Nov 212014
GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Disease outbreak news

On 4 November 2014, WHO was notified by the Ministry of Health of Madagascar of an outbreak of plague. The first case, a male from Soamahatamana village in the district of Tsiroanomandidy, was identified on 31 August. The patient died on 3 September.

As of 16 November, a total of 119 cases of plague have been confirmed, including 40 deaths. Only 2% of reported cases are of the pneumonic form.

Cases have been reported in 16 districts of seven regions. Antananarivo, the capital and largest city in Madagascar, has also been affected with 2 recorded cases of plague, including 1 death. There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city's high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system. The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country.

Public health response

The national task force has been activated to manage the outbreak. With support from partners – including WHO, the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar, the “Commune urbaine d'Antananarivo” and the Red Cross – the government of Madagascar has put in place effective strategies to control the outbreak. Thanks to financial assistance from the African Development Bank, a 200,000 US dollars response project has been developed. WHO is providing technical expertise and human resources support. Measures for the control and prevention of plague are being thoroughly implemented in the affected districts. Personal protective equipment, insecticides, spray materials and antibiotics have been made available in those areas.


Plague is a bacterial disease caused by Yersinia pestis, which primarily affects wild rodents. It is spread from one rodent to another by fleas. Humans bitten by an infected flea usually develop a bubonic form of plague, which produces the characteristic plague bubo (a swelling of the lymph node). If the bacteria reach the lungs, the patient develops pneumonia (pneumonic plague), which is then transmissible from person to person through infected droplets spread by coughing. If diagnosed early, bubonic plague can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Pneumonic plague, on the other hand, is one of the most deadly infectious diseases; patients can die 24 hours after infection. The mortality rate depends on how soon treatment is started, but is always very high.

WHO recommendations

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. In urban areas, such as Antananarivo, the surveillance of epidemic risk indicators is highly recommended for the implementation of preventive vector control activities.

Nov 212014

ACCRA, Ghana, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Joël Toujas-Bernaté, visited Accra from November 6 to 20, 2014, to discuss the authorities’ economic and financial program and its possible financial support by the IMF. The mission met with President Mahama; Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur; Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission; Finance Minister Seth Terkper; Bank of Ghana Governor Kofi Wampah; the Finance Committee of the Parliament, other senior officials, and representatives of the private sector, the donor community and civil society.

Mr. Toujas-Bernaté made the following statement at the end of the visit:

“Following discussions held in Washington last month, the authorities continued to work on their economic and financial program to address domestic and external vulnerabilities. The authorities and the mission made significant progress towards reaching understandings on strengthened macroeconomic policies, including on a medium-term fiscal path consistent with ensuring debt sustainability and reducing the external current account deficit.

“The mission in particular welcomes the government’s 2015 budget, presented to Parliament on November 19, 2014, which targets a reduction of the fiscal deficit by 3.5 percentage points of GDP (on a commitment basis). With projected arrears repayments of 1.2 percent of GDP next year, the cash deficit will be equivalent to 6.5 percent of GDP in 2015, down from 9.5 percent in 2014. The budget includes some important measures to increase revenues, to eliminate distortive and inefficient energy subsidies, and to contain growth in Ghana’s comparatively high public wage bill. At the same time, the budget allows for maintaining public investment above 5 percent of GDP as well as increasing social protection spending targeted at the most vulnerable.

“The mission also welcomes the government’s aim to implement structural reforms to underpin a sustained consolidation towards a fiscal deficit objective of 3.5 percent of GDP by 2017. Reforms will include strengthening public finance management, reducing tax exemptions, enhancing tax administration and reviewing the earmarking of revenues for statutory funds. Efforts to clean up the payroll and enhance its management have been initiated and should be pursued swiftly. These efforts, together with the implementation of appropriate pay and hiring policies, will help further control the wage bill, which has been a significant source of fiscal risk.

“Taken together, these fiscal measures, combined with sound debt management and actions to further boost the effectiveness of the Bank of Ghana’s inflation targeting framework should help restore macroeconomic stability.

“The IMF team will continue to support the authorities as they work in the coming weeks in several areas, including to take concrete steps in cleaning up the payroll, finalize the remaining details of their medium-term reforms and to seek external financing assurances from bilateral donors and international institutions. Once this work is completed, a financial arrangement to support Ghana’s economic program would be agreed at staff level before being proposed for the IMF Executive Board’s consideration.”

Nov 212014

JUBA, South Sudan, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, concluded her three-day mission to South Sudan today, calling on all parties to the conflict to respect their ceasefire commitments and urging the international community to continue providing support to enable humanitarians to scale up and expand critical aid operations.

The year-long conflict has been brutal. Civilians have been killed, raped and beaten; homes torched; lives ruined. Fighting has destroyed communities and separated families. More than 1.9 million people have fled their homes. Over 100,000 people have sought refuge in UN bases. Millions more fled into the bush and remain too fearful to return home or settle elsewhere.

“The level of violence experienced by civilians in South Sudan has been devastating,” said ASG Kang. “I was here a year ago and I am heartbroken to see that the promising young country that I saw is suffering so greatly. The scale of the needs is great. However much we scale up our operations, we will never be able to do enough if the conflict continues to destroy lives and livelihoods. All parties to the conflict must show leadership and bring peace to this country.”

Despite the extremely difficult situation for aid workers, who face active hostilities, access and logistical challenges, as well as threats to their own lives, the United Nations humanitarian agencies and partners have reached more than 3.5 million people with assistance this year, helped avert famine, and brought under control a deadly cholera outbreak. However, the situation remains bleak and the number of people who are severely food insecure is projected to increase to 2.5 million people in early 2015.

Aid agencies are planning for next year, and are urgently calling for US$600 million by February to kick-start next year’s operations. “In the dry season, we need to pre-position life-saving and livelihood supplies to reach all people in need, and carry out key repairs to roads and airstrips so that we can scale up and expand the aid operation,” noted ASG Kang.

Kyung-wha Kang visited communities affected by the crisis in Juba and Jonglei State. She met with Government representatives and humanitarian partners to discuss ways of improving access and strengthening protection of civilians. She urged parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights laws that clearly call for the protection of civilians and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need.

Nov 212014

TOKYO, Japan, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — 1. Bilateral relations

Prime Minister Abe stated his intention to strengthen the strategic cooperative relationship with South Africa and to cooperate on issues in the international…

Nov 212014

JUBA, South Sudan, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) cordially invites members of the media to a handover ceremony of a new police post in the Khor William neighborhood of Juba. T…

Nov 212014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM Djibouti has contributed USD 85,000 to the Djiboutian Health Ministry to help local hospitals and clinics provide medical care to migrants from the Horn of Africa. The principal donor is CERF, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.

“We estimate that over 100,000 migrants transit this country every year,” said IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission Romaric N’Guessan. “Unfortunately, most of them cross in appalling conditions, often on foot. So, logically, they suffer terribly from dehydration and are exposed to all sorts of diseases.”

Almost 90 per cent are from Ethiopia and 10 per cent are from Somalia and most hope to reach Saudi Arabia in search of jobs, N’Guessan added.

As more migrants from the Horn of Africa cross Djibouti’s borders as irregular migrants, they are putting a growing strain on local health facilities.

Many arrive in dire condition, posing humanitarian challenges for the local authorities, particularly in cities located along the migratory corridor, including Dikhil, Tadjourah and Obock. “When migrants need medical attention, hospitals usually do not have enough medicine,” said N’Guessan.

Djibouti health policy allows everyone, including migrants, to access local health facilities. But funding of health services is determined on a per capita basis by the government census, which does not include migrants.

Consequently, if large numbers of migrants need medical assistance, hospitals and clinics on the migration route are forced to operate beyond their normal capacity.

IOM’s contribution to the Ministry of Health was the second this year. In March it donated another USD 68,000 worth of drugs for use in health centres on the migration route, in response to a government request.

IOM also trains health staff to identify migrants’ needs and has constructed 23 wells along migrant routes, with 13 more under construction, to reduce the risks from dehydration.

Growing numbers of migrants from the Horn of Africa are dying on the migratory route through Djibouti and Yemen to the Middle East, according to N’Guessan. Through the first 10 months of 2014, IOM and UNHCR recorded 241 migrants as dead or missing – up from just 15 in 2013, he notes.

Nov 212014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM has resumed transport by boat and road of South Sudanese refugees stranded by heavy rains and flooding in Matar to Fugnido refugee camp in the Gambella region of Western Ethiopia, 300 kms away, following an agreement between Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR.

The relocation operation started this week with the movement of 286 refugees by boat and bus from Matar to Fugnido via the Itang way station. The two-day journey involves an overnight stop in Itang, where IOM, UNHCR and WFP provide food, water, sleeping mats and blankets.

Another 42 vulnerable refugees were moved from Matar to Fugnido in a helicopter provided by UNHCR, with an IOM medical escort.

Since August 2014, IOM has been on standby to resume the relocation of up to 15,000 South Sudanese refugees stranded in and around Matar, which is close to the river border with South Sudan and has become uninhabitable due to heavy rains.

According to UNHCR, more than 191,000 South Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in Ethiopia’s border Gambella Region since conflict broke out in South Sudan in mid–December 2013. Of these, IOM has relocated over 173,000 to camps in the region.

Some 100 refugees continue to cross into Ethiopia every day, mainly through the Burbiey border entry point (near Matar) from South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Jonglei States.

A multi-agency response led by ARRA and UNHCR is providing protection and registration to the refugees. IOM has been providing emergency evacuation and relocation assistance, pre-departure medical screening, and transitional shelter assistance for them since January 2014.

Nov 212014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On 24 August, WHO was notified by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Jeera County, Equateur Province. This outbreak, which is unrelated to that affecting West Africa, caused a total of 66 cases of EVD including 8 among health care workers.

By November 20, 42 days had passed since the last case tested negative twice and was discharged from hospital. According to WHO recommendations, the end of an Ebola virus disease outbreak in a country can be declared once 42 days have passed and no new cases have been detected. The 42 days represents twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola (21 days).

Having reached that 42-day mark, the Democratic Republic of Congo is now considered free of Ebola transmission. This outbreak is the 7th outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the DRC since Ebola virus was first identified there in 1976.

WHO commends the Democratic Republic of Congo’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response that included rapidly mobilising an expert response team to Jeera County, identifying and monitoring contacts and organizing safe burials.

WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF and other partners supported the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo with expertise for outbreak investigation, a mobile laboratory, risk communications and social mobilization, contact tracing and clinical care.

The Government of the DRC moved quickly to mobilize expert teams. Early engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders played a key role in successful containment of this outbreak.

The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and staff in the WHO country office are aware that the country remains vulnerable to Ebola virus disease and the country surveillance system remains on high alert.

Nov 212014

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Council has extended the EU’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta by two more years, until 12 December 2016. The Operation’s main focus is the protection of World Food Programme vessels delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia; and the deterrence, repression and disruption of piracy off the Somali coast. In addition, Operation Atalanta contributes to the monitoring of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.

Despite the significant progress that has been achieved off the coast of Somalia since the operation was launched in 2008, it is widely recognised that the threat from piracy remains; the pirate business model is fractured but not broken. The Council has therefore added certain secondary tasks to the Operation’s mandate. EU Naval Force will now contribute, within existing means and capabilities, more widely to the EU’s comprehensive approach to Somalia, including in support of the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa. It will also be able to contribute to other relevant international community activities helping to address the root causes of piracy in Somalia.

In this respect, the operation could, for example, provide logistical support, expertise or training at sea for other EU actors, in particular the EU mission on regional maritime capacity building (EUCAP NESTOR). In addition, Operation Atalanta can also support the EU Training Mission (EUTM) Somalia.

“EU Operation Atalanta has considerably helped in reducing piracy off the Somali coast. We must maintain the pressure on pirates to help ensuring security in the Horn of Africa. This is in our mutual interest”, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said. “The EU Naval Force will now also contribute to addressing the root causes of piracy,” she added.

The common costs of EU Naval Force for the two years 2015 and 2016 are estimated at €14.7 million. The operation is currently commanded by Major General Martin Smith MBE of the UK Royal Marines. Together with 21 EU member states, two non-EU countries currently contribute to Operation Atalanta.

Nov 212014

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) confirms that one of its international staff members, a Spanish national, has been evacuated from Mali to Spain as a precautionary measure following an exposure incident.

The staff member, a Spanish national on assignment in Bamako , was injured while working with a patient who had a confirmed case of Ebola. The staff member is not showing symptoms of the disease at this time and has not tested positive for Ebola. In line with MSF precautionary procedures, the staff member is being transferred to a treatment centre in Madrid using a private aircraft as a precautionary measure and she will be followed up for 3 weeks.

“Despite our strict protocols, risk cannot be completely eliminated. However, evacuating staff members who have possibly been exposed to the virus allows them, should they become ill, to be isolated swiftly and receive treatment surrounded by their loved ones”, said Joan Tubau, general director of MSF-Spain. “We hope that our colleague won’t be affected; that this incident will remain just as an incident so she can continue with her life. We ask the public and the media to respect her request for anonymity”.

For reasons of medical confidentiality, and to preserve the privacy of its staff member and the family, MSF will not provide any further comment at this time.

MSF started its intervention in Mali on October 24, just after the first case was confirmed in Kayes, in the north of the country. Later, when a new focus was detected in Bamako on 11 November the MSF team there was reinforced and its activities expanded to help stop the disease from spreading further.

MSF has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa since March 2014. Around 3,400 MSF staff are working in the region, including some 360 international staff.

Nov 212014

OTTAWA, Canada, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Ted Opitz, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre, highlighted Canada’s ongoing efforts to stabilize Somalia during the Ministerial High Level Partnership Forum, which took place on November 19 and 20, 2014, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Mr. Opitz reiterated Canada’s continued support for sustainable peace and security in the country but also expressed concern about recent political tensions and stressed the need for unified political leadership.

Canada remains committed to the African Union Mission in Somalia and has provided $16 million to support the mission since 2010.

“As the Government of Somalia builds its national institutions it must also bring the government closer to the people, creating opportunities for the people to directly engage with decision makers through the strengthening of local governance,” said Mr. Opitz.

“The foundation of a strong, accountable and effective Somali government is critical. To this end, Canada has dedicated US$2.5 million toward the IMF Somalia Trust Fund for Technical Assistance from Canada’s Technical Assistance Account with the IMF for Africa and the Caribbean.”

Mr. Opitz also noted that a strong Somalia is a Somalia where women and girls can realize their full potential. This year, Canada has provided over $1 million to initiatives aimed at preventing violence and at protecting girls against child, early and forced marriage.

Since December 2010, Canada has provided over $180 million, including more than $44 million in 2014, to support humanitarian operations in Somalia and Somali refugees in neighbouring countries.