at a time, which staff characterised as "fasting" for "treatment" purposes, the group said.

In many of the traditional and religious rehabilitation centres visited by HRW, staff forced people with mental health conditions, including children, to eat or drink herbs, in some cases with staff pinning people down to make them swallow.

The report said in psychiatric hospitals and state-run rehabilitation centres, staff forcibly administered medication, while some staff admitted to administering electroconvulsive therapy to patients without their consent.

The rights group called on the Nigerian government to "urgently investigate" the facilities and "prioritise the development of quality, accessible, and affordable community-based mental health services".
HRW visited 28 facilities providing mental health care in Nigeria [File: Television Continental/Reuters]
Namibia - Sadc winning battle against malaria
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by FricNews
Nov 11, 2019 - 9:11
Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) has recorded success in the battle against cases and deaths related to malaria, thanks to interventions by member states. This has resulted in a substantial reduction of mortality attributed to the infectious disease. This was revealed by Sadc executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax during the joint meeting of Sadc ministers of health and HIV and Aids on Thursday. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2016 that between 2010 and 2015 the global incidence of and mortality rate from malaria decreased by 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively. 

While malaria remains a priority in the region, Tax said, resources to address the disease have been dwindling. She said it is important, therefore, to come up with innovative ways of funding the fight and elimination of malaria, as done by eSwatini and Zambia. 

These countries established their national ‘End Malaria Funds’ in May and June 2019 respectively to mobilise domestic resources to fight malaria by bringing onboard numerous stakeholders including the public at large, the private sector and cooperating partners.  

But she cautioned: “We cannot attain sustainable financing for the health sector if we continue to over-rely on donor funding. In the face of ever-decreasing donor enthusiasm and dwindling funding, I, therefore, wish to call upon all member states to continue exploring innovative domestic funding streams to fund health interventions.” 

She said of great concern is that progress seems to have stalled over the past three years, which has left the majority of people in the region at risk of contracting malaria.  

“Let us strive to do all it takes to sustain and consolidate the gains we have so far realised. We encourage our partners to continue supporting these areas and consider them ‘the priorities among priorities’. We are addressing other health issues, but let us not lose focus on control and elimination of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV and Aids,” Tax urged.

She said Sadc strives to attain a common future where economic well-being, improvement of standards of living, and quality of life, among others, are guaranteed. According to her, it is encouraging that the Sadc region continues to make steady progress towards the attainment of the health and well-being of the peoples of Southern Africa.  

Among others, the region has realised significant successes in building and strengthening national health systems and in addressing major diseases of public health concern.  
As a result, Tax noted, Sadc has consistently observed a slow but steady decline in the incidence and mortality from diseases such as Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Tax met Juliet Kavetuna, Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Chitalu Chilufya, Minister of Health of the Republic of Zambia, who was accompanied by the Elimination Eight (E8) delegation in Gaborone last week and they agreed to vigorously work together to control and address malaria.  

During the meeting, she was appraised on the progress made by the E8 in reducing the malaria-induced mortality rate. 

“May I commend the E8 for the continued foresight and progress made.  During the meeting, we agreed on the need to revitalise the E8, in line with your decision of 2009 establishing a sub-committee on malaria elimination to oversee both malaria elimination and control in the Sadc region. It is, therefore, important that these efforts are cascaded to cover the entire Sadc region, in the spirit of the Windhoek Declaration on Eliminating Malaria in the Sadc region as adopted by the Sadc summit in August 2018 in Namibia,” she stated.
Nigeria - Infertility: Stop stigmatising women —Aisha Buhari
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by FricNews
Oct 30, 2019 - 10:10
First Lady Aisha Buhari has urged Africans to change their perception of infertility in women and also desist from stigmatising women dealing with the condition.

In a statement by the First Lady’s Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mr. Aliyu Abdullahi, Mrs Buhari made the call during the high-level panel discussion of African First Ladies on the challenges of “Building Healthcare Capacity” on the African continent.

The event was the sixth edition of Merck Africa-Asia Luminary/More than a Mother initiative organised for African First Ladies.

The event which was co-chaired by the first lady of Ghana, Madam Rebecca Akufo-Addo, held in Accra, Ghana.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Panel also brought to the fore issues, challenges and solutions to breaking the stigma around women living with infertility.

Aisha said, “I want to use this opportunity to call on African societies to desist from the mindset which tends to see women’s infertility as an abnormal condition.

“And the associated stigmatisation and abuse that usually characterize such situation that is capable of being addressed through medical healthcare and modern science,” she said.
Zambia - First Lady challenges men to discuss infertility openly
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by FricNews
Oct 30, 2019 - 10:10
First Lady, Esther Lungu has challenged men to discuss infertility openly because it is a shared responsibility.

Mrs. Lungu says it is sad that women are solely blamed for infertility although fifty percent of infertility is due to men.

The First Lady said this during a high level First Ladies Panel during the 6th Edition Merck Africa Asia Luminary in Accra Ghana.

She added that there is need to empower infertile women, not only through creating a cultural shift but also raising awareness about infertility prevention.

The First Lady further said Zambia will ensure that the goodwill of Merck Foundation in the area of intellectual capital for cancer prevention and infertility programs is supported.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Lungu has disclosed that Zambian women with infertility challenges have constituted a committee to drive dialogue on infertility.

The First Lady said she had a round table meeting with the women and they are now working on a roadmap for creating awareness and education on infertility.

The First Lady has also been honored with a recognition award by Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer Rasha Kelej and Merck Foundation Chairperson of the Executive Board Frank Stangenberg for her works in Zambia.

Earlier During the official Opening of the Conference, Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo encouraged the African First ladies to fight stigma against infertile women.

And Ghana’s First Lady Rabbecca Akufo-Addo thanked Merck Foundation for considering Ghana as host of the sixth Africa Asia Luminary Conference.
World - GCF replenishment, Polio eradication, and World Bank 'Doing Business': This week in development
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by FricNews
Oct 25, 2019 - 10:10
The Green Climate Fund fights for support, the World Bank praises Saudi Arabia, and WHO says Ebola is still an emergency. This week in development:

Health experts are warning against complacency, as they celebrate the eradication of wild poliovirus type 3, an achievement announced by the World Health Organization on World Polio Day on Thursday. “The last thing we want is to highlight the job is done. The job is not done. There is still wild poliovirus type 1 that needs to be eradicated,” Oliver Rosenbauer, WHO communications officer and spokesperson for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, told Devex. Wild poliovirus type 3 is the second of three types of wild polio to be eradicated. Health experts are now working to strike a balance between vaccinating against polio and ensuring those efforts do not spread vaccine-derived polio in places where it has already been defeated.

The Green Climate Fund is hoping to scrape together a replenishment that will match its initial round of contributions in 2014 — despite missing some of the key donors who supported the fund five years ago. In an interview with Devex at the institution’s headquarters in Songdo, South Korea, GCF Executive Director Yannick Glemarec said he hopes to raise $9.3 billion, of which $7.5 billion had already been pledged before the conference began on Thursday. “Our job is to encourage developing countries to raise their climate ambitions, because they will be able to realize it,” Glemarec said. Civil society groups have called for a $15 billion replenishment, noting that GCF already has roughly that much in its project pipeline. The same groups have cautioned that statements about broadening GCF’s funding base should not be allowed to distract from the clear obligations developed countries have under the Paris Agreement to provide more climate finance. The replenishment arrives just as U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to begin the official process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, a move which — under the rules of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — will not actually go into effect until Nov. 2020, shortly after the U.S. presidential elections.

The World Bank’s latest “Doing Business” report is raising eyebrows. The report, which ranks countries according to how conducive they are for private enterprise and investment, was released on Wednesday, and it described Saudi Arabia as the world’s top reformer, jumping 30 places to 62nd. For some, that conclusion was hard to reconcile with the Saudi government’s human rights abuses and its alleged involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “This is a pure measure of deregulation. This index takes a fairly extreme position on market fundamentalism,” Justin Sandefur, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Reuters. The report arrives alongside news that World Bank President David Malpass will be among the attendees at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, known as the “Davos in the desert.” According to a schedule obtained by Axios, Malpass, alongside Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun, will participate in a session about how “committed investment in multilateral action” can “lead to shared global prosperity.” Their session will be followed immediately by White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s remarks about the U.S. global trade agenda.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still a public health emergency, according to the World Health Organization. In the week prior to the announcement on Friday, there were 15 new confirmed cases of Ebola reported in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, marking an encouraging decline. “We must treat every case as if it's the first because every single case has the potential to spark a new and bigger outbreak,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. For that reason, health experts remain concerned about the Tanzanian government’s response to suspicions Ebola might be present in the country. Tanzania has yet to conduct a second test of its suspected Ebola cases, despite receiving that recommendation — and a strong statement of criticism — from WHO.
Uganda - Measles-Rubella mass immunization exercise extended
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by FricNews
Oct 21, 2019 - 9:10
The Ministry of Health on Sunday extended the on-going Measles and Rubella mass immunization exercise. The exercise that kicked off on October 16th was meant to end on October 20th.

According Dr.Jane Acheng Ochero, the exercise has been extended because some schools missed out. Stock outs were also reported in some parts of the country.

In Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso, the exercise has been extended up to October 22,2019, while for the rest of the country it has been pushed to end on October 21st.

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) on Sunday air lifted Measles-Rubella vaccines to five districts across the country.

UPDF delivered vaccines to Gulu, Kiruhura, Soroti, Mbarara and Kabale Districts following an emergency request by the Ministry of Health to the UPDF for a quick delivery to arrest shortage.

This is the latest UPDF's initiative in support of the Ministry of Health’s national immunization drive against measles and rubella.

Col. Dr. Ambrose Oiko, the UPDF Public Health Director said they were contacted to support the emergency delivery of vaccines describing it as part of their roles to promote and guarantee public health.

Dr.Oiko says all emergency deliveries were conducted within two hours on Sunday noting that the immunization exercise in the affected districts will continue on Monday.

Lt Gen Charles Lutaaya, the UPDF Commander Air Forces described this as a normal role to support Ministry of Health's activities.

“We always respond at the shortest notice. We have standby assets for such eventualities. We are glad to offer any form of support when called upon,” said Lt Gen Lutaaya.

He adds that Air Force has on many occasions supported the civil authorities and government initiatives.

The UPDF has also used its nationwide ground network to support the Ministry of Health’s on-going nationwide vaccination drive.

Dr.Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health appreciated UPDF for supporting the on-going immunization drive by deploying their medical workers. Atwiine says the Ministry had to contact UPDF to intervene in the emergency situation and conduct deliveries of vaccines quickly to the affected districts.

The week-long mass measles and rubella immunisation exercise was targeting 18 million children
The vaccines being loaded into the UPDF chopper at the Airbase at Entebbe on Sunday-Photo Credit UPDF
Liberia - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s vision for global health
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by FricNews
Oct 21, 2019 - 9:10
Nobel laureate, former President of Liberia, and Goodwill Ambassador for the Health Workforce, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, shares her thoughts on women in healthcare, the transformative power of technology, and the need for optimism

Dear Madam President…
You were appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the Health Workforce in March, what would you like to bring to that role? The first thing I wish to bring to my role as a Goodwill Ambassador is a focus on women in the health workforce. Over 70 percent of care givers are women, but only 25 percent of leadership positions in healthcare are held by women. According to the World Economic Forum, women contribute €2.6 trillion euros annually to global healthcare, half of which comes in the form of unpaid care work. Clearly, women need to be given greater recognition and voice in the health workforce. I hope that as a Goodwill Ambassador I can give women healthcare workers a greater voice and advocate for them.

I also wish to advocate for all healthcare workers, particularly those in rural areas and high population communities who are on the front lines of global health crises. During the West Africa Ebola crisis, healthcare workers bore the greatest risk when caring for the sick. They put their lives on the line to help others. With an ongoing Ebola crisis in the DRC – which is also in a conflict zone – healthcare workers are again in the front lines of combatting the disease. I wish to bring immediate attention to them and to advocate for them so that they receive the training, compensation and security required.

The world has had some major progress, in combatting malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS – although some of these gains have since slowed, does it still give you room for optimism?
I believe we must always remain optimistic when confronting these global challenges. Just because the number of new cases of these has not dropped in the last few years does not mean that global leaders, experts in health or scientists have slowed in the fight to eradicate these diseases. In fact, I am highly encouraged by recent innovations which have the potential to save millions of lives in the coming years. For example, new malaria vaccines have entered major testing phases in several African countries, notably Malawi and Kenya. If successful, these new drugs could reduce severe cases of malaria by over one third of cases and are a major step forward in eradicating malaria once and for all. As you know, I sit on the End Malaria Council, which is a committed group of global public sector and business leaders who see malaria eradication as a critical health and development priority. The Council is working to eradicate malaria for good, by focusing on three key areas:

• Leadership: Ensure that malaria eradication remains high on global and regional agendas with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels.
• Financing: Advocate at the global and country levels to ensure sufficient funding to protect our remarkable progress and end malaria for good.

• Technology: Support the introduction of new technologies that can accelerate the path to eradication.
While there are still challenges to overcome and more can be done, I have full confidence in world experts, scientists and healthcare workers to find new and innovative solutions to world health problems.

One of the most pressing issues in the developing world is the shortage of millions of health workers. They do a vital job, but many of those who do that work are in dangerous conditions with little training, low pay, and little prospect of advancement. How can the world go about addressing this deficit?

Any position in health care – whether it be a surgeon, general practitioner or nurse, requires a high degree of skill, years of training and most importantly an education. Unfortunately, many who desire to become healthcare professionals are unable to access the education necessary to fulfil these roles. The first step in remedying the problem of a lack of healthcare professionals is for governments and the global community to prioritize providing quality education for all citizens, with incentive programs for those seeking to become health workers.

Related to an access to education is an increase in training programs and facilities. After obtaining the required education, healthcare workers need to receive intensive training to perform the duties they will face in their profession. Governments can and must do more to provide better training programs that will enable health care professionals to give the care their patients need. Lack of adequate pay is another obstacle that keeps many potential healthcare professionals away from the field. Governments should place a priority on increasing funding for the healthcare systems so that qualified workers can receive reasonable wages. While many healthcare workers are motivated by a sense of duty and a desire to help the sick, one cannot feed his or her family on good intentions alone. More attention needs to be paid on the positive results and cost effectiveness of prevention – better sanitation, better nutrition and better information to enhance self-effort.
As someone with an overview of Global Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, what do you view as the greatest challenges the world faces before 2030?

Because of my experiencing guiding Liberia through the terrifying Ebola crisis and my current work on combatting malaria, I believe eradicating communicable disease, such as AIDS, Ebola and tuberculosis is one of the greatest challenges we face. Each year these diseases take millions of lives, often from the most vulnerable populations such as children. These diseases also cost billions to fight. Over $12 billion is lost annually in the global GDP due to malaria alone. The benefits of eradication these diseases are obvious, but there are many challenges and hurdles that remain.

A major challenge to overcome is on-going conflicts which pose serious global health challenges. A notable example is that conflict in the eastern regions of the DRC, which is making it difficult to put an end to the Ebola crisis in the area. Healthcare workers are unable to treat infected regions and many of the sick are fleeing violence, further spreading the disease. This is only one example. In other regions of the world, conflict prevents people from getting adequate medical care. Displacement camps, lack of clean water and poor hygienic facilities further aggravate health situations for those affected by conflict.

What role will technology have in providing and communicating solutions over the next decade?
New and emergent technologies are an exciting aspect of global health. As the world becomes increasingly connected, it will be easier to people to become connected to healthcare providers, for healthcare professionals to share information, and it will become easier to inform and educate the public on health matters. For example, in the last two years, the use of smartphones in Africa has doubled. By 2020, over 750 million Africans are projected to have access to a mobile device. This means that more and more Africans will be able to access information about diseases, preventative care, or contact a doctor who might be hundreds of miles away. Connectivity can help medical professionals learn more about the people who they care for or be connected to other experts in ways not possible in the last decade.

I also believe that artificial intelligence will play a larger role in global health in the next decade. As technology continues to improve and computers become more powerful, we can use these new technologies to help solve medical problems, find new solutions in curing diseases, or assist medical professionals care for patients.
Madam President, you have been described as a ‘health for all’ champion. What does that mean to you?

As a leader, I strive as others to motivate and inspire others toward share values and the achievement of common goals. As a woman leader, I recognize the value of life and have a stronger sensitivity to respond to humankind. To enhance the ownership, value participation and contribution in the society. This calls for stronger advocacy and action to promote universal healthcare which will ensure that the marginalized and physically challenged will have access to healthcare.

You were the first female elected head of state in Africa in 2005. Did you bring a different leadership perspective from other leaders?

Every leader of a nation brings a unique perspective to his or her post. Yet, on a continent with over fifty nations that had only seen leaders who were men, being the first woman head of state did give me a different perspective. At the time, Liberia was emerging for a long and protracted conflict, of which women bore the brunt of the violence. Being a woman allowed me to take new approaches and better engage with the women of Liberia to help navigate the complex post-conflict situation. I believe that my perspective also helped my administration focus more on women’s empowerment, providing women better vocational opportunities and increasing access to healthcare, of which women were the target beneficiaries.

Perhaps one of the greatest health challenges of modern times was the Ebola crisis that began in 2014 and tragically killed 11,000 Liberians, but it was a response for which you received a lot of international respect for. What did you learn from the experience about the way the world reacts to international health challenges?

In 2013, when the deadly Ebola plague hit our nation and killed over 4,000 persons my administration was able to revert back to the successful, integrated community approaches used in our early malaria fight. When I first took office in 2005, Liberian women and children were dying of malaria. We had no data or statistics on the disease and little to no diagnostic capacity at the local level to differentiate a patient with a fever from a patient with malaria. My administration had to make informed decisions and meaningful interventions while being in the dark. We took a holistic approach. My health and finance ministers partnered with civil society and non-governmental organizations to launch community education campaigns, with a focus on women as primary care givers. We reached out to world leaders and the international community and joined forces with all those working to fight against malaria looked to the international community and joined forces with all those working to fight against malaria.

When Ebola hit, we were forced to adapt to this unknown disease. I assumed personal responsibility visiting and taking supplies to clinics and hospitals around the country; This addressed fears and gave hope. I reached out to world leaders and brought my people together, shifting our initial militant approach to a community health education agenda. With support from UNICEF and our local partner, Last Mile Health, the government of Liberia will scale the national community health worker program used during Ebola by recruiting, training, and deploying approximately 4,100 community health workers and 230 clinical supervisors over the next 7 years.

As a mother, what is your view of the challenges for improving maternal health?
Giving the number of years of conflict, the Liberian healthcare systems suffered major deterioration. Women, the majority of whom reside in rural areas and are in the informal sector bore the brunt of this condition. As a result, Liberia registered one of the highest rates of child and maternal mortality. In reconstruction of the health care system, the government prioritized the training of midwives who have traditionally provided the service most times at great risk to women and themselves.

Giving Liberia’s high population rate, the huge infrastructure deficit which exist, it is likely that the number of women and children who reside in rural areas will continue to have limited access to health facilities. This will remain a challenge into the future.

Often there is a separation between how health is perceived in different parts of the world. What is your view of the rapid emergence of traditional Western lifestyle diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, in developing nations?
More can be done in national policy to maintain as much as possible the culture, lifestyle and originality of communities and countries. There is great value in diversity.

Madam President, you have a background in economics and studied Public Administration at Harvard, what is your personal message to the world leaders, the business leaders, the activists and the public about the importance of the Global Goals and the need for funding?
In the year 2000, Millennium Development Goals launched as the world development agenda.

Whilst subservient progress was made in several countries, the goals were full achieved in many countries. In 2015, on exploration of the MDGs, the world launched the Global Goals and Africa launched 2063. For the Global Goals to be achieved, world leaders must take immediate and timely action. The goals need to be domestic and aligned to national agendas. The international partnership communities need to provide more financial technical and advisory support to countries, particularly to those with limited endowment and count fragility. The monitoring system envisioned in the agenda requires stronger and faster action. World leaders could engage in more action and less talking.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the former President of Liberia.

A Nobel Laureate, she is a leading promoter of freedom, peace, justice, and democratic rule. Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state, she led Liberia through reconciliation and recovery following the nation’s decade-long civil war, and the Ebola Crisis, winning international acclaim for achieving economic, social, and political change. President Sirleaf was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011. She is the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civilian award—for her personal courage and unwavering commitment to freedom for Africans.

In 2017, former President Sirleaf was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which celebrates excellence in African leadership. Sirleaf was the first female recipient.
Zambia - Doctors perform first ever Percutaneous Heart Valvular Interventions at UTH
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by FricNews
Oct 18, 2019 - 9:10
University of Virginia Cardiac specialists led by US based Dr.Sula Mazimba and Dr Scot Lim have over the last week been conducting rheumatic valvular heart disease screening as well as performing percutaneous valvular interventions at the University of Zambia Teaching Hospital (UTH). The program has been a collaboration between the ministry of health of Zambia, University of Virginia and UTH. Dr Mazimba a graduate from the UNZA School of medicine and now an associate professor at the University of Virginia led the advanced heart valve team to Zambia for these specialized interventions for patients with valvular heart diseases.

Some cardiac patients in Zambia with very advanced valvular heart diseases have historically been sent abroad for surgical interventions. Rheumatic heart disease leads to reduced quality of life and premature death due to heart failure. Besides treating patients with these procedures, the program was also aimed at facilitating skill transfer on valvular interventions to the local cardiac team led by Dr Lorrita Kabwe.

Dr.Mazimba said his team had been seeing patients with severe rheumatic mitral stenosis and had performed 5 percutaneous ballon interventions. They were hoping to come back to help more patients who were not identified on this trip. Rheumatic heart disease is a late complication of rheumatic fever, which results in severe scaring and narrowing of the heart valves. With a now fully functional cardiac catheterization laboratory at UTH, patients with severe valvular heart disease previously sent out of the country for treatment, can be considered for treatment locally.
Doctors from the University of Virginia pose for a picture with the UTH Cath Lab team after a day in the operating theatre
Nigeria - Death Toll from Yellow Fever Outbreak in Bauchi Rises to 22
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by FricNews
Oct 15, 2019 - 8:10
Another six new deaths have been recorded in the yellow fever outbreak in Bauchi State, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths so far to 22.

This was coming as immunisation of workers in the oil exploration sites in the state has begun.

This was disclosed by the Executive Chairman of Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BSPHCDA), Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed, while giving situation report on the outbreak on the deadly disease yesterday.

Mohammed, who disclosed that no fewer than 143 suspected cases of yellow fever have been recorded out of which 24 cases were confirmed and 22 died, said all the cases were from Alkaleri Local Government Area of the state.

He added that 10 out of the 22 people that died were rangers working with the Yankari Games Reserve, noting that only 79 per cent coverage was recorded in the on-going immunisation campaign against the vector that carries the disease.

BSPHCDA chairman lamented that some people were still declining to take the vaccine, hence the reason for new deaths recorded, disclosing that besides the 500,000 doses of vaccine provided by the federal government, the state has received another batch of 600,000 vaccines.

He explained that the immunisation would now be extended to Kirfi Local Government Area in the state, the oil exploration sites, and parts of villages in Gombe State.

As a result of the recent outbreak of yellow fever in Bauchi State, which led to the death of over 15 people, no fewer than 500 men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) have been vaccinated against the killer disease.

BSPHCDA carried out the vaccination on the FRSC Zonal and Bauchi State Sector Command officials yesterday.

Answering questions from journalists shortly after he was vaccinated, FRSC Zonal Commander, Assistant Corps Marshall, Imoh Etuk, who commended the Bauchi State Ministry of Health for the gesture, noted that it would go a long way in protecting men of the corps from being infected with the killer disease.

According to him, “These vaccines were donated by the Bauchi State Ministry of Health so that our people are properly immunised against yellow fever. We cannot do the end-of-year patrol without us being sound and fit. So, if there’s an outbreak of yellow fever, you can be sure that it will affect our staff. And this may result in a traffic upsurge.

“We are very grateful to the Bauchi State Ministry of Health for this gesture of ensuring that our people are properly vaccinated and it is only a healthy body that can do a proper work.

“We are expecting a total of 500 staff to be properly vaccinated, after this, we will also extend it to their families and we are really grateful to the ministry for this.”

He called on all motorists to obey traffic rules especially during the ember months in order to stay alive, advising them to ensure that they service their vehicles properly and also do proper journey management “because road safety is a state of the mind. If your mind is not properly structured to receive messages, it’s a big problem.”

He added: “Most importantly, they should not travel by night because most of the crashes that happen are during that time of the day. Since people have the fundamental human rights to travel anytime, we are only advising. We are not enforcing this. People should plan their journeys accordingly and avoid traveling at night.”
Congo (Kinshasa) - Ebola virus now squeezed into 'corner' of DRC
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by FricNews
Oct 11, 2019 - 9:10
Efforts to halt an Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo have made "significant progress", with the virus now contained to a far smaller and mainly rural area, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

"We have put the virus in the corner," Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, told reporters in Geneva.

"I believe we have really squeezed the virus into a much smaller geographical area," he said.

Ebola is now essentially only transmitting within an area of eastern DRC between Mambasa, Komanda, Mandima and Beni, he said.

DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2 144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

At the height of the latest outbreak, 207 "health zones" were affected by Ebola, a figure that now stands at only 27, Ryan said.

But he stressed that despite a "much lower level of transmission", the danger was not over.

"The fact that it is a smaller space is positive, but ... the disease has moved into more rural and more insecure areas," he warned.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by militia attacks in eastern DRC, as well as by resistance in communities to some of the methods used to rein in the virus.

'Kill the virus'

"Containing a virus is a different prospect than to eliminate that virus from human populations," Ryan said.

"We have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographical area," he said. "Now we have to kill the virus."

Much of the controversy surrounding the response has centered on the use of vaccines.

More than 236 000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received an as-yet unlicensed vaccination produced by the pharma giant Merck.

And DRC is preparing to begin introducing a second experimental Ebola vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson, to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

Ryan said WHO and its partners were talking to communities to explain the differences between the vaccines and say who was entitled to which vaccine and why.

"The two vaccines are complementary. They are designed to do different things in different populations," he said.

The WHO has used a "ring" vaccination approach with the Merck jab, providing it only to the circle of people known to have been in contact with Ebola patients, and their known contacts.

In June, it expanded the access to a "third ring" of people who had possibly had contact with contacts of Ebola patients.

The J&J vaccine, which requires two doses 56 days apart to generate immunity, will meanwhile only be given in a preventative capacity, for instance in large cities to ensure transmission does not begin there.

It "will provide a sort of firewall", Ryan said.

In July, the WHO declared the Ebola epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern", a rare designation used only for the gravest epidemics.

That move came on the heels of an Ebola case in the city of Goma, one of the country's biggest urban centres.

Containing a lethal contagious disease in cities is invariably far more challenging than in rural settings, given the greater task of tracing and isolating people who are at risk.

The WHO is set to convene its Health Regulations Emergency Committee next week to assess whether the emergency designation should still stand.
Africa - Zambia Pledges $5.5 million to the Global Fund towards fighting HIV IDS, TB and Malaria.
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by FricNews
Oct 11, 2019 - 9:10
Zambia has pledged to contribute 5.5 million United States dollars to the Global Fund towards fighting HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis -TB and Malaria.

The money will be paid to the Global Fund between 2020 and 2022.

Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya who is in Lyon – France attending the Global Funds’ 6th Replenishment Conference on behalf of President Edgar Lungu disclosed this when he met the Fund’s Grants Manager Mark Erdington.

Dr. Chilufya said the strong political will exhibited by President Lungu has enabled Zambia make head-ways in fighting HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria.

He also thanked the Global Fund for having contributed 1.2 billion dollars towards Zambia’s fight against the three diseases.

And Mr. Erdington thanked Zambia for contributing money towards the Fund and pledged support to the country.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has officially opened the conference being attended by several Heads of State and governments.

Mr. Macron said the end of HIV, TB and Malaria is possible within this generation and demanded that the world raises 14 billion dollars towards the fight against the three diseases.

He also disclosed that 32 million lives have been saved since inception of the Global Fund.
French President Emmanuel Macron took time to shake hands with Zambia’s Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya at the end of the Global Funds Replenishment Conference. President Macron thanked Pre
Uganda - Why condom use has declined in Kenya
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by FricNews
Oct 10, 2019 - 9:10
Partner betrayal discourages adolescents from using contraceptives, a study has revealed.

The study done among unmarried youth, aged 15 to 24 years and living in Nairobi, revealed that 18 per cent of sexually active females reported that a partner removes a condom during sex while 35 per cent of males reported they agree to use a condom, but remove it during sex.

Due to this, the girls stand a higher risk of mistimed and unwanted pregnancies.

According to the (PMA) 2020 2018 survey, mistimed and unwanted pregnancies stand at 26 and 17 per cent respectively among women between 15 and 49 years.

Young women (15 and 24 years) have an even higher rate of mistimed pregnancies at 32 per cent and unwanted at 15 per cent compared to women in other age groups.


Every year, about 13,000 Kenyan girls drop out of school due to early pregnancy and 103 out of every 1,000 births in Kenya are delivered to girls aged 15 to 19.

Accidental pregnancy is a leading cause of abortion. However, contraceptive use remains low among the youth: 73 per cent of currently, sexually active single women aged 15 to 19 report not using any contraception.

Last year, Kenya recorded high cases of teenage pregnancies among students sitting Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, forcing them to write their papers from hospitals after going into labour during the tests.

According to the study conducted by Performance Monitoring and Accountability and the International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRHK), 18 per cent of the females reported pressure from a partner not to use birth control methods.

However, data presented last week by Prof Peter Gichangi, ICRHK Principal Investigator, revealed that condom coercion was one of the partner-related barriers to sexual reproductive health.

The data revealed that the male condom was the preferred method among the youth with 92 per cent usage. Female condom usage stood at 40 per cent.

Implant use among female adolescents stood at 20 per cent, followed by injectables at 12 per cent and emergency pill usage stood at 10 per cent.


“Condom is the most preferred method by both genders and if the other partner is removing it during sex, then they are betraying each other,” Prof Gichangi said.

He called for awareness on correct and consistent use of condoms as a contraceptive method among the youth.

As the world celebrates Contraception Day with a goal to ensure all pregnancies are wanted, the war might be jeopardised by Nairobi adolescents because of betrayal by partners.

“Young people should be aware of contraception and be able to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health,” he said.

The study was aimed at collecting information about awareness, use, and procurement of contraception among unmarried adolescents and youth, both female and male, and enable reach into a population that may, otherwise, not be catered for.

The study, which enrolled 1.354 female and male participants, revealed that 45 per cent of the youth in Nairobi are currently using contraceptives, 44 per cent are on modern contraceptives while 60 per cent have ever used a contraceptive.

Conducted between June and August 2019, it also revealed that 98 per cent have heard of at least one method of contraception, 89 per cent feel they can accept information about contraceptives while 84 per cent know of a place they can access contraceptives.


Data from Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2014-2018 on teenage pregnancy prevalence shows that Narok tops the list with 40 per cent followed by Homa Bay County at 33 per cent.

West Pokot comes in third at 29 per cent, Tana River and Nyamira 28 per cent and Samburu with 26 per cent at the sixth position. Overall, the report established that teen pregnancy and motherhood rates in Kenya stand at 18 per cent.

About one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth or is pregnant with her first child.

However, contraceptive use among youth remains low with the known barriers to uptake including fear of the side effects, access to commodities, funding and partner approval.

According to the Global Childhood Report 2019, published by Save the Children, Kenya’s teenage birth rate in 2016 stood at 82 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19.

At the same time, Kenya had one in eight (12 per cent) girls aged 15 to 19 getting married between 2013 to 2018.
Nigeria - Cataract Patients Hail Samsung for Sponsoring Free Eye Surgeries in Nigeria
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by FricNews
Oct 10, 2019 - 9:10
A total of 115 cataract patients benefitted from the 2019 free eye surgeries sponsored by Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited (SHIN) in collaboration with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), and Vision Care, an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) dedicated to restore and improve people vision.

Speaking to journalists at a joint press conference organised to flag off the programme at LASUTH on 30th September 2019, the Chief Executive Officer of SHI-MCI and the representative of Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria (SHIN), Mr. Dongseong Suh, revealed that his company has been working hand-in-hand with Vision Care since 2015. Mr Suh further disclosed that the free eye surgery was part of SHIN’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects in Nigeria, stressing that as one of the leading multinational corporations, the Korean shipbuilding giant recognises its corporate philosophy of giving back to the society on a global scale, including in Africa.

He identified other CSR projects executed by SHIN in Nigeria to include, the donation of electrical items and clothing to Rhizha community in Jos, Plateau State; establishment of a Welding Qualification Centre in Lagos; and the training of over 600 welders at no cost.

Mr Suh added that these welders have constituted the core of internationally certified workforce in onshore/offshore fabrication construction which will enable Africa to retain international projects.

He said that the cataract surgery intervention was targeted at the most vulnerable people who could not afford the cost of the surgery.

Citing a data from WHO, the CEO of SHI-MCI, and the representative of Samsung disclosed that cataracts account for 51 per cent of world’s blindness, adding that this frightening statistics had made the free cataract operation a worthwhile venture.

Also speaking at the press conference, the Volunteer Team Leader, Vision Care, Milyung Oh, said that the organisation was passionate about collaborating on missions that would restore immediate vision to citizens.

Two-year-old Victor was among the 115 patients who benefitted from this year’s free cataract eye surgery.

“Daddy I can see balloon” was the first statement that came out of Master Victor’s mouth after the doctors removed the bandage from his eyes.

Overwhelmed with joy, Victor’s father, Mr. Sunday Oshomore said that since his son was diagnosed with cataract a year ago, it was difficult for them to raise the huge amount needed for the surgery.

“He was a year old when we noticed that he can’t see. When I heard about this free surgery I decided to give it a trial and thank God today, my son can now see. By now he is supposed to have started school but because of the cataract he can’t go, but I am happy he can start school now.”

Mrs. Iweroma Grace, 70, who came all the way from Delta State recalled how she was made to change glasses frequently without result.

“I am based in Delta State, and back home I have visited several hospital where they told me that the solution to my short-sightedness is to change glasses. Only God knows how many glasses I have bought yet no changes until I came here and was told that it’s cataract that requires surgery,” she said.

Mr. Dehinsilu Miniru, 63, who was also among the beneficiaries, recalled how he has suffered due to lack of vision. “Before the surgery, I don’t use to see clearly, on regular occasion, if motorbike is coming I won’t know until it gets close to me. Sometimes, if something drops from my hand I won’t see it. I use to beg people to help me load recharge card on my phone,” he said.

“I heard about this free eyes surgery by Samsung last year but it was late. One of my relatives that work here said its annual event, so due to financial challenges I have to wait for a year to benefit from this free eyes surgery,” he added.

Appreciating the gesture, the Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Professor Adetokunbo Fabanwo urged other public-spirited individuals and organisations to emulate SHIN by assisting the less-privileged members of the society, saying “the state government is trying but we cannot do it alone. That is why we welcome and appreciate partnership like this,” he added.
Nigeria - FG, Lagos Partner to Combat Maternal, Newborn Mortality
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by FricNews
Oct 10, 2019 - 9:10
As part of plans to address Nigeria’s poor maternal and child health issues, the federal government and the Lagos State government recently launched a 149-bed Mother and Child Centre (MCC) at the Igando General Hospital.

Speaking during the official launch, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire said the facility was geared towards promoting the health of mothers and children, reducing maternal and child mortality and improving the state’s health indices.

The three-floor facility, named Dr Aisha Buhari Mother and Child Centre, has two operating theatres, recovery rooms, sterilisation room, delivery room, consultation rooms, private and general wards, scanning room, side laboratory rooms, reception area, lounge, nurses room and station, doctor call rooms, scrub room and a board room.

“Inside the centre are ultra-modern equipment that will aid the prompt delivery of maternal and child care services, this includes; patient monitors with EC02, Suction machine double jar, ultra-scan machines, oxygen generating machine, vacuum extractor delivery set, among others.

“Our mandate is to provide horizontal and vertical intergovernmental coordination; multi-stakeholder partnership and resource mobilisation, as well as advocacy and strategic communications for SDGs in Nigeria.

“We have since recognised that the SDGs cannot be achieved through stand-alone projects and programmes, hence, we are supporting the states, particularly Lagos, through the instrument of the Conditional Grant Scheme, CGS, to increase their investments in key SDGs priority areas, such as health, education and water,” she said.

Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, who was represented by Mrs Ajoh Sanni, called for a more concerted effort from the private sector to support the government in its efforts at combating the challenge of maternal mortality rates in the country.

She said: “I believe the facility will go a long way in reducing the spate of maternal and child mortality in our country.

“ I, therefore, call for a more concerted effort to ensure a reduction in maternal and child mortality, especially through more investment in the health by privilege individual and private sectors, in order to complement what government is doing in the sector.”

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while commending the gesture of the federal government for donating the facility, said: “We are very grateful to the federal government to have produced this extra capacity facility for us in our endeavour to look after mothers and children assuring that it would be put into judicious use for the benefit of mothers and children.

“We need to ensure accessible, affordable health service as well as education, efficient and effective transport system to our people. It’s only when we are able to achieve all these and more, we will take the people out of poverty.”

Earlier, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi said the state has not only declared zero tolerance on potholes and power outages, but also on unnecessary deaths among pregnant mothers and children.

He explained that the Alimosho General Hospital and MCC serve the 3.5 million people of Alimosho and a total of 6 million from surrounding areas, which if put together is bigger than many cities and even some countries in Africa and around the world.

“The hospital attends to an average of 45,000 patients a month across 14 different clinics and admits over 4,000 patients per year.

“It sees 14,000 pregnant mothers and children per month and an average of 250 babies are born every month. In 2018 it performed 1,300 caesarean sections,” Abayomi stated.
Nigeria - Cancer: Pray, But Go for Regular Checkups, Foundation Tells Nigerians
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by FricNews
Oct 10, 2019 - 9:10
The Niola Cancer Care Foundation (NCCF) has called on Nigerians who substitute healthcare for prayers, not to despise the importance of regular checkups if they hope to prevent cancer.

Speaking during the third edition of NCCF’s campaign against cancer, tagged IJOYA 3.0 in Lagos recently, she said many Nigerians were very religious people who neglect medical advice and prefers to pray against sickness.

She said: “I am also a Christian and I believe in prayers, but while you are praying, also go for checkup. My late husband was a loving Christian and a dedicated worker in church, yet we lost him to cancer. With checkups, healthy diets and regular exercise, we can prevent cancer.

“Eating unhealthy foods can cause damage to the body. Nigeria has a cancer epidemic, so government, should do more. I am glad now we have closed some borders because Nigeria is a dumping ground for foods we don’t need.

“Farmers should be encouraged to farm while on our part, we should go back to eating natural foods, vegetables, fruits, yam, bitter leaf, among others,” she said.

She said the campaign took the form of dance and exercise because Nigerians were lovers of dance, and that as they dance and exercise, talks on the prevention of cancers were being dished out while also providing screening services for participants.

She decried that the Nigerian government has not taken cancer management and treatment seriously, adding that in a country of over 200 million people, only about three cancer machines exist.

“Health and education should be government’s priority. The media should also dedicate time to talk about organic and natural foods as part of campaigns to prevent cancer.

“This was what the media was doing when AIDS just came up. Participants at the campaign are screened for Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), breast examination, cervical cancer test, among others.”

On her part, the First Lady of Niger State, Dr. Amina Abubakar described the campaign as apt, adding that if Nigerians can engage in regular exercise, healthy living and medical checkups, the indices on cancer will drop in the country.

Abubakar, who is the founder of Raise Foundation said hope was not lost on cancer management in Nigeria, adding that the federal government was making efforts to address the situation.

“In Niger State for instance, we are working towards getting our own cancer centre soon. The Niola Cancer Foundation is drawing attention to what Nigerians can do on our own to prevent cancer. With good nutrition and regular exercise, we can prevent cancer from coming,” she added.
Nigeria - Fresh controversy over Abalaka’s HIV cure claims
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by FricNews
Oct 07, 2019 - 9:10
• ‘I infected myself 20 years ago, I am still negative today’
• Critics dismiss vaccine as scam, urge govt sanction

Fresh claims by Dr. Jeremiah Ojonemi Alabi Abalaka have stoked a two-decade-old controversy over a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) vaccine that can cure not just the dreaded disease but also Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).Abalaka, in a WhatsApp and YouTube video that has gone viral, accused the United States and the Western world of taking advantage of Nigeria and people living with HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by selling “toxic” drugs for the treatment of the disease and at a very exorbitant price.

According to him, the Western world is not interested in a cure for HIV. It only seeks a ready market for its drugs that “do not provide cure but damage the patient’s organ because of adverse side effects.”

The surgeon-turned immunologist however said that with a few kobos, he could cure many Nigerians of the virus and save the nation millions of dollars “wasted” yearly on procuring Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARV) from the West.

Abalaka told The Guardian: “I infected myself with HIV 20 years ago and today, I do not have HIV. I have a cure for HCV, HBV and HIV, not AIDS. The Western world has failed to find a cure for HIV after 35 years. They do not want to lose the global market for ARVs. I can cure HIV in a newly infected patient in five weeks, with the patient’s blood extracted and put back into the person within two hours…”

A report detailing Abalaka’s controversial “cure” for HIV, as well as a vaccine that prevents infection with the virus, has been published in a scientific journal, Vaccine.

According to a September 2004 article, the “cure” or therapeutic vaccine was developed from the blood of HIV patients. Abalaka claims it cleared the deadly virus from 20 people with HIV. (A therapeutic vaccine aims to bolster the immune response of a person already infected with a disease, to reduce or stop progression.)

Abalaka says further that his therapeutic vaccine eliminated antibodies for Hepatitis B and C viruses from the blood of co-infected HIV-positive patients and improved symptoms of malaria in a handful of patients. He claims he has tested his cure on almost 4000 HIV positive patients over six years and had used himself as a guinea pig for both therapeutic and preventive vaccines.

To test the preventive vaccine, he says he inoculated himself before injecting himself with HIV-positive blood on six separate occasions. He claims he did not contract the virus. He then tested the vaccine on about 300 HIV-negative people, saying none has yet developed the infection, as far as he knows.

Abalaka’s claim of a cure for HIV started in 1999. But the Federal Government shut him down. His work had caused a huge controversy, and altercations especially with the ministry of health. In 2015, however, after 16 years of legal tussle, Abalaka won a court case against the Federal Government’s ban on his vaccine.

His claims, however, have divided the medical sector. A school of thought, led by the President, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) Dr. Segun Olaopa, told The Guardian: “The government should listen to him and let us have some local approach to some world problems. He might just have some answers to the scientific problem.”

But another, led by the President, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Adedayo Faduyile, said, “I find some of the pronouncements not in line with orthodox medicine because in orthodox medicine, there are guidelines for getting treatment and they must be strictly adhered to.”

According to Faduyile, “In the history of the world, it is not accepted to use human beings as guinea pigs. It is after it has passed through all the necessary stages that it can then be registered and given to human beings at the approximate dose. Any orthodox medical practitioner knows that pathway. You cannot have a drug and only you know what is in it, how it works and the dosage.

“I doubt if it is running to the media, government and National Assembly that makes that discovery acceptable. That is not known to the scientific world. I call on the public to be wary of such pronouncements. We have had so many and I think it is important to stress that it is not scientific, not orthodox and not the right way of doing things.”

Also, a specialist medical microbiologist and immunologist, Dr. Abiodun Osiyemi, said the HIV Vaccine (‘Triple Cure Viral Vaccine’) by Dr. Abalaka is a scam and not a cure. According to him, “This claim about the action of the vaccine is false and purely propaganda. The Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Health and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) must stop the mortalities being caused by the spurious vaccine now.”

Osiyemi who has worked with the Immunology Unit, British Medical Research Council, The Gambia, under the leadership of Prof. Hilton Whittle, was part of the first team to conduct studies on the Chemokinetics and Chemodynamics of Abalaka’s HIV Vaccine, AZT and 3TC on HIV 1 and HIV2.He said: “I dismissed the vaccine as fake since 2000. But it is very sad that the case is resurfacing as a viral video clip 19 years later. The vaccine is unwholesome and not suitable for human treatment especially because there is no approval, regulation or control of its administration on people.

“Very sadly, this vaccine led to hundreds of deaths in 2000-2001. Google my name and Abalaka’s and you will see how I was involved in preventing further genocide through enlightening people that the vaccine is fake.“This is the time for the Federal Government to act, to prevent the administration of unwholesome vaccines into human beings just any how in the 21st Century.”

Saladin Osmanov, acting coordinator of the joint World Health Organisation (WHO)/Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) HIV vaccine initiative, warned that Abalaka’s vaccine has not been evaluated under the strict protocols required, and that his work has not been independently reviewed by experts.

But the editor of Vaccine, Ray Spier, defended his decision to publish Abalaka’s findings in an editorial accompanying the report, saying: “Time is short and the prevailing situation demands action.” He said the findings were published as a report and not a peer-reviewed research paper, though Spier himself had assessed the work.
Tanzania - Ebola in Tanzania? A question on global governance for infectious diseases
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by FricNews
Oct 04, 2019 - 9:10
Last week, the U.S. government warned travelers of “probable Ebola” in Tanzania, even as the Tanzanian government and the World Health Organization engage in discussion after the latter’s public accusation of the government’s refusal to share information on suspected Ebola cases in the country.Questions now arise on the state of the International Health Regulations as a global governance structure for infectious disease outbreaks.

IHR is an international, legally-binding instrument agreed to by 194 countries in monitoring and controlling the international spread of diseases. The present version, which entered into force in 2007, has a more expanded scope and clearer mechanisms in place for the coordination and reporting of diseases. Today’s IHR covers existing, new and re-emerging disease pathogens, versus the 1969 version that focused only on three diseases: cholera, the plague, and yellow fever.

But the current version also reflects lessons learned from previous disease outbreaks, in particular, the SARS pandemic of 2003. That outbreak, which spread across five continents, underscored the importance of countries’ timely reporting of unusual or unexplained health events and led to WHO being given authority to consider unofficial reports of public health events and obtain verification from countries — which the U.N. aid agency did in the case of Tanzania.

Several international experts applauded WHO’s public statement, which they described as a rare and extraordinary move by the health agency.

“This is not something that WHO does without a great deal of thought,” said Rebecca Katz, professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

David Fidler, adjunct senior fellow for cybersecurity and global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said countries not forthcoming about disease events within their territories is not new. It happened during the MERS outbreak in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, for example. But in the present situation, a declaration of a public health emergency of international concern is in place, he explains.

“I think in MERS we had lots of discussions between WHO and the various governments, a bit more under the radar if you will, rather than WHO having to call out any specific country. And of course that was probably happening before WHO made this statement at Tanzania and I'm absolutely sure that's what's going on right now,” he said.

IHR: A treaty with little enforcement mechanisms

But beyond the public call-out, there’s not much WHO can do to compel countries to report public health events under IHR.

It is a treaty with “very limited sticks,” Katz said.

“There's limited enforcement on [the treaty]. And one of the reasons is I think the assumption going into creating this was that, there's kind of a baseline assumption that all countries want to protect their population health,” Katz said.

The expert noted how no country has really been punished for not building its core health capacities, even though it’s part of countries’ obligations under the treaty. Again, this is under the assumption that countries want to, but just don’t have the resources, she said.

But it then begs the question: How to compel countries to report?

“Although the IHR (2005) do not include an enforcement mechanism per se for States which fail to comply with its provisions, the potential consequences of non-compliance are themselves a powerful compliance tool. Perhaps the best incentives for compliance are ‘peer pressure’ and public knowledge,” according to a WHO FAQ on the IHR.

The assumption is that with the availability of electronic media, “nothing can be hidden for very long.” Countries that fail to comply with IHR could face a number of consequences, such as economic isolation and increased health risks for the affected population.

“I think what they would risk, if this goes on, is the loss of confidence of neighboring countries … They could risk countries around them, or other countries in the world, instituting measures, of putting ... some kinds of restrictions in place, because of the uncertainty of what's going on in Tanzania,” said Thomas Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“Obviously, I think [this] would be a terrible, terrible move. And I really hope that no countries take those kinds of actions,” he added.

Last Friday, the U.S. government updated its travel warning for Tanzania, telling visitors to “exercise increased caution” because of a “probable Ebola” case in Dar es Salaam.

If a state wants to file a dispute against Tanzania for not reporting, the treaty has a mechanism in place under Article 56, which states that disputes between state parties in the interpretation or application of the regulations can choose to settle it through negotiation or other peaceful means.

If this fails to resolve the issue, the state can seek the help of the WHO director-general for arbitration, or seek dispute settlement mechanisms of other intergovernmental organizations.

WHO can also issue travel and trade recommendations, which could have massive economic consequences for the country in question, Katz said.

But the likelihood of that happening is low compared to countries violating the aid agency’s recommendations to keep borders open. Countries were fast in calling for travel bans during the 2009 swine flu outbreak despite WHO’s advise against one. Rwanda closed its borders for a few hours on Aug. 1 after the third case of Ebola was confirmed in the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, against WHO advice.

“Closing borders could have disastrous consequences for the lives and livelihoods of the people who cross the border every day for trade, education, or to visit relatives. Such restrictions force people to use informal and unmonitored border crossings, increasing the potential for the spread of disease,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after declaring the outbreak in DRC a public health emergency of international concern.

A question on global governance structures for disease outbreaks

The fact that IHR does not have enforcement mechanisms in place is not unusual, Fidler said, an expert on international law and global health.

The United Nations doesn’t have enforcement powers, and that’s how international law works, he said. Even the dispute mechanism under IHR is not unique, he said, as every single treaty has one. But even if a country has any issues with another country in the application or interpretation of the treaty, the dispute mechanism has not been and would not be the best strategy to pursue, he argued.

Most disputes don’t get resolved in international courts, but through diplomacy, pressure, dialogue, incentives, and other things, he said.

“No country is going to bring a case against Tanzania to go through the formal dispute settlement mechanism or dispute settlement process set up in the IHR. It just isn't gonna happen. And it would take years for that to resolve itself, which isn't going to help us deal with the problem, right? We have a crisis going on and we need to know whether there are Ebola cases in Tanzania,” he said.

But what’s unusual and rare in international law was WHO member states giving the director-general the authority to declare a public health emergency of international concern under IHR, even against the objections of the affected state, he said.

“The ability for WHO to call out a country over its objections, release information that it obtained from other sources rather than the government of Tanzania, that's an unusual ... extraordinary authority,” he said.

The approach is meant to get countries to understand that releasing information early and cooperating with WHO on serious disease events is the best approach politically, economically, and from a public health perspective, although that doesn’t guarantee states following through.

“But that means WHO can keep coming back to Tanzania and say, 'you know, we've got more information you need to verify.' If they don't hear anything back, WHO can share that information with the rest of the world that cranks the pressure on Tanzania,” he said.

But he underscored the need to engage in a dialogue about IHR and the state of global health governance, particularly on disease outbreaks — an issue Katz also pointed out, especially as experts predict the frequency of disease outbreaks in the coming years.

“I think the past year plus … in addition to just measuring the morbidity and mortality that's been horrible from this outbreak, it's also raised a whole bunch of questions about the importance of governance structures and the role of the WHO and how the global community works together, from the debates over when a PHEIC should be declared, to the challenges of responding to public health events in the midst of conflict that we're only going to see more often,” Katz said.

Fidler, in an article he wrote back in July and shared with Devex, argued IHR has been “battered and bruised” with the push and pull over declaring a public health emergency of international concern in the current Ebola outbreak in DRC. He accused the emergency committee of “abusing its authority” by making recommendations on the basis of whether or not they think declaring a PHEIC will have positive or negative consequences.

“They're bending over backwards not to recommend a declaration … that's where I think they get into trouble and they abuse their authority because they play with the definition of a public health emergency of international concern in such a way that it's absolutely clear they're trying to do everything they can not to recommend a declaration. And that's interesting, right? So that really goes to the heart of, ‘what's the point, what's the purpose of this authority in the IHR today?’” he said.

He underscored that IHR remains an important framework, but fear of the repercussions if confidence in some components of IHR, such as the declaration of a PHEIC, starts collapsing.

“I'm just really worried about that because I think that's in fact what we've seen in the past with the previous versions of the IHR. States eventually just didn't care anymore and didn't even bother to implement it,” he said. “And I just don't think we want to regress in that way. And that's why I think we need to step back and have a broader conversation about where we are with the IHR.”

Asked whether the international community has any alternative mechanisms from IHR, Fidler said: “Well, I don't know, frankly, and that's what worries me because I don't see plan B.”
A motorcycle rides past the newly constructed MSF Ebola treatment center in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by: REUTERS / Baz Ratner
Kenya - For rural Kenyans, treating snakebites is an uphill struggle
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by FricNews
Oct 02, 2019 - 8:10
Insufficient anti-venom distribution and poor roads mean countryside suffers high rate of potentially fatal bites.

Simotwo village in Baringo, a western county in Kenya, is a peaceful place. Cattle, sheep and goats graze leisurely. The grassy area straddles hillocks, boasts a generous outcrop of granite rocks and is rich in indigenous tree cover.But beneath the veneer of calm village life, a deadly menace haunts the residents and their livestock.

The semi-arid environment of Simotwo and most parts of Baringo County are favourable habitats for a number of snake species.

This is a fact Kelly Simba, 34, knows too well.

In April, he was walking along a narrow path to his uncle's home, carrying a stick in his right hand which he occasionally used to turn a stone or move a branch.

It was hot and water was scarce, so he stopped to get water for his cattle. As he poured it into a trough, he felt a sharp sting on his left foot.

Wincing in pain, he jumped up and managed to catch a glimpse of the puff adder, a long and heavy snake that relies on its camouflage, as it disappeared.

If not treated appropriately, a puff adder bite can be fatal.

"There was an old cloth on the fence nearby, so I took it and tore a strip to tie my foot. I then called a bodaboda (motorcycle taxi) to take me to hospital in Kabartonjo," said Simba.

Kabartonjo sub-district hospital is rated level four by Kenya's Ministry of Health, meaning it is better equipped than the pharmacies in and near Simotwo.

It took him three hours to get to the hospital; he was treated and discharged after three days.

The level of awareness is very low. Not many people know what to do and therefore, many succumb to the bites.

Hesborn Nyambati, snake expert at the National Museums of Kenya

In the village of Simotwo, everyone knows someone who's been bitten by a snake.

Despite the local government's efforts, barriers to solving the snakebite problem include poor road networks, the lack of public health education and absence of anti-venom in rural health facilities.

Daisy Chepnyango, 18, from the neighbouring Karas village was also bitten by a puff adder.

Her mother carried her the 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) to Kimalel Hospital for treatment.

In the case of Simba's nine-year-old nephew, Brian Kipsang, he had just finished a school day and was carrying water from a nearby stream when he felt a stinging pain at his ankle.

Like Simba, he was also rushed to hospital on a motorbike, arriving two hours later.

Simba, Chepnyango and Kipsang were the lucky ones, managing to make it from a rural area to a hospital. Many others are less fortunate, and succumb in the countryside.

Poor infrastructure

There is no exact data on the number of snakebites across Kenya.

Dr Winnie Bore, chief officer for health in Baringo County, said: "Conservative figures of victims of snakebites in Baringo County is between 200 to 300 per month. A third of these succumb to the bite."

She cited efforts to distribute anti-venom to all health facilities in affected areas, train clinicians in dealing with snakebites, and educate residents on how to avoid snakebites.

Hesborn Nyambati, a snake expert at the National Museums of Kenya, said if someone is bitten, the first step is to minimise motion - and therefore, warned against running.

But poor infrastructure areas like Simotwo means the only way to travel quickly is by motorbike, on a bumpy road.

Bore admitted that the roads needed improving, saying: "There is a correlation between health outcomes and road networks, especially in cases like snakebites or even maternal and childcare."

In health facilities where there is no electricity, Bore claimed to be working towards installing solar power so that anti-venom that needs refrigeration can be stored. In county areas where the snakebite rate is particularly high, she said officials were planning to stock medicine that does not need to be refrigerated.

Simba and other villagers Al Jazeera interviewed said a local facility does not stock anti-venom.

"The health centre closes at five in the evening, so in case a patient is brought in there at night, there will be no one to attend to him," he said. "In any case, they do not treat snake-bites and do not have an admission ward."

Kenya is in the initial stages of setting up a facility that extracts poison from snakes to produce anti-venom, but it will take time before this is available for use in hospitals.

Currently, the government imports anti-venom from South Africa.

According to snake expert Nyambati, this is sometimes problematic because anti-venom produced from poison extracted from one environment may not be effective on a snakebite in a different environment.

These challenges have prompted some residents to try alternative treatment.

Musyoka Mutisya, a traditional healer, has travelled around Baringo County treating victims, most of whom were bitted by a puff adder.

"I use a black stone which I place on the area of the bite. The black stone attaches to the area and sucks out the poison. My grandfather taught me how to do it. I have now treated hundreds of victims," he claimed.

While there is no scientific research to support the idea that traditional methods work, Nyambati believes that "healers" assure patients psychologically and therefore, address the panic.

"However, the [general] level of awareness is very low. Not many people know what to do and therefore, many succumb to the bites," Nyambati said.

Despite promises from local officials, Simotwo residents said they had not yet received training in how to deal with the snakes.

For Karen Chepchieng, a resident of Karas village, some practical help would be useful.

She claims she regularly finds snakes in her home and has managed to kill most of them.

"I am not afraid of finding it," she said. "What I am afraid of, is not finding it. Then it could end up biting me or my children."
It took Kelly Simba three hours to reach the closest hospital able to treat him with anti-venom, after he was bitten by a puff adder [Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera]
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