Humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic: lack of funding threatens the free-access to healthcare

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A drastic shortage in funding is jeopardizing free access to health care services being provided by the World Health Organization and partners in the Central African Republic for horehounds of thousands people.

The WHO Representative to the Central African Republic, Dr Michel Yao, says the humanitarian crisis wracking the country has displaced approximately 200 000 people and put around 1.5 million people at risk. Increased effort and funding, he says, is needed to prevent the crisis in the Central African Republic being “forgotten crisis.”

“This year we are really suffering in terms of funding the WHO operations in the Central African Republic” Dr Yao says. “WHO has a gap of more than US$14million and have received only US$500 000 this year. The needs for the whole humanitarian health sector are even greater, with another almost US$40 million needed by Health Cluster partners, with less than US$1.5 million provided. The health sector is very challenging. The Central African Republic, for example, has among the world’s highest child and maternal mortality rates.”

Only 55% of the health facilities in Central African Republic are functioning, and they mostly rely on the support of non-governmental organizations and UN agencies like the WHO, who are collaborating has part of the Health Cluster response. In 2014, Health Cluster partners delivered medical supplies for the treatment of 800 000 patients and provided care for more than 615 000 people in the Central African Republic.

“WHO supports the people in the Central African Republic by providing free access to health care,” Dr Yao explains. “Outside the capital, Bangui, there is a real challenge to provide this care if we don’t have funding. If some of the public health facilities do not open, it will make it difficult for people who have moved to Bangui for security and economic reasons to return home. This will mean the overall crisis will not be solved.”

WHO is also filling gaps in disease surveillance, responding to outbreaks and planning health services in coordination with health humanitarian partners.

“One past donor, for example, is not providing funds for the Central African Republic this year as its funding is going towards other crises, like Syria and Yemen,” Dr Yao adds. “I am afraid that we are still a forgotten crisis and this year is even worse than before.”

Dr Yao says the reduced violence in the country means that fewer people are suffering from conflict-related injuries now than one year ago. “But today we have a large displaced population that will soon have no access to healthcare because they cannot pay for it,” Dr Yao says. “Any displacement increases the risk of communicable diseases because people are living in very poor conditions.”

Without a major injection of funding, humanitarian health services will stop delivering conflict-related injuries and they will only be delivering routine care, such as maternal and child health services and treatment for non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Source:: Humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic: lack of funding threatens the free-access to healthcare

Categories: African Press Organization

The Pope praises the dynamism of the Church in Benin

VATICAN, Holy See, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The vitality of the Church, the pastoral ministry of the family, attention to priests and persons religious, and relations with the civil authorities are the central themes of the written discourse that the Pope handed to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Benin this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

The Holy Father begins by praising the dynamism of parish life, the extensive participation of the faithful in ceremonies and the increase of vocations to the priesthood, but he also echoed the prelates’ reports that it is at times superficial and lacking in solidity and strength. “Therefore, it is important that the desire for a profound knowledge of the Christian mystery not be the prerogative of an elite, but instead must inspire all faithful, as everyone is called to holiness. It is imperative that the Church in Benin resists and defeats the winds to the contrary that are rising throughout the world and do not fail to blow upon you too. I know that you are vigilant in the face of numerous ideological and media attacks. The spirit of secularisation is at work in your country too, although it is not yet very visible. Only a faith profoundly rooted in the heart of the faithful, and lived in a concrete way, will enable you to face this”.

One of the challenges to the Church in Benin is family pastoral ministry, to which the upcoming Synod will seek to respond. The Pope thanks the prelates of Benin for their prayers for this assembly, and for their mobilisation of the dioceses to participate in such important event. “I can only encourage you to continue with determination in the efforts you have undertaken to support families, both in their faith and in their daily life. I know that the pastoral ministry of marriage remains difficult, considering the real social and cultural situation of the people. However, do not be discouraged, but persevere tirelessly as the family in defence of the Catholic Church is a reality willed by God; it is a gift of God that brings joy, stability and happiness to people and to societies. It is an important challenge since the family, as the basic unit of both society and of the Church, is the place where authentic human and Gospel values are transmitted”.

The bishop of Rome then turns to the theme of the education of the younger generations, who must bring solidarity, justice and mutual respect to the society of the future. “It is necessary to promote in your country – without of course renouncing any of the Truth as revealed by the Lord – the encounter between cultures and dialogue between religions, especially with Islam. It is well known that Benin offers an example of harmony between the religions present in her territory. It is however wise to be vigilant, considering the current world climate, in order to conserve this fragile heritage. I am particularly pleased that an international colloquium on interreligious dialogue has been held, under the presidency of Cardinal Tauran, which was widely appreciated”.

“Your local Churches have a key role in promoting harmony and justice in the progress of the country”, Pope Francis observes. “But it is a role they also play in healthcare and human development. How much work is carried out in the name of the Gospel in your dioceses! While the global crisis is affecting many countries, it is necessary to go against the grain with courage, fighting against the throwaway culture that reaches everywhere and spreading the Gospel values of hospitality and encounter. The service of charity is a constitutive dimension of the mission of the Church, and it is an expression of her essence. However, it should be borne in mind that the spirit of the works accomplished by the Church has a specific nature that must be clearly identified: she never acts as a form of simple social aid, but rather as the manifestation of the tenderness and mercy of Jesus Himself, who tends to the wounds and weaknesses of His brothers. The joy of the Gospel is thus announced to humanity in the most effective way”.

The Pope thanks the priests of Benin for their generous service into the Gospel and mentions again the great number of vocations, a blessing from the Lord, and encourages the Church in Benin to share her resources with the Churches of other regions which are lacking. However, he writes, “when you send your priests to study or on missions elsewhere, do so with judgement, without forgetting the needs of your own Churches”.

The final paragraphs of the text are dedicated to the good relationship between the Church and the civil authorities in the country. “The voice of the Church is listened to and her action is appreciated. I invite you to continue to take your place fully in the public life of the country, especially in these times. I know you are engaged in constant work to encourage relations between the different components of society. I invite you to continue along this path, taking care not to enter directly into the political arena or party disputes. The conduct of public affairs remains the duty of the laity, whom you have the important duty of ceaselessly educating and encouraging”.

Source:: The Pope praises the dynamism of the Church in Benin

Categories: African Press Organization

African leaders to develop common plan for stopping wildlife crime

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — African Heads of State, government representatives and experts are gathering at the International Conference on Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa where they will develop a common roadmap to end wildlife trafficking on the continent.

The Conference will seek to advance the first-ever Africa-wide strategy and action plan to tackle the illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, to be further considered at the next African Union Heads of State Summit later this year.

The four-day event is organised under the leadership of the Republic of Congo, in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), and with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the African Development Bank, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), among others.

“Forests and wildlife are part of our common African heritage but are disappearing at an alarming pace,” said His Excellency Denis Sassou Nguesso, the President of the Republic of Congo. “We have a duty to work together, as a continent, to safeguard our unique biodiversity for present and future generations and to craft strong collective solutions to address this calamity.”

The value of wildlife crime, comprising fauna and flora, and including logging, poaching and trafficking of a wide range of animals, amounts to many hundreds of billions of US dollars a year, according to estimates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNEP and INTERPOL.

Wildlife trafficking destroys biodiversity and ecosystems, undermining development and eroding livelihoods for millions of African citizens. It also creates insecurity, fuelling conflicts and corruption, depriving countries of their assets, compromising the rule of law and dividing societies.

“By the end of this event, we envisage to have a clear roadmap toward a strategy that is strong, Africa-owned and Africa-led,” noted Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. “The document will aim to galvanize collective action across borders and it will offer practical, home-grown solutions towards decisively eliminating poaching and illegal wildlife trade.”

Following the Brazzaville conference, the draft strategy and associated action plan will be further developed in consultation with all African Member States, and progress on the strategy will be reviewed when the continent’s leaders gather at their bi-annual meeting, this June, in South Africa.

“An African strategy developed by the African Union and its Member States, and focused on the needs of the continent is an extremely important step forward,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP.

“Its development will require full engagement of Member States, and its implementation will require enhanced and sustained international support, strong information networks, better public advocacy and accountability, as well as adequate laws and mechanisms to fully address the problem.”

The International Conference on Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa builds on the momentum and outcomes of the 2014 London and 2015 Kasane High Level Conferences on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and comes on the heels of the 23rd African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, which urged African nations to apply zero tolerance approaches, to take action to strengthen laws and policies, and to engage communities to combat illegal wildlife trafficking and related criminal activities.

“Trafficking in wildlife and forest products poses serious security, environmental, and development challenges”, said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator. “Addressing rural poverty, strengthening governance and the rule of law, and eradicating illicit trade in wildlife are key to addressing these threats and are essential for achieving Africa’s vision for sustainable development.”

Source:: African leaders to develop common plan for stopping wildlife crime

Categories: African Press Organization

Nomads of war: perpetual displacements of South Sudanese families in Upper Nile

JUBA, South Sudan, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Continuing clashes in Upper Nile state are leading to more deaths and displacements of people, some of whom are already displaced and living in dire conditions, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today. In Malakal, over 6,600 people have fled their homes to seek shelter at the UN protection of civilians (PoC) base, while in Melut, a town north of Malakal; over 1,665 families have sought refuge across the river Nile since the beginning of April. The organisation further called upon all parties to the South Sudanese conflict to allow for necessary humanitarian access to all parts of the country.

This new wave of displacement, sparked by clashes that started at the beginning of this month, has pushed the total number of internally displaced people at the UN base in Malakal to 26,500, since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013 causing congestion. The new internally displaced people are living in big tents, with dozens of families sharing the same tent and sleeping on the floor. MSF continues to provide medical services at the hospital in the UN base, while other agencies are on site to ensure sufficient water supply and proper sanitation. However, with the congestion, the few existing resources are being strained.

“The rainy season is just setting in and with the congestion in the PoC, we have started to see open defecation, long queues at water points due to low water quantity and pressure. Cases of acute diarrhoea are increasing so we are reinforcing our surveillance measures to ensure that outbreaks are prevented. Last year, MSF launched a cholera intervention and cholera vaccination campaign in the camp and we are ready to replicate actions if needed,” said Juan Prieto, MSF head of mission in South Sudan. However, we are afraid that if fighting continues, there will be more displacement, further congestion in the PoC and a deterioration of health and general living conditions.

In Melut, the over 1,665 families that have fled to the west side of the Nile are mostly members of the Shilluk ethnic group who were previously displaced and living in a camp. Most of them have fled to the Noon area, about 10 km across the Nile. These families are living under trees, with extremely limited access to latrines, leading to open defecation and have to travel long distances to fetch water from the Nile. Unless the water is treated, it is not fit for drinking. Other families are scattered all over the west bank of the Nile in Kaka, Kuju and Toruguang Payams, some 80 km away from Melut. These families have no shelter either, and their food resources are slowly getting depleted as they consume what they managed to salvage when they moved at the beginning of the month.

“The biggest problem is water. I have to go to the Nile three to four times a day. It is a 25-minute walk each way,” said 17-year-old Teresa, a Shilluk who recently fled to Noon. “We are worried for our lives and for the future, if we survive.”

MSF is supplying each family with water treatment kits in order for them to have clean water, as well as using speed boats and donkeys to transport and distribute food and non-food items to families scattered in different parts of Noon. The organisation is regularly conducting mobile clinics with outpatient and emergency room services for the population in Noon, and referring acute medical cases to health facilities in the towns of Melut and Kodok. In a day, MSF treats an average of 150 patients for diseases like measles, acute watery diarrhoea, and respiratory tract infections in Melut. However, due to continued fighting in the area, MSF is sometimes forced to suspend its activities, as a preventive measure, leaving the population in an even worse position.

“The people here have been on the move since the war started, they have nowhere to call home any more as insecurity has made them nomads, moving from one place to another in search of safe havens to stay. Whenever clashes start, they are prompted to move. Children under the age of five years and pregnant women are especially vulnerable during these times,” said Joao Martins, MSF project coordinator in Melut.

The security situation in Upper Nile, and in other states severely affected by the conflict, remains unstable. Mistrust between communities leads to clashes which, in turn, have massive humanitarian consequences. People are constantly on the run and yet the areas to which they flee do not offer favourable living conditions. In some states, like Upper Nile, some people have been forced to flee so many times that they don’t have a place to call home anymore.

As many more people get displaced, some to remote areas where they have hardly anything to live on, MSF calls upon all armed groups to facilitate the free movement of humanitarian assistance and personnel to all parts affected by the South Sudanese conflict. Only in this way can lives be saved.

MSF has been working in the region that today constitutes the Republic of South Sudan since 1983. MSF responds to emergencies, including large-scale displacement, refugee influxes, alarming nutrition situations and peaks of diseases such as measles, malaria, acute watery diarrhoea and kala azar, in addition to providing basic and specialised healthcare services. Since conflict began in South Sudan in December 2013, two million people have been displaced from their homes. Some live in camps while others have fled across the border to neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Source:: Nomads of war: perpetual displacements of South Sudanese families in Upper Nile

Categories: African Press Organization

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the presidential election in Togo

NEW YORK, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General welcomes the peaceful conduct of the presidential election in Togo on 25 April.

As Togo awaits the final results, the Secretary-General encourages all political leaders and segments of society to continue to maintain the peaceful atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the electoral process. He urges all candidates and their supporters to resolve any disputes that might arise through established legal procedures.

Source:: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the presidential election in Togo

Categories: African Press Organization

World Immunization Week Aims to “Close the Immunization Gap” and Provide, in Africa, “a Gift for Life”

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week (WIW) from 24th to 30th April this year aims to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination to people of all ages and increase rates of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases around the world. This year WIW focuses on ‘closing the immunization gap.’ African Vaccination Week is being celebrated under the theme “Vaccination, a gift for life”.

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

Despite recent progress within African countries, there is still significant opportunities provided by immunization.

Did you know that:

• Immunization can protect against 30 different infectious diseases, from infancy to old age;

• Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health stories;

• Immunization saves the lives of 2 to 3 million people worldwide each year.

In addition, the overall health benefits are significant. Immunised children have higher cognitive abilities and are more likely to attend school and go on to be productive members of their community.

By reducing illness and long-term disability, vaccines also generate savings for health systems and families. Health workers are freed up and parents spend less time looking after sick children(1).

Immunisation programs average about 80% coverage globally. South of the Sahara, the average was 80.6% for the DPT3 vaccine in 2013, with wide disparities across countries.

Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases, polio for example, have been eliminated through wide-scale immunisation programmes. Vaccines are available in public vaccination programmes in the vast majority of African countries, thanks to sustained political will, international support and innovative public/private partnerships2.

Ensuring equity and coverage across the continent and within countries requires sustained effort and resources. As African countries grow economically and actively finance vaccines and immunisation programmes(2).children and entire economies benefit. Fully-immunized African children have a better chance of living up to their full potential, both intellectually and physically3. And, by investing in immunization, African countries can make a lasting contribution to the millennium development goals (MDGs). These efforts will also advance the health and development commitments of African leaders and governments and allow children and adults to lead productive, prosperous, and healthy lives(3).

Africa and Human Papillomavirus

• An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of those deaths occur among women in developing countries. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035; and virtually all of those deaths will be in developing countries(4).

• Cervical cancer is the most common of all cancers in Africa and thus continues to be a significant threat that demands urgent attention in the African Region. In 2012, over half a million new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide with 1 in 5 being in sub-Saharan Africa(5).

• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut5.

• The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates HPV infections cause approximately 68 000 cases of cervical cancer each year in Africa. However, these figures most likely represent a conservative estimate due to the health challenges in health information systems and cancer registries in the region(6).

• Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(7).

Kenya and HPV

• Cervical cancer in Kenya is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the most common cancer found in women between 15 and 44 years of age(8).

• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancer lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut(9).

• Immunisation to protect against HPV, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(10).

• Kenya became the first country to protect girls against cervical cancer with GAVI-supported HPV vaccines. The first round of the HPV demonstration project took place at the Central Primary School in Kitui County in Eastern Kenya(11). If the HPV vaccine demonstration programme is successful there, it can be expanded to other regions across Kenya.

• This vaccination programme will help Kenya achieve its goal to prevent unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer in Kenya and support an entire generation of women to live healthy, and productive lives.

• MSD commends the HPV immunization efforts in Kenya and supports its continued partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Health to expand HPV vaccine coverage across the country.

“For more than 100 years, scientists at MSD has been discovering and developing vaccines to help prevent certain diseases in children, adolescents and adults,” said Farouk Shamas Jiwa, Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa, MSD. “We have an important responsibility to improve access to vaccines and quality healthcare worldwide. We do this by working in partnership with others — governments, donors, patient organizations, healthcare professionals, NGOs, multilateral organizations and others in the private sector — to lend our expertise and knowledge. Our commitment is steadfast as we work to increase access to vaccines now and in the future.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme).

Contacts for Media:

Charlie McCurdy,

Global Communications | Eastern Europe/Middle East/Africa

T: +1 267-305-7545

E: charles.mccurdy@merck.com

Farouk Shamas Jiwa,

Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa

T: +41 799623934

E: farouk.jiwa@merck.com

About MSD

Today’s MSD (http://www.merck.com) is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. MSD is a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.msd.com or [insert country-specific website] and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

References:

1. http://www.gavi.org/about/value/

2. http://sa.au.int/en/sites/default/files/2014_Status_Report_on%20MNCH%20-%20English_1.pdf

3. www.carmma.org/download/file/fid/821

4. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/?utm_source=The+Alliance+at+work&utm_campaign=c7db6ec405-The_Alliance_at_Work_Issue_7&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b075913875-c7db6ec405-407303021

5. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/7550-implementing-cervical-cancer-interventions-key-to-save-african-women.html

6. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/afro-feature/item/7557-cervical-cancer-common-amongst-african-women.html

7. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/

8. http://www.hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/UGA.pdf

9. http://www.gavi.org/Library/News/Press-releases/2013/Kenya-first-country-to-protect-girls-against-cervical-cancer-with-GAVI-support/

Source:: World Immunization Week Aims to “Close the Immunization Gap” and Provide, in Africa, “a Gift for Life”

Categories: African Press Organization