Oct 022014
 

PARIS, France, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On August 13, 2014, Mr. Edwin Samotse, a Botswana national, was unlawfully deported from South Africa to Botswana, where he runs the risk of being sentenced to death and executed. While South Africa’s conduct has been declared unlawful, FIDH – a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty – LHR and DITSHWANELO call upon the authorities of Botswana to guarantee his right to a fair trial and to refrain from imposing the death penalty against him.

“Despite our enquiry to the authorities of Botswana, about whether or not they gave an assurance to the South African Government that Samotse will not face the death penalty, we still have not received a response. In a context where secrecy has surrounded the way the death penalty is carried out in Botswana, we are concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Samotse” declared Alice Mogwe, DITSHWANELO Director and FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

On August 13, 2014, South African Immigration officials deported Mr. Edwin Samotse to Botswana, where he is charged with murder. If convicted by the Botswana High Court, Mr. Samotse could be sentenced to death and executed. His deportation was carried out while, on two occasions (Mohammed, 2001 and Tsebe, 2012), South Africa’s Constitutional Court has confirmed the right of a person charged with capital offences not to be extradited to a country where he/she could face the death penalty and subsequent execution, without an assurance against such being imposed or executed. On September 23, 2014, the High Court sitting at Pretoria confirmed those decisions by declaring Samotse’s deportation unlawful and unconstitutional.

For Jacob Van Garderen, National Director of LHR, which joined the Samotse case before the High Court, “the decision of the High Court is consistent with the internationally recognised practice not to extradite someone to a country where he or she could face the death penalty and be executed. Our courts have already set similar precedents and we expect this decision will constitute the basis for a well defined procedure of non-removal that would be strictly observed by the relevant South African authorities”.

In its decision, the High Court noted the undertaking given by the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation to continue seeking written assurances from the authorities of Botswana that the death penalty will not be imposed against Edwin Samotse and, if imposed, that it will not be executed. The Court further called upon South African Minister of Home Affairs to enact “Standing Operation Procedures” stating that it is unlawful to deport or surrender a foreign national facing the risk of being subjected to the death penalty if deported or surrendered without the requisite assurance being obtained. The Court has required the Minister to report back on progress made in this regard as well as the outcome of the Department’s investigation into the unlawful deportation. Our organisations welcome this decision and call upon South African authorities to ensure that a comprehensive “Standing Operation Procedure” is put in place without further delay, that it is widely disseminated to all the relevant services and properly implemented.

As the World Day Against Death Penalty approaches (October 10, 2014), our organisations, which oppose the death penalty for all crimes and under all circumstances, reiterate their call upon the authorities of Botswana to envisage the adoption of a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition.

Oct 022014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The conflict in north-eastern Nigeria continues to afflict the Diffa area, in easternmost Niger. Over the past few weeks, thousands of people fleeing fighting between the Nigerian army and armed groups have arrived in Diffa, seeking security.

“This is the biggest population movement we’ve seen in many months,” said Loukas Petridis, head of the ICRC delegation in Niger. The displaced, mostly women and children, arrived from Bama, Baga, Doron Baga and Kaya Koura, where recent fighting pitted Nigeria’s army against armed groups. “They have lost everything and are entirely dependent on the willingness of the communities hosting them to help them out, and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations,” explained Mr Petridis.

Emergency relief for displaced people and residents

Many of the displaced are living in Diffa in serious distress. “All their belongings were looted or went up in flames along with their houses during the fighting,” said Marc Fumeaux, an ICRC expert on economic security.

In Diffa, some people had to settle at the edge of the city in makeshift shelters made of canvas or straw. The lucky ones were taken in by host families that were already struggling to fend for themselves. “They urgently need food and essential supplies,” said Mr Fumeaux, who is also concerned about the situation of residents playing host to the displaced.

To respond to the urgent needs of displaced people and relieve needy resident families, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger have just delivered food to more than 2,000 people (274 households of displaced people and 65 of residents) in Diffa. In addition, 203 households were given blankets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, clothing and kitchen utensils.

Aid for displaced people on Lake Chad islands

Many displaced people have also taken refuge on islands in Lake Chad. The islands, which in normal times play host to seasonal fishermen and merchants, have seen their population increase tenfold with the massive influx of people uprooted by fighting. “There is very little drinking water or health care, and few sanitary facilities, available to the people displaced there and the residents. With rising water levels, reaching these remote islands is a real logistical challenge, and the lack of security is preventing many humanitarian organizations from going there,” said Yssouf Koné, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Diffa.

Since May, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger have provided food aid for over 3,500 people on the islands of Koita Mota, Gadira, Karamga and Toumboun Boka. “Our staff are there right now, making new assessments,” said Mr Koné.

Access to water and health care

In the town of N’gouba, 80 kilometres from Diffa, the ICRC has just upgraded a high-capacity borehole that will provide water for some 12,000 people in Bosso and Toumour as well as N’gouba. “In this area, access to water is a vitally important issue,” said Tiémoko Ouattara, an ICRC water specialist. “Unless clean drinking water is available, people have no other choice but to drink pond water despite the serious risks to health.” Since the onset of the crisis in May 2013, the ICRC has sunk 13 new handpump-equipped boreholes, built one new concrete well and upgraded nine other concrete wells with the aim of improving access to water for displaced people and residents in the Diffa, Bosso and Mainé Soroa departments. In addition, in Boulangou Yakou, about 12 kilometres from Diffa, it overhauled a small drinking water supply line equipped with two tap stands and a watering trough for animals.

For the fourth time, the ICRC donated medicines and medical supplies to the regional hospital in Diffa. In Bosso, where many displaced people have gathered, a partnership was set up between the ICRC and the town’s general health-care centre. The ICRC recently delivered medicines and medical supplies to the centre for the first time. The aim is to give the health-care facility the means to better care for sick or injured displaced people or residents.

The ICRC is very concerned about the influx of displaced people into the Diffa area. “The possible deterioration of the security situation in the north-east of Nigeria is a concern, because the result could be that even more people will be driven to flee, towards Niger in particular,” said Mr Petridis. “Together with other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, we are preparing to cope with an even more difficult humanitarian situation in the Diffa area.”

Oct 022014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries will carry out an official visit to Côte d’Ivoire from 7 to 10 October 2014 to examine and assess the impacts of mercenarism on human rights in the country.

“Cote d’Ivoire has faced tremendous challenges at the turn of the century, experiencing civil conflicts which were reported to involve mercenary activities,” said human rights expert Patricia Arias who currently heads the expert group. Ms. Arias will be accompanied by Anton Katz, fellow member of the Working Group.

The Working Group, as part of its mandate given by the Human Rights Council, will also examine the situation of private military and security companies (PMSCs) and how they operate in the country.

Côte d’Ivoire was one of the countries covered in the Working Group’s report* to the Human Rights Council this year which focused on the national legislation concerning PMSCs in several countries in Asia and Francophone Africa.

During the visit, which is being conducted at the invitation of the Ivorian authorities, the experts will hold meetings in Abidjan with members of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the State, the army, representatives of the diplomatic community and civil society organizations.

A press conference on the preliminary observations of the Working Group will be held at 2:45 p.m. in the Press Room of the UNOCI office, Ancien Hôtel Sebroko, Attécoubé, Abidjan.

The final report on the visit will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2015.

(*) Check the Working Group’s report (A/HRC/27/50): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

Oct 022014
 

ROME, Italy, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A locust plague that spread across Madagascar threatening the main staple food crops and pasture in the country has been successfully contained, however, progress is under threat due to a gap in funding, FAO said today.

At the beginning of the plague in April 2012 the highly destructive Malagasy Migratory Locust ravaged crops and pastures on its way from the southwest of the country toward the North. By April 2014, it had spread towards the country’s largest rice crop areas in the northwest and threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people.

Potential for further damage was contained by the first locust control campaign, which is part of a three-year programme jointly executed by FAO and the Government of Madagascar, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“The effects of this plague could have been devastating, but thanks to strong efforts by the Government of Madagascar, supported by FAO, we have succeeded in preventing these locusts from migrating even further,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

Protected crops

Since locust control actions began in September 2013, large-scale areal operations allowed to survey over 30 million hectares of land and control locust populations on over 1.2 million hectares.

A total of $28 million has been donated so far by the Governments of Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Madagascar through a World Bank loan, Norway and the United States of America as well the European Union and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Donors also include Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco, which donated pesticides.

Preliminary results of an FAO/WFP assessment mission, conducted between mid-June and mid-July 2014 in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, indicate that the first anti-locust campaign prevented larger damage to crops and pastures and protected the large rice producing regions of the country located in the centre and north.

This first campaign also provided the opportunity to further strengthen national capacities in locust management.

“Despite great support and achievements, however, we now face a new challenge due to a gap in funding,” says Phiri.

More funds needed

Funds available so far are only sufficient to implement the first part of the second locust control campaign, which started in September 2014. With the onset of the rainy season, from October 2014 onwards, the locust situation will deteriorate as seasonal temperatures and humidity at this time are ideal breeding conditions for the locust. The second and third campaigns are imperative to respectively support the decline of the plague and the return to a situation of recession.

Additional support of $14.7 million is urgently needed for aerial surveys, control operations, equipment, pesticides, as well as the recruitment of key staff to carry out the second and third campaigns.

“Each day is a fight to feed our children and send them to school,” says Hantanirina Florentine, who lives in a village near Sakaraha in central Madagascar. “Our main source of income is our 100 square metre plot of land and my husband’s odd jobs. The locust plague affected our livelihood and made our daily life even harder. The locust plague needs to be put to an end, so we can have crops and protect our livelihoods.”

Without added funding, efforts made during the first campaign will be largely lost and the locust plague will expand again. The context was similar in 2010/11 and 2011/12 when the funding for two anti-locust campaigns was not made available and as a result, the current plague developed.

“An immediate food crisis has been avoided,” says Phiri, “but an economical and humanitarian crisis could still threaten Madagascar if the two next campaigns are not implemented in time.”

“We are in a position to help – we just need one last push to stop this disaster and prevent future plagues.”

According to, Roland Ravatomanga, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Madagascar, “The first locust phase was successful thanks to the support of technical and financial partners, but much remains to be done for the second phase in 2014 and 2015. I solemnly appeal to the International Community on behalf of the Government and the Malagasy people for financial and material support to Madagascar. The food and nutrition security of Madagascar depends on it.”

Oct 022014
 

NEW YORK, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the high-level briefing by the African Regional Economic Communities to Member States of the United Nations, in New York today:

First of all, I want to welcome all the high-level representatives of the African Regional Economic Communities present here today. I am honoured to speak to you.

We meet at a turbulent and, at the same time, [a] dynamic time at the United Nations.

This past week has been full of activity — with a strong focus on Africa, ranging from peacekeeping and humanitarian crisis to the serious Ebola epidemic.

I am pleased that today’s gathering will discuss development and the long-term future of the continent in the light of the African Union’s visionary “Agenda 2063”.

Africa has for long and consistently been a top priority for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the entire United Nations System.

We applaud Africa’s remarkable progress. Economic growth is impressive. More African children go to school than ever before. There are great advances on women’s empowerment and gender equality. Participatory governance and institutions are on the rise.

All this has been possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of African Governments, the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and many other partners. The United Nations is one such partner, not least through the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). We always stand with Africa.

Regional Economic Communities have shown their unwavering resolve to promote interregional trade, as well as social and economic cooperation. You have also demonstrated an increasing capacity to deal with the root causes of conflict in your respective regions.

There are many examples of progress.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) helped to consolidate peace in Mali and the Sahel region. The Economic Community of Central African States is playing a mediating role in the ongoing crisis in Central African Republic.

I also welcome efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to resolve the situation in South Sudan. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is working with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to implement the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region.

The Secretary-General has convened a number of high-level meetings over the past week relating to Africa. We have seen progress towards some of our common goals. But crises on the continent still threaten lives and undermine development.

The Ebola virus disease presents new and very serious challenges in West Africa.

I commend the efforts of ECOWAS and the African Union in quickly mobilizing resources and awareness to reduce the impact of Ebola. The United Nations has mobilized to a degree rarely seen.

Our Special Envoy and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) are working hard to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, provide essential services, preserve stability and prevent the spread of the disease.

The affected nations and the international community have a joint responsibility to contain and stop the epidemic urgently. The affected countries have a right to expect concrete and immediate acts of solidarity.

The humanitarian and security situations in the Central African Republic and South Sudan remain dire. Northern Nigeria and Somalia continue to face rising terrorist threats from Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. The political situation in Libya is growing more complex and dangerous. Lesotho is facing a risky political stalemate. All these situations have potential spillover effects on subregions and the continent.

Let us remember that development is both a cause and consequence of peace.

There has been great social and economic progress across Africa. But, as in the rest of the world, its economies have not kept pace with legitimate demands. Above all, we need more jobs, especially for Africa’s young people. Unemployment is not only an economic challenge. It is also a social, psychological and political problem.

Trade among African countries remains limited, mainly because they do not have adequate railways, roads and other infrastructure. Many African economies also lack sufficient economic diversification, productivity and well-functioning institutions. As a result, even though African countries have impressive growth, Africa is still off track to meeting many of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals).

We are here today to consider how we can do more to reduce poverty and inequalities, improve food and water security, and enable more African mothers and children to live healthy lives. Women’s empowerment is especially important to advancing progress for all. We can unleash enormous energy and gains across Africa if we end discrimination and violence against women and girls — and invest in their future as leaders in all areas of society.

Agenda 2063 offers a way forward for Africa with key regional objectives. The Regional Economic Communities can make the difference between failure and success. Agenda 2063 has a global dimension that must be harmonized with international development trends, particularly the post-2015 agenda.

I congratulate Africa on the Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda. As the negotiations continue, we will work to ensure that the continent’s concerns are appropriately reflected in the next global development agenda.

The transformative changes envisaged in Agenda 2063 will need to be forged around stronger regional integration. There is tremendous power and potential in intensified regional and interregional cooperation, not least for landlocked countries.

Stronger integration will require increased competitiveness in African economies. The process should also be underpinned by major investments in human development, science, technology and infrastructure.

All this will to a great deal depend on effective governance, and durable peace and security in all parts of the continent.

This meeting provides an opportunity for you as Regional Economic Communities to tell us how you are contributing to Agenda 2063 and how the United Nations can better support your efforts. I also look forward to hearing from our Special Envoys and Special Representatives on how the United Nations System can enhance its cooperation with the Regional Economic Communities and the Member States.

Working together, we can demonstrate that the international community accepts its shared responsibility for Africa. Working hand in hand with Africa will also benefit the world at large, advancing common global goals for peace, development, human rights and human dignity.

Thank you.

Oct 022014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Disease Outbreak News

1 October 2014

On 30 September 2014, the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) was informed of the first confirmed imported case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the United States.

The case is an adult with recent travel history to West Africa who developed symptoms compatible with Ebola on 24 September 2014, approximately four days after arriving in the United States on 20 September 2014. The patient did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa. The case sought medical care on 26 September 2014 and was admitted into isolation on 28 September 2014 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Samples were sent for testing to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia and at the Texas state laboratory. Results were positive for Ebola virus.

Identification of close contacts for further daily monitoring for 21 days after exposure is under way. Given that the case did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa, contact tracing of people on the same commercial airline flights is not indicated.

Future WHO updates on EVD in the United States will not be posted on the Disease Outbreak News. Further information will be available in WHO’s Ebola Situation Reports which provide regular updates on the WHO response: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/situation-reports/en/

More information on this case is available at:

• Texas Department of State Health Services news release: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/releases/20140930.aspx

• CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/s930-ebola-confirmed-case.html

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied by countries except in cases where individuals have been confirmed or are suspected of being infected with EVD or where individuals have had contact with cases of EVD. Contacts do not include properly-protected health-care workers and laboratory staff.

Temporary recommendations from the Emergency Committee with regard to actions to be taken by countries can be found at IHR Emergency Committee on Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Guinea’s National Day

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Oct 022014
 

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 1, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Guinea as yo…

Oct 022014
 

ALGIERS, Algeria, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Zeine Zeidane, visited Algeria September 17-October 1, 2014, for the annual Article IV discussions. The consultation will conclude with the preparation of a report that, subject to management approval, could be discussed by the IMF Executive Board in December 2014.

At the end of the visit, Mr. Zeidane issued the following statement:

“Economic activity has picked up in 2014, with real GDP growth projected to reach 4.0 percent following 2.8 percent growth in 2013. The hydrocarbon sector is expected to expand for the first time in eight years, while nonhydrocarbon growth remains supportive—particularly the construction and services sectors. Inflation has decelerated sharply to below 2.0 percent, thanks in part to tighter monetary policy, but bears watching closely given the potential for new inflationary pressures to emerge.

“Algeria is in the enviable position of having built up substantial external and fiscal buffers over the years thanks to its hydrocarbon wealth, but threats to macroeconomic stability are growing. For the first time in nearly 15 years, the current account is expected to record a deficit. Slumping hydrocarbon production, strong domestic hydrocarbon consumption, and lower oil prices are weighing on exports, while imports continue to grow. Reversing these trends will require more investment in the hydrocarbon sector, higher domestic energy prices, a more competitive exchange rate, and a significant increase and diversification of nonhydrocarbon exports.

“The fiscal deficit is expected to widen to over 6 percent due to lower hydrocarbon revenue, a sharp increase in capital expenditure, and continued high current spending. The oil savings fund remains large but is expected to decline for the second consecutive year. Ambitious and sustained fiscal consolidation is necessary to place fiscal policy on a sustainable path and ensure that hydrocarbon wealth is saved for future generations. Fiscal consolidation should entail mobilizing more nonhydrocarbon revenue and containing current spending—particularly wages. The mission reiterated its recommendation that the authorities adopt a fiscal rule to help manage hydrocarbon revenue and impose spending discipline.

“The financial sector is generally healthy but underdeveloped. Reforms are needed to improve access to finance, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises and households. In addition, listing well-performing public companies would help to develop the stock exchange. The mission welcomed the steps taken by the authorities to begin implementing the recommendations of the 2013 Financial Sector Assessment Program mission.

“Although Algeria has enjoyed macroeconomic stability, faster and more inclusive growth is necessary to provide enough jobs for the country’s youthful population. Meeting this challenge will require a comprehensive set of structural reforms that will allow the private sector to thrive. Reforms are needed to improve the business climate, remove constraints to foreign investment, promote international trade integration, and reduce labor market rigidities.

“The team met with Finance Minister Mohamed Djellab; Industry and Mines Minister Abdessalem Bouchouareb; Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Abdelwahab Nouri; Trade Minister Amara Benyounes; Housing, Urban Development, and Cities Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune; Labor, Employment, and Social Security Minister Mohamed El Ghazi; and the Governor of the Bank of Algeria, Mohammed Laksaci. The mission also held discussions with other senior government and central bank officials as well as with representatives of the economic and financial sectors and civil society.

“The IMF team expresses appreciation for the authorities’ cooperation and candid discussions.”

Oct 012014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Situation assessment

1 October

WHO Consultation on Ebola vaccines: beyond phase 1 clinical trials

From 29–30 September, WHO organized an expert consultation to assess the status of work to test and eventually license two candidate Ebola vaccines. More than 70 experts, including many from affected and neighbouring countries in West Africa, attended the event.

The expertise represented among participants ranged from the virology of emerging infections, to regulatory requirements that must be met, to medical ethics, public health, and infectious diseases. Heads of clinical research and other executives from the pharmaceutical industry also presented their views.

Some non-African participants came with more than 3 decades of experience working in Africa on other infectious diseases.

Experts on the use of innovative, cutting-edge trial designs also shared their most recent work.

The overarching objective was to take stock of the many efforts currently under way to rapidly evaluate Ebola vaccines for safety and efficacy. The next step is to make these vaccines available as soon as possible – and in sufficient quantities – to protect critical frontline workers and to make a difference in the epidemic’s future evolution.

All agreed on the ultimate goal: to have a fully tested and licensed product that can be scaled up for use in mass vaccination campaigns.

Two promising candidate vaccines

Given the public health need for safe and effective Ebola interventions, WHO regards the expedited evaluation of all Ebola vaccines with clinical grade material as a high priority.

Two candidate vaccines have clinical-grade vials available for phase 1 pre-licensure clinical trials.

One (cAd3-ZEBOV) has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline in collaboration with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It uses a chimpanzee-derived adenovirus vector with an Ebola virus gene inserted.

The second (rVSV-ZEBOV) was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg. The license for commercialization of the Canadian vaccine is held by an American company, the NewLink Genetics company, located in Ames, Iowa. The vaccine uses an attenuated or weakened vesicular stomatitis virus, a pathogen found in livestock; one of its genes has been replaced by an Ebola virus gene.

Phase 1 trials

WHO and other partners have helped facilitate expedited evaluation of these two vaccines in order to generate phase 1 safety and immunogenicity data for decision-making. A series of coordinated phase 1 trials is currently under way or will soon be initiated with international consortia at more than 10 sites in Africa, Europe and North America.

These studies aim to ensure good communication and harmonization of key design elements to allow for merging of data from different trials of the same candidate products.

The trials, which are being conducted in healthy human volunteers, are designed to test safety and immunogenicity and select the appropriate dose. Two phase 1 trials of the cAd3-ZEBOV started in September 2014 in USA and UK, and the first Phase 1 trial of VSV-ZEBOV is due to start early in October in USA.

The government of Canada has donated 800 vials of rVSV-ZEBOV to WHO. Once data on dosing from phase 1 trials become available, this donation could translate into about 1500 to 2000 doses of vaccine.

Both companies are working to augment their manufacturing capacity. The goal is a very significant increase in scale during the first half of 2015.

No delays

One shared mindset was readily apparent during the two-day discussions. Nothing must be allowed to slow down the goal of making vaccines accessible to people in affected West African countries. The phrase, “Nothing can be allowed to delay this work”, was heard over and over again.

The ambition: to accomplish, within a matter of months, work that normally takes from two to four years, without compromising international standards for safety and efficacy.

In other words: to give the African people and their health authorities the best product that the world’s scientists, working collectively, have to offer.

What the experts considered

Against this background, the meeting looked specifically at the objectives and key design elements for moving in an expedited manner to conduct additional clinical trials (phase 2 trial designs) that will generate additional safety data and evidence that the vaccine confers protection.

Parallel pathways for emergency use of experimental candidate vaccines with data collection, among frontline health care workers and other critical personnel, were also explored.

Apart from the great sense of urgency, the overall spirit of the discussions was characterized by a strong sense of solidarity with the people of West Africa, their governments, and their medical, scientific, and public health communities.

Equally strong was the insistence on ensuring that evidence on safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of the vaccines is collected properly.

Multiple challenges

Multiple potential challenges and uncertainties were put forward and assessed. Issues ranging from barriers to rapid implementation of R&D, to the design of trials and their use to guide eventual widespread vaccination, were discussed together with proposed ways to overcome them.

Some of the practical issues discussed included how to address communities’ perceptions regarding vaccines in general, and vaccine studies more specifically, public expectations for vaccine availability for widespread use, and whether there is an adequate infrastructure in place to rapidly and safely evaluate and distribute vaccines.

One important technical challenge is the fact that the candidate vaccines must be stored at a temperature of minus 80o C.

Further issues that need to be urgently addressed include identifying staff who can conduct trials meeting international standards, logistical issues (such as cold chain needs for the vaccines), and the resources needed to start the studies quickly.

Some of the scientific challenges include how to conduct studies as safely and rapidly as possible to inform decisions about mass production of vaccines and their administration.

Key questions

Discussions focused on the main questions that studies should help address, which part of the research should be conducted in non-affected areas and which part in affected areas, and how such decisions could either help expedite or delay the availability of robust evidence.

One overarching conclusion was that the international community, joining the affected countries as a whole, has a responsibility and a role to play in accelerating the evaluation, licensing, and availability of the candidate vaccines – if proven safe and effective.

For all these reasons, the actions emerging from the consultation clearly identify a role for each of the main stakeholders.

Randomized controlled trials

Regarding the issue of how to accelerate the assessment and licensure of the vaccines, experts reiterated that, if feasible, randomized controlled trials are the design of choice because they provide the most robust data, in the shortest amount of time, to judge whether a vaccine is safe and induces protection.

Trials must be expedited, while preserving ethical and safety standards. Efficacy data of high quality must be gathered. Trials need to be carefully designed so that they concomitantly address the most important questions regarding safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy.

While individually randomized controlled trials provide the most robust data, alternative designs should be considered when these trials are not judged feasible. These include cluster-randomized and stepped-wedge designs. As long as the amount of vaccine remains limited, units – such as health or treatment facilities – can be randomized. Regardless of the design chosen, trials should move forward as quickly as possible.

Alternative study designs

Alternative study designs will not delay deployment of vaccine to those who need it. Instead, they will influence the choice of people who receive the vaccine. For some months to come, the critical limiting factor is extremely restricted vaccine supply, and not the need to conduct studies using alternative designs.

Descriptions of the so-called “randomized stepped wedge” design attracted lively interest and much discussion. In this design, a “wedge” (like a slice of a pie or a cake) of the study population is selected for step-wise inclusion in the trials.

As each “wedge” receives the vaccine, all lessons learned or needed to adjust the study design are then applied to the next group to be included in the study. The selection of study populations can be randomized by units, as described above; the entire study population eventually receives the vaccine if trials demonstrate sufficient efficacy.

Such a design makes it possible to roll out vaccinations and evaluate efficacy at the same time. It further has features that meet the explicit objective of fairness.

Other designs will be more relevant when large numbers of vaccine doses are available.

Involving countries

Decisions on study designs and target populations must be made with the active participation of experts from the three hardest-hit countries. Consultations with frontline health workers should be undertaken as a matter of urgency to identify the most feasible approaches to evaluate vaccine efficacy and identify factors influencing acceptability of randomized trials.

The experts discussed the importance of making sure that the trials are appropriately designed to inform the use of these vaccines in all populations, including children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised populations, including people who are HIV positive.

The group also discussed how best to use the doses of experimental vaccine donated by Canada and additional doses that may be available later this year and in 2015.

If vaccine doses are used in the short term, vaccines should be deployed to consenting frontline health workers.

The decision to initiate such deployment should be informed by data emerging from the phase 1 studies, and will occur with data collection on the deployment itself.

Equity is important and therefore vaccine should be made available in an equitable and consensual manner to the affected countries. Maximizing the information gained from the use of these vaccines during this phase is critical.

Information sharing

A crosscutting issue is the need for data sharing – in real time – among the research, medical, and public health communities, coordinated by WHO. This was considered of paramount importance to inform decisions on future studies and scaling up the production of those experimental vaccines that look most promising.

Vaccine development normally takes a long time and is notoriously costly. Even under the best conditions and with the massive efforts of many partners, a significant number of doses will not be available until late in the first quarter of 2015.

One important factor for the completion of all the above steps is to secure the funding to ensure the production of the vaccine and to support priority studies. Major international funding partners should promptly pledge or commit the necessary funding so that this critical research is completed without further delay.

The African perspective

The presence of West African researchers, scientists, clinicians, and health officials vastly enriched the discussions, especially concerning the practical dimensions of trial design.

These experts further underscored the importance of communicating with communities and engaging their views, and called for qualitative studies to begin immediately. For example, some cultures are deeply distrustful of “Western” medicine and foreign medical staff in general, and of vaccines in particular.

Interventions from the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, clearly stated that international assistance is both greatly needed and fully welcomed.

Families and entire villages have been shattered. Some communities are on the verge of hopelessness and helplessness. Many do not comprehend what hit them and why, especially as this is the first time that the Ebola virus and Ebola virus disease have been seen in West Africa.

Governments are on board. Clinicians are on board. Researchers and their institutes are on board.

Statements made by West Africans reminded all participants of what life is really like in these countries. Children do not play in school yards, play pens, fenced back yards, or terraced gardens. They play in the bush.

These realities of daily African life need to be kept in mind when high-risk exposures are considered and defined.

Health workers

Participants were further reminded that the definition of “health care workers” in these African countries includes doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians but also hospital cleaners, ambulance drivers, burial teams, mortuary attendants, and in some instances, traditional healers.

As hospitals in many areas are overflowing or closed, the number of treatment beds in all three countries is woefully inadequate, and people frequently do not trust the health care system, more and more patients are being cared for by their loved ones in homes or within the community.

These people are also at very high risk of infection and should be considered when priorities for support – in all its forms – are being set. The importance of community engagement cannot be overstated.

Operational changes made since the unprecedented resolutions on Ebola virus disease were adopted by an emergency session of the UN Security Council (on 18 September) and by a UN General Assembly high-level session on Ebola (on 25 September) involve a vast ground-swell scaling-up of international support to affected countries. This support includes a much larger number of medical staff working in countries, thanks to generous support from the governments of China, Cuba, and many others.

Lessons learned

Participants also drew heavily on lessons learned, in the African setting, during trials for candidate malaria, HIV/AIDS, cholera, epidemic meningitis, hepatitis B, and other vaccines.

As some experts noted, never again can the international community allow what boils down to “market failure” to create such catastrophic suffering for humanity in any country, in any region of the world.

The sense of urgency and need for speed, without compromising the integrity of studies or the quality of their data, are fully justified by the dire situation in affected countries and the risk that other countries may soon experience their first imported cases.

The Ebola outbreak currently ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times. Never before in recent history has a biosafety level 4 pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a wide geographical area, for so long.

Key expected milestones

October 2014:

Mechanisms for evaluating and sharing data in real time must be prepared and agreed upon and the remainder of the phase 1 trials must be started

October–November 2014:

Agreed common protocols (including for phase 2 studies) across different sites must be developed

October–November 2014:

Preparation of sites in affected countries for phase 2 b should start as soon as possible

November–December 2014:

Initial safety data from phase 1 trials will be available

January 2015:

GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) grade vaccine doses will be available for phase 2 as soon as possible

January–February 2015:

Phase 2 studies to be approved and initiated in affected and non-affected countries (as appropriate)

As soon as possible after data on efficacy become available:

Planning for large-scale vaccination, including systems for vaccine financing, allocation, and use.

Oct 012014
 

TOKYO, Japan, October 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On September 23, commencing at 5:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m., on September 24, JST) for approximately 30 minutes, Mr. Shinzo Abe, who was on his visit to New York to attend the United Nations G…

Oct 012014
 

KAMPALA, Uganda, October 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, Yahsat (http://www.yahsat.ae), the Abu Dhabi based satellite operator, has announced its YahClick satellite broadband internet promotional offer in Uganda for a period of two months. Yahsat is offering a free satellite modem and dish for new YahClick subscribers to selected service plans as part of its commitment to deliver affordable, reliable and high speed internet connectivity in Uganda. The offer is available via the local YahClick service providers Simbanet and TrulT.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/yahsat-1.jpg

Photo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/photos/141001.png

Running only until stocks last, this promotion offers subscribers significant savings on equipment costs when signing up to selected YahClick Business or Home service plans in Uganda via YahClick Service Partners. As part of the promotion, new YahClick subscribers can get a free satellite modem and dish for Business subscription plans for speeds ranging from 3Mbps or higher or they can enjoy a US $ 450 discount on equipment for 2Mbps or lower plans. Subscribers to Home 3 Mbps plans or higher will only pay the discounted equipment charge of US $ 269 when they subscribe for three months upfront.

David Murphy, Chief Commercial Officer of Yahsat, stated, “YahClick is a game changing technology currently bringing high speed connectivity for businesses and individuals across YahClick’s area of operation, whether they are in the middle of the city, or in the remotest of locations. The YahClick promotion presents significant savings so an even greater number of subscribers can benefit from instant connectivity through reliable satellite broadband internet. Smart businesses are always watching their bottom line, so cost savings are always a welcome message.

“Today, internet connectivity is a must for businesses and households alike. YahClick is a powerful broadband solution that is making state of the art technology available to the average household, not just high end businesses. This promotion is a further demonstration of YahClick’s commitment to making internet connectivity even more affordable to unserved and underserved communities who need it the most,” said Murphy.

YahClick is designed to provide satellite broadband internet to all and is set to open new business opportunities and connectivity to a wide range of industries, NGOs, government, educational organisations, and home users throughout its coverage area by providing reliable, high-bandwidth Internet connectivity to urban, rural and even remote communities.

Simbanet and TrulT offer a selection of YahClick service plans that bundle hardware, software and local support services to meet the speed and data needs of businesses, government organisations, NGOs, and households.

Launched in late 2012, and now operational across 12 markets, YahClick provides satellite broadband internet connectivity to businesses, home users, government entities, and non-governmental organisations, helping bridge the technological gap for unserved and underserved communities.

For more information on the promotions and offers please contact the local service providers or visit: http://www.yahsat.com/yahclick/offers/

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC “Yahsat”.

For more information visit www.Yahsat.ae or www.mubadala.ae

Media contacts

• Masa Milhem – masa.milhem@hkstrategies.com

• Tel: +971 (0)4 33 44 930

About Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC “Yahsat

Yahsat (http://www.yahsat.ae) provides multipurpose satellite solutions (government and commercial) for broadband, broadcast, government, and communications use across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe in addition to Central and South West Asia. Based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and wholly owned by Mubadala Development Company, the investment vehicle of the Government of Abu Dhabi, Yahsat is the first company in the Middle East and Africa to offer multi-purpose satellite services including:

• YahClick – offers home solutions, business solutions and transportable solutions

• YahService – offers managed solutions and government capacity

• YahLink – offers IP trunking solutions, corporate networking capacity and backhauling capacity

• Yahlive – a joint venture between Yahsat and SES, a leading global satellite operator, offers a selective choice of premium TV channels

Yahsat’s first satellite Y1A was successfully launched in April 2011, and the company’s second satellite Y1B was successfully launched in April 2012. Yahsat has announced plans to launch its third satellite, Al Yah 3, in 2016, extending its commercial Ka-band coverage across Africa and, for the first time, to Brazil.

Oct 012014
 

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, October 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, Yahsat (http://www.yahsat.ae), the Abu Dhabi based satellite operator, has announced its YahClick satellite broadband internet promotional offer in Tanzania for a period of two months, or until stocks last. Yahsat is offering a free satellite modem and dish for new YahClick subscribers to selected service plans as part of its commitment to deliver affordable, reliable and high speed internet connectivity in Tanzania. The offer is available via the local YahClick service providers Infinity and Simbanet.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/yahsat-1.jpg

Photo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/photos/141001.png

This promotion offers subscribers significant savings on equipment costs when signing up to selected YahClick Business or Home service plans in Tanzania via YahClick Service Partners. As part of the promotion, new YahClick subscribers can get a free satellite modem and dish for Business subscription plans for speeds ranging from 3Mbps or higher or they can enjoy a US $250 discount on equipment for 2Mbps or lower plans. Subscribers to Home 3 Mbps plans or higher will only pay the discounted equipment charge of US $225 when they subscribe for three months upfront.

David Murphy, Chief Commercial Officer of Yahsat, stated, “YahClick is a game changing technology currently bringing high speed connectivity for businesses and individuals across YahClick’s area of operation, whether they are in the middle of the city, or in the remotest of locations. The YahClick promotion presents significant savings so an even greater number of subscribers can benefit from instant connectivity through reliable satellite broadband internet. Smart businesses are always watching their bottom line, so cost savings are always a welcome message.

“Today, internet connectivity is a must for businesses and households alike. YahClick is a powerful broadband solution that is making state of the art technology available to the average household, not just high end businesses. This promotion is a further demonstration of YahClick’s commitment to making internet connectivity even more affordable to unserved and underserved communities who need it the most,” said Murphy.

YahClick is designed to provide satellite broadband internet to all and is set to open new business opportunities and connectivity to a wide range of industries, NGOs, government, educational organisations, and home users throughout its coverage area by providing reliable, high-bandwidth Internet connectivity to urban, rural and even remote communities.

Infinity and Simbanet offer a selection of YahClick service plans that bundle hardware, software and local support services to meet the speed and data needs of businesses, government organisations, NGOs, and households.

Launched in late 2012, and now operational across 12 markets, YahClick provides satellite broadband internet connectivity to businesses, home users, government entities, and non-governmental organisations, helping bridge the technological gap for unserved and underserved communities.

For more information on the promotions and offers please contact the local service providers or visit: http://www.yahsat.com/yahclick/offers/

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC “Yahsat”.

For more information visit www.Yahsat.ae or www.mubadala.ae

Media contacts

• Masa Milhem – masa.milhem@hkstrategies.com

• Tel: +971 (0)4 33 44 930

About Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC “Yahsat

Yahsat (http://www.yahsat.ae) provides multipurpose satellite solutions (government and commercial) for broadband, broadcast, government, and communications use across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe in addition to Central and South West Asia. Based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and wholly owned by Mubadala Development Company, the investment vehicle of the Government of Abu Dhabi, Yahsat is the first company in the Middle East and Africa to offer multi-purpose satellite services including:

• YahClick – offers home solutions, business solutions and transportable solutions

• YahService – offers managed solutions and government capacity

• YahLink – offers IP trunking solutions, corporate networking capacity and backhauling capacity

• Yahlive – a joint venture between Yahsat and SES, a leading global satellite operator, offers a selective choice of premium TV channels

Yahsat’s first satellite Y1A was successfully launched in April 2011, and the company’s second satellite Y1B was successfully launched in April 2012. Yahsat has announced plans to launch its third satellite, Al Yah 3, in 2016, extending its commercial Ka-band coverage across Africa and, for the first time, to Brazil.