Disease outbreak news – Plague – Madagascar

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.

Background

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.

Categories: AFRICA

IMF Staff Concludes Mission to Ghana

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.”

Categories: AFRICA

UN DEPUTY HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CALLS FOR PEACE, SCALING UP OF AID IN SOUTH SUDAN

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.

Categories: AFRICA

Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström at the High-Level Partnership Forum on Delivering Somalia’s New Deal Compact

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Check against delivery

Mr President, Excellencies,

Thank you for bringing us together here today, and for setting the agenda through your opening statements.

Twenty years ago, I read an article in my local newspaper about eight refugee boys, orphans, from Somalia, arriving in my small town. I called the municipality and offered to be a contact family. Young Mohammed became our third boy in the family. We learned something about his sorrows and frustrations, his longing and hopes and love for his country. We also had an exotic exchange of experiences – of camels and skiing respectively.

No one describes the challenges Somalia faces better than you, President Mohamud. It is first and foremost the daily life of your citizens and the future of your country that are at stake. When we talk about the forming of a stable federal state, poverty reduction and social services delivery, it is the key tasks for you and your government that we are talking about. You have formulated your Vision 2016. We, as international partners, have provided sustained support and cooperation.

It is sometimes said that “the meeting is the message”. This is a meeting with a very clear message.

I have three points to make.

First: there is a need for clear, brave and determined political leadership, in order not to halt or reverse progress made. As in any country, political leadership is about listening, finding compromises and working together. It is about mobilising political will and rising above politics of personalities and advancing the interest of the citizens. No one can have their way in every single detail. But everyone can – and must – play their part in shaping a long-term political solution that ensures the unity, stability and prosperity of the country. We all know how difficult this can be. I hope that we can be of help to each other, and share each other’s experiences.

This is important for Somalia, but also for how we as partners engage with, and support, the Somali government’s priorities.

Time is not really on our side. The pace needs to accelerate if Vision 2016 is to be realised. The most critical laws must be passed and vital commissions set up. Schools, roads and hospitals must be built. Employment opportunities for Somali young people must be identified.

And – this is my second message – the voice of Somali women must be strengthened.

Women make up some 60 per cent of the population, but less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians at national and regional levels in Somalia. A young girl in Somalia today is less likely to go to school than her brother. Even if she – and not her brother – is the one with the better business skills or more talent, her capacity is less likely to be utilised to its full potential. This is a waste of human resources that no society can afford. And it is a matter of fundamental human rights that no country can ignore. I am encouraged by all the work that has already started.

We need to see an end to women and girls in Somalia being socially, economically and politically discriminated against. We need an enhanced legal and social framework to tackle gender inequality. And we need to pay attention to the fight against gender-based violence.

There is no magic solution for tackling gender inequality. But it is my firm belief that without gender equality there is no sustainable solution to the long-term challenges in Somalia.

In other words: nothing about them without them. No women, no peace.

The third message I’d like to convey is one of support, and of cooperation.

Partners stand ready to continue to assist in building a sovereign and secure Somalia with democratic and inclusive political institutions. Coordination is, as always, key – and always complicated. The dialogue between all donors could be so much stronger. The international support to the Somali security sector and AMISOM needs to be sustained. Our development cooperation has to work faster and with more flexibility and creativity than usual. It needs to link in with humanitarian assistance and security and stabilisation efforts, and ensure that tangible support quickly reaches the population also outside Mogadishu, especially in newly recovered areas. In all of this, the UN is a key partner and we commend the leadership of the SRSG and the work of the integrated UN mission.

Sweden is ready to continue its substantial partnership with Somalia. It is a partnership of political engagement, development and security. The Swedish development cooperation in Somalia is long-term. Our support of USD 45 million per year is aimed at peace-building, job-creation, the strengthening of democratic institutions, health and private sector development. It focuses in particular on the needs of women and children. We have a substantial humanitarian assistance – USD 23 million last year.

And Sweden is supporting the strengthening of the Somali security sector, primarily through the EU missions on the ground and at sea. We are currently preparing for our fourth contribution to Operation Atalanta.

It is also a partnership of people. We have a significant Somali diaspora – nearly 60 000 people – in Sweden. They are an asset to us. Thank you, Mr President, for letting us benefit from the talent and experience of your citizens. And they are, of course, an asset to you. There ought to be more effective ways of harnessing their strong capacity and willingness to engage.

And it is a partnership for seeing opportunities. In June, we held a Somali trade and investment conference in Stockholm on the role of private actors in state-building and job-creation. Some 150 participants came to explore the emerging business opportunities. We are now looking into ways of supporting diaspora investments in Somalia.

Friends,

My message has been threefold: political leadership, a stronger voice for the women of Somalia, and coordinated and long-term international support.

What is at stake here is – of course – the future of Somalia, but also the possibility of being a shining international example. Strong national institutions, determined people and a committed international community have pushed Somalia forward in a way few believed to be possible only a few years ago. A failed state with the potential of becoming a great success story and a source of inspiration and hope for many societies affected by conflict and crisis.

So let’s make sure – through brave and determined efforts – that this is the story of Somalia that will be remembered.

Thank you.

Categories: AFRICA

Japan-South Africa Summit Meeting

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 arena. He also stated that Japan was also paying attention to South Africa’s National Development Plan and the development of the North-South Corridor which is also a priority for President Zuma. Prime Minister Abe also stated that Japan could contribute to building infrastructure in South Africa through its safe and reliable sound technologies and personnel training. President Zuma expressed his hopes for Japan’s assistance in the fields of infrastructure and energy and participation of Japanese companies in Africa.

2. TICAD

Prime Minister Abe said that he wanted to cooperate toward the success of the next Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which will be held for the first time in Africa, and President Zuma welcomed the holding of the Conference in Africa.

3. Security Council reform

Both leaders shared the view that they will strengthen their collaboration to take concrete steps on a Security Council reform during the United Nations General Assembly next year.

4. Issues in the international arena

Both leaders also shared the view that the Ebola outbreak was an issue that should be addressed by all members of international community. The two leaders also exchanged opinions on a wide range of other topics, including disaster prevention and the issue of peace and security in regional and international society.

Categories: AFRICA

SOUTH SUDAN / HANDOVER CEREMONY OF NEW POLICE POST IN KHOR WILLIAM

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. This UNMISS Quick Impact Project is aimed at providing a new police post that will serve as a security hub to assist with combating crimes, criminality and allow the establishment of community policing activities in the area.

The handover ceremony will take place on:

Date: 25 November 2014

Time: 10:00am

Venue: Khor William neighborhood

Agenda

Opening Remarks – UNMISS Representative

Hoisting of South Sudan flag-South Sudan National Police Service

Presentation of Speeches

UNMISS UN Police Commissioner

Central Equatoria Police Commissioner

Mayor of Juba County

Central Equatoria Governor

Categories: AFRICA