Rob Nicholson Condemns Latest Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria

OTTAWA, Canada, March 6, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Following reports of the killing of dozens of civilians in northeastern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:

“Canada condemns the killings in the town of Njaba in Borno state. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my condolences to the families and friends of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

“We are appalled by the ongoing violence by Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people.”

Source:: Rob Nicholson Condemns Latest Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria

Categories: African Press Organization

Liberia releases last Ebola patient – flash quote from MSF

MONROVIA, Liberia, March 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Commenting on the news that Liberia has released its last Ebola patient, Vickie Hawkins, Director of MSF UK, said:

“This is an encouraging sign for Liberia. However, there is no room for complacency as the number of new Ebola cases in the region has risen this week.

“From the outset, this outbreak has been characterised by its unpredictability and geographic spread. People move easily over the porous borders that separate Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, so until 42 days pass without a new case in any of the three worst affected countries we need to remain vigilant.

“There are serious gaps that persist in the response. Significant improvements need to be made in contact tracing and surveillance, and we still need to improve regional coordination. Practical collaboration between surveillance teams based in each country need to be implemented as soon as possible to avoid importing new cases into areas considered Ebola-free.”

Source:: Liberia releases last Ebola patient – flash quote from MSF

Categories: African Press Organization

Visionary New African Network for Women Leaders on Environment Launched at African Ministerial Conference

CAIRO, Egypt, March 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Women ministers and leaders from Africa meeting at the Africa Ministerial Conference of the Environment (AMCEN) launched a new network, Thursday, that aims at enhancing representation and involvement of women in decision-making in areas related to the environment and sustainable development continent wide.

The newly established African Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment will lead the development of an AMCEN policy on gender and the environment designed to mainstream gender and environment considerations into development planning, legislation, and financial policies at the regional, national and community levels.

The network is co-chaired by Madame Zanou Armande, Director of Environmental Law, Ministry of Environment, Benin and Madame Hadijatou Jallow, Executive Director, Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone.

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP Achim Steiner, said “It is time that gender considerations take centre-stage in the design and implementation of environment and sustainable development policies in Africa and around the world. Lead by prominent African visionaries, I am confident the Network will enhance the delivery of sound policies at the national and community levels.”

“This comes at a critical moment as the world prepares to adopt a new a Post-2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and just months ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change. Implementing such agreements will only be made possible with the meaningful streamlining of gender policies across international frameworks and national development plans,“ he added.

The African Network is a chapter of the Global Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment, established in Helsinki in March 2002.

Executive Director, Office of the President for the Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Leone, Haddijatou Jallow said, “The Network of African Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment provides an essential platform to advocate for enhanced support for women, as they comprise the majority of users of our natural capital and are more vulnerable to adverse impacts on our environment”.

Director General for the Environment, Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature, Benin, Zanou Aivohozin Armande said, “One key role that the Network African Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment will play is to apply a multidimensional approach in addressing emerging gender issues in environmental management. In doing so the Network will bring together women and men from different walks of life, be it academia or farming- without any bias – to develop strategies or solutions to address environmental degradation. As the UNCCD focal point for Benin, I also feel its important to empower women to be key players of sustainable management of the environment and not only as victims of degradation.”

The Global Network (NWMLE) was created to address the critical need for visionary and concrete policies toward sustainable development worldwide. The overall objective of this network is to improve the representation and involvement of women in decision-making regarding environmental issues based on the belief that women, who have primary responsibility for raising children and securing sufficient resources to meet their families’ nutrition and health needs are the ones most affected be environmental degradation.

The Africa Network will develop recommendations for practical solutions to environmental problems at the national and regional levels; build network partnerships with appropriate civil society, non-governmental and intergovernmental agencies; exchange best practices and experiences in order to implement more effective policies and create a critical mass of leadership to influence international and national policy.

Source:: Visionary New African Network for Women Leaders on Environment Launched at African Ministerial Conference

Categories: African Press Organization

Egypt to Save Over US $2.4 Billion Annually, Cut CO2 Emissions by 13%, Water Consumption by 40% and Create 8 Million New Jobs, Through Transition to Green Economy – UN Report

CAIRO, Egypt, March 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A shift to a green economy pathway could lead Egypt to achieve annual savings of over US$1.3 billion in the agriculture sector, and US$1.1 billion in the water sector, as well as a 13 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, and a 40 per cent reduction in water consumption, according to a new report released today by the Egyptian Government, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners.

Launched at the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN), the Green Economy Scoping Study for Egypt finds that economic and environmental trends such as declining water share per capita of over 30 per cent by 2025, solid waste generation increases of 36 per cent since 2000, and natural resource depletion of around 3.78 per cent annually, can be reduced and reversed through strategic policy interventions that can accelerate Egypt’s sustainable development.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Challenges such as Egypt’s rapidly growing population – which could reach 100 million by 2020 – coupled with an ecological footprint almost three times its available bio-capacity, according to the Arab Forum for Environment and Development, are opportunities to implement an inclusive green economy strategy that can revitalize and diversify the economy and achieve social equity while also conserving the environment, and improving health and human welfare.”

“Working in favour of a transition is Egypt’s resilient banking sector, its abundance of labour and entrepreneurial skills, a functional public sector, and the Egypt’s determination to fulfil its aspirations for long-term prosperity and human welfare.”

“This report demonstrates that greening key sectors such as water, agriculture, waste and energy is an economically and environmentally astute course of action. The savings alone make a strong case for a new policy approach that can decouple environmental degradation from economic development, create jobs, reduce emissions, attract foreign investment and develop new markets,” he added.

The report, which was prepared by UNEP at the request of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency and State Ministry for Environment, presents proposed interventions and investment options, as well as expected benefits and policy approaches for greening Egypt’s agricultural, water, energy and solid waste sectors.

Egyptian Minister of Environment, Dr. Khaled Fahmy, said, “Transitioning into the green economy across diverse sectors offers a clear pathway to achieving durable and equitable sustainable development for Egypt. The convening of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Cairo this week offers an opportunity for African countries to discuss options for such a transformation to happen, not only in Egypt but across the continent. We will need to work together to create opportunities and put in place the necessary policies, mechanisms and interventions to make this happen.”

Green Interventions – Agriculture

The agriculture sector currently only contributes about 14 per cent of GDP – compared to 30 per cent in the 1970s – and as a result of business-as usual practices is marred by loss of agricultural biodiversity, land erosion and loss of soil fertility.

Identified green interventions which can reverse these downward trends include investing in organic farming; changing cropping patterns; and shifting to state of the art irrigation systems. Directing investments to rural areas will also reduce rural to urban migration and the pressure this creates on the physical and social infrastructure and services in urban areas, which contributes to enhancing equity, social cohesion and improved distribution of wealth and opportunities, particularly among the poor and marginalized segments of the Egyptian population.

Green Interventions – Water

Demand for water is increasing at an alarming rate, with water share per capita set to decrease by over 65 per cent by 2050 as population growth, urbanization, and increased agricultural and industrial activities continue to increase pressure on an already scarce resource.

Identified green interventions which can help to reverse this trend include investing in non-conventional water resources development such as desalination and treated wastewater, and the upgrading and expansion of national water use-efficiency.

Green Interventions – Energy

Since 2007, a gap between energy supply and demand has existed, and is expected to continue to increase under the business as usual scenario. Public expenditure on energy subsidies has reached unprecedented levels, representing about 73 per cent of all subsidies and approximately 21 per cent of the country’s budget, according to the African Development Bank.

Identified green interventions which can help reverse this trend include significant investment in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind infrastructure to increase the percentage share of renewable energy out of the total energy mix; investing in energy efficient appliances and equipment by households and economic sectors; and investing in human resource development, R&D in energy-saving technologies, practices and measures.

Green Interventions – Waste

It is estimated that annual solid waste generation has increased by more than 36 per cent since 2000, with an estimated increase of 3.4 per cent per annum, according to SWEET Net. It reached about 21 million tonnes in 2010, nine million tonnes of which is generated by greater Cairo. The current state of solid waste management is resulting in increased environmental damage and negative impacts on health.

Identified green investments which could reverse these trends include investing in waste to organic fertilizers and waste to biofuel facilities; investing in producing refuse-derived fuel for use as an energy source for cement factories and other industrial uses; and investing in human resource development, R&D and innovative recycling technologies and equipment.

Key Findings

Agriculture

•    Conversion of 20 per cent of the total agricultural land from conventional to sustainable and organic cultivation amounting to about 1.44 million feddans (605,000 hectares) , could result in a saving of approximately 700, 000 tonnes of chemical fertilizers annually or EGP 1 billion annually.

•    The potential of producing compost from agricultural residues could provide more than

22 million tonnes of organic waste annually, or EGP 9 billion annually.

•    Reducing the area for cultivated for rice (or using early maturing varieties) and sugar cane could lead to water savings of EGP 4-7 five billion by 2017.

•    It is estimated that using drip irrigation could save up to 40 per cent of water as compared to

flood irrigation.

Water

•    Investing in household water saving devices for domestic use including residential building is

estimated to result in water savings between 10 to 20 per cent, or 1.4 billion m3 of water savings annually.

•    Other benefits of water efficiency approaches include increased land productivity and yields

estimated at between 20 to 30 per cent.

•    Efficiency in the use and allocation of water resulting from good governance and regulatory

frameworks is estimated to result in 10 per cent savings in water consumption of the equivalent of EGP 6.75 billion annually.

Energy

•    Investing in renewable energy can be a driver for job creation, with an estimated 75,000 new job opportunities in solar and wind systems design, manufacturing, operational services, and sales.

•    Investing in energy efficiency practices such as the installation of efficient lighting equipment could lead to significant energy savings especially that 34 per cent of residential energy consumption is for lighting purposes.

•    Energy efficiency measures in Egypt are expected to result in about 30 per cent in energy savings estimated at 33 billion kW based on 2012 estimates of energy consumption in Egypt.

•    Reduction in oil consumption by 20 per cent is estimated to cut down CO2 emissions by 18

million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Key Recommendations

Possible guiding principles for a Green Economy framework for Egypt include:

•    Good governance: to ensure transparency, accountability, and public participation throughout policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and assessment.

•    Sustainability and continuity: policies should also ensure sustainability from the environmental,

social and economic standpoint.

•    Integrated policymaking: environmental, social and economic considerations should be integrated

throughout the planning process.

•    Inter-generational equity: future generations should not bear costs and negative implications of

proposed policies.

•    Equity and inclusiveness: policies should ensure the equitable distribution of wealth providing

equal opportunities for the different segments of the population, and promote social justice and

cohesion.

Green Economy Synthesis Report

Also launched today at the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) is the new Green Economy Africa Synthesis Report which highlights the key findings of agriculture, energy, water, fisheries, buildings, manufacturing, transport and tourism assessments carried out in 10 African countries. The report was developed to help policymakers better understand the diverse benefits of investing in the green economy.

Source:: Egypt to Save Over US $2.4 Billion Annually, Cut CO2 Emissions by 13%, Water Consumption by 40% and Create 8 Million New Jobs, Through Transition to Green Economy – UN Report

Categories: African Press Organization

South Sudan: “Snapshot book” helps children find loved ones

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Unaccompanied boys and girls are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have been fleeing continuing violence, from South Sudan into neighbouring Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. The use of a “snapshot book” by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local Red Cross Societies is helping both adults and children find missing relatives. Since the beginning of the year, about 120 matches have been made.

The first books of more than 500 pictures of adults and unaccompanied children were taken in refugee camps in Gambella, Ethiopia, and were shown in January and February in camps and other places in South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. “This book is filling a major gap,” said Natalie Klein-Kelly, an ICRC delegate in Ethiopia working on the project. “We’ve had quite a few cases in which people feared their loved ones had not survived, but in fact they had simply run in a different direction.”

While peace talks continue, fighting plagues South Sudanese communities in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states. Hundreds of thousands have fled. The ICRC, together with local Red Cross Societies, is helping to put members of separated families back in touch through phone calls, Red Cross Messages (brief, written, personal messages), tracing requests and a photo-tracing initiative called Snapshot.

When violence breaks out, people scatter in search of safety. If a young child is alone at the time, he or she might run off alongside other people but get separated from family.

The ICRC takes photos of people searching for their loved ones, then shows these to displaced people in widely scattered locations. The books list refugees by place of origin, and not by name, to enable a partly illiterate population to more easily find relatives.

“The Snapshot book is something people naturally want to go through page by page,” said Klein-Kelly. “We have jokingly been calling it ‘Refugee Facebook!’”

Photos taken in Ethiopia

Refugees who know where a loved one is can send Red Cross Messages. Refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia have sent nearly 12,000 such messages. About 10 percent of the participants are minors.

An 18-year-old woman wrote a Red Cross Message to her mother after finding a photo of her in the Snapshot book. “We were overjoyed to see your picture in the ICRC book. Your grandchildren are fine and they have also seen your picture.”

A girl wrote to her mother: “There is no way for us to get to your location. Keep my phone number, which I am writing on this paper.”

Only about half of the South Sudanese refugees in Gambella have phones. The ICRC provides the use of mobile or satellite phones free of charge to help reconnect people with their families.

In South Sudan last year, ICRC tracing delegates registered some 100 unaccompanied children, 53 of whom have since been reunited with their families. This process often takes weeks or months of patient, careful work and may involve partners such as the South Sudan Red Cross, the Ethiopian Red Cross, the Kenya Red Cross and the Uganda Red Cross.

Similar efforts to restore family links are taking place in Uganda, where 256 unaccompanied children have been registered. Currently 89 are still in search of their family. More than 6,000 ICRC phone calls have been made by South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. The ICRC also registered over 50 unaccompanied children and enabled South Sudanese refugees in Kakuma camp in Kenya to make 3,000 phone calls in 2014. So far in 2015, the use of the Snapshot book in Kenya has resulted in 45 matches between separated family members.

Tackling child recruitment

There are growing reports of children being forced to join armed groups. The ICRC tirelessly reminds all parties to the conflict of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law, including the absolute prohibition on the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups. If approached by the family of a child allegedly recruited, the ICRC can try to locate that child by means of direct and confidential dialogue with the entity concerned.

Providing relief

Since the outbreak of this conflict in December 2013, the ICRC has worked closely with the South Sudan Red Cross to deliver food, drinking water, seed and tools to those in need. Meanwhile, ICRC surgical teams have been treating people wounded by the fighting.

In all, the ICRC has:

• provided over 940,000 monthly food rations, helping on a regular basis over 150,000 people in the worst affected areas

• furnished over 500,000 people with seed, tools, and fishing equipment

• brought drinking water to nearly 300,000 people

• performed more than 4,000 operations in 15 locations (5 surgical teams)

• visited 6,400 detainees

• made possible over 14,000 phone calls to help restore family links.

Source:: South Sudan: “Snapshot book” helps children find loved ones

Categories: African Press Organization

Ebola vaccine efficacy trial ready to launch in Guinea

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Based on promising data from initial clinical trials in late 2014, WHO with the Health Ministry of Guinea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Epicentre and The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), will launch a Phase III trial in Guinea on 7 March to test the VSV-EBOV vaccine for efficacy and effectiveness to prevent Ebola. The vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. A second vaccine will be tested in a sequential study, as supply becomes available.

“We have worked hard to reach this point,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. “There has been massive mobilization on the part of the affected countries and all partners to accelerate the development and availability of proven interventions. If a vaccine is found effective, it will be the first preventive tool against Ebola in history.”

Vaccination will take place in areas of Basse Guinée, the region that currently has the highest number of cases in the country. The trial strategy adopted will be “ring vaccination”, based on the approach used to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. This involves the identification of a newly diagnosed Ebola case – the “index case” – and the tracing of all his/her contacts. The contacts are vaccinated if they give their consent.

“The Ebola epidemic shows signs of receding but we cannot let down our guard until we reach zero cases,” said Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who leads the Ebola Research and Development effort at WHO. “An effective vaccine to control current flare-ups could be the game-changer to finally end this epidemic and an insurance policy for any future ones.”

The objectives of the trial are two-fold: to assess if the vaccine protects the contacts who were vaccinated and if vaccinating the contacts will create a buffer – or ring of protected individuals – around the index case to prevent further spread of the infection. Vaccination will also be proposed to front-line workers in the area where the trial will take place.

Canadian governmental institutions are supporting the trial through the provision of critical training and support to the African research teams conducting the trial, in addition to scientific advice.

In the last six months WHO has convened a series of emergency consultations with scientists, ethicists, regulators and policy makers to identify potential preventive and therapeutic products to help stem the epidemic. Canada’s VSV and GSK cAd3 vaccines quickly emerged as promising tools due to prior successful studies on non-human primates.

“For more than a year we have been racing around the clock to stop the epidemic from spreading further,” explains Bertrand Draguez, Medical Director at MSF.

“We need to ensure that we continue our efforts to identify infection cases and follow up on their contacts, and in parallel keep promoting R&D for treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. This epidemic remains unpredictable. We don’t know when it will end, and that’s why it remains crucial for us to keep focusing our efforts on developing a vaccine capable of protecting the population in this epidemic and any future ones. Frontline workers and the contacts of infected patients will be enrolled, if they consent, in the vaccine study.”

“Participation of the community in the study areas in Guinea is vital to enable the successful assessment of this vaccine,” stresses John-Arne Røttingen, NIPH, and chair of the study steering group. “The study process has ensured the inclusion of Guinean investigators since its inception, and is a response to a request from Guinean authorities.”

Since September 2014, the two most advanced Ebola vaccines have been evaluated in about 15 countries in Africa, Europe and North America. The testing timelines were considerably accelerated through the simultaneous organization of multiple trials and emergency procedures to expedite data sharing and analysis between the investigators and manufacturers. The VSV-EBOV vaccine was selected for the planned trial based on a framework of parameters developed by the WHO Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee on Ebola Experimental interventions (STAC-EE). Criteria included acceptable safety profile, induction of appropriate immune responses, including neutralizing antibodies, and the timely availability of sufficient supplies of vaccine doses.

Further measures were taken to accelerate the testing process by organizing multi-country emergency assessments, joint ethical and regulatory reviews of trial protocols and clearing of regulatory hurdles. For the Guinea trial, the Guinea National Regulatory Authority with support from Health Canada jointly reviewed the trial protocol.

WHO, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi (the Global Vaccine Alliance) are collaborating with the affected countries to develop plans and strategies for large-scale introduction, should this be needed. The vaccines’ manufacturers have assured that enough vaccine will be available in the coming months. Financial resources are in place to procure and make vaccines available to the Ebola affected countries. Million of doses will be funded by Gavi, whose Executive Board approved a US$ 300 million funding envelope in December 2014. There are also U$ 90 million earmarked to support the deployment of the vaccine(s).

Source:: Ebola vaccine efficacy trial ready to launch in Guinea

Categories: African Press Organization