Africa: Biosecurity in the Time of Ebola

WASHINGTON, February 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Remarks

Rose Gottemoeller

Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

University of Virginia, Jefferson Literary and Debating Society

Charlottesville, VA

February 13, 2015

As Delivered

Good evening and thank you for the kind introduction. It is great to be down here in Charlottesville. It’s also great to see so many young people here at the start of a three day weekend ready to talk about germs and bugs. Biosecurity is an issue area that will only grow in importance in the coming years, so it is encouraging to see so much interest.

Whether you are talking about anthrax, avian flu, or Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, we need a global capability to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to biological threats no matter their origin. This is doubly so in a world that is confronting naturally occurring epidemics like Ebola, while guarding against the possibility of bioterror. With this in mind, representatives from around the world braved a Washington, DC snow storm to launch the Global Health Security Agenda exactly one year ago today.

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is an international effort to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. GHSA partners include 44 nations, international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and Interpol, nongovernmental partners, and private stakeholders.

In particular, the Agenda seeks to elevate efforts to:

• Prevent the likelihood of outbreaks, whether natural, accidental, or deliberate in origin;

• Detect outbreaks early to save lives; and

• Respond to outbreaks effectively using the full range of multisectoral resources

Last February, countries were called upon to make new, concrete commitments to advance national, regional or global capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to biological threats. About a month after the Agenda’s launch, in March 2014, Guinea first reported confirmed Ebola cases. Since that time, the outbreak turned into the largest Ebola epidemic in recorded history, with over 22,000 cases and nearly 9,000 deaths. Beyond Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – the three most impacted countries – Ebola spread to Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and of course, our own country.

The Ebola Epidemic underscores the significant security risks that infectious disease outbreaks pose. Ebola’s toll on the social and economic fabric of West Africa is undermining political stability and the progress that this region has made after decades of civil war.

The epidemic’s profound political and economic consequences also threaten political stability and the ability of governments to counter violent extremism from terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram. West Africa is now also home to large collections of Ebola samples, and we are putting a high priority on ensuring these collections will not be exploited for malicious purposes.

The outbreak served to underscore the direct link between international security and health capacities– the very capacities the Global Health Security Agenda aims to strengthen. It has also demonstrated the need and value of collaborations between the health, development, and security communities.

President Obama has made it clear that “fighting this epidemic is a national security priority for the United States” and that world leaders needed to increase efforts to counter a wide range of biological threats, “from infections that are resistant to antibiotics to terrorists that seek to develop and use biological weapons.”

As the President stressed, accelerating progress toward global health security will require concerted, multi-disciplinary efforts worldwide including:

• Establishing all hazards Emergency Operations Centers that can rapidly integrate real-time disease data and into response strategies;

• Training new cadres of epidemiologists who can quickly detect outbreaks;

• Broadening early childhood immunization efforts;

• Strengthening linkages between ministries of health and agriculture; and

• Bolstering the security of dangerous pathogen collections.

Packages were developed with specific, measurable targets, including advancing national biosecurity and biosafety systems, as well as real-time biosurveillance, in addition to enhancing capacity for modern diagnostics. Such diagnostics minimize the likelihood that disease agents need to be cultured and stored. We also worked to establish emergency operations centers and the necessary workforce to investigate and fight disease outbreaks – before they become epidemics.

For those of you who may have started out wondering why the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security was talking about Ebola, I assume it is clear now. Global health and nonproliferation may seem like distinct missions, but they overlap in important ways, and we can accomplish more by working together. In West Africa and around the world, the Department of State plays a central role in reducing threats from dangerous pathogens.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy implemented the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs to reduce risks associated with dangerous materials, equipment, and expertise from the Soviet Union’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. During this period, State and Defense developed substantial expertise in training scientific and laboratory personnel in biosafety and biosecurity best practices, securing collections of pathogens such as Ebola and anthrax, and improving disease detection systems. The capabilities we gained then are now helping us to fight the Ebola outbreak. Those same skills are helping us to reduce the likelihood that aspiring bioterrorists get their hands on Ebola samples.

To that end, the Department of State has trained and equipped over 1,200 Liberian police officers, over 2,000 Sierra Leonean police officers, and several hundred Guinean police officers to safely and effectively perform key security-related duties during the crisis.

We also completed a biosecurity assessment of the Malian high containment laboratory that processes Ebola samples, and will soon support this lab in bolstering its security measures. Working closely with our DoD threat reduction colleagues, we are also making sure that other labs in West Africa that store Ebola samples identify vulnerabilities and rapidly implement physical security measures. We put a premium on flexibility and speed so we could rapidly respond to developments in the outbreak. In November, when Mali experienced an unexpected uptick of Ebola cases, we responded to an urgent request to stand up an Emergency Operations Center in Bamako by quickly redirecting funds for this initiative. Within a week of the original request, the center’s equipment was in place – lightning speed by government standards.

At the core of our efforts was a massive coordination campaign. The State Department worked closely with U.S. and West African diplomats on the ground, and our counterparts throughout the government to bring the full range of U.S. resources to bear. Of course, work like this is not free, so it was also important to pool resources with the international community. All told, since President Obama urged nations to contribute to the response, countries from all over the world, private sector stakeholders, international organizations, and multilateral development banks have pledged more than $2 billion to end the epidemic.

There is still work to be done. While overall trends are positive, a modest uptick in cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in late January should serve as a powerful reminder that we must remain vigilant and intensify our efforts. Our fight against this outbreak is not finished until we get to zero cases. While this crisis has been primarily humanitarian in nature, the work we have done can help reinforce nonproliferation norms around the world. These nonproliferation norms tie directly back to another State Department responsibility – the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

The BWC, for those of you who don’t know, is a legally binding treaty that bans the development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, and production of biological agents and toxins in types and in quantities that have no justification for protective or peaceful purposes. As a note, the use of biological weapons was banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. My team at State has led outreach to expand the convention’s membership, and today there are 172 States Parties.

Our primary BWC objective is to work with other Parties to strengthen the Convention as an instrument for combating bioweapons proliferation and terrorism. We continue our push for universal adherence to the BWC, in order to globalize its ban on these weapons.

Every five years, the States Parties meet in Geneva to participate in a Review Conference (RevCon) that is the culmination of the last five years of efforts to strengthen the Convention. The next RevCon will take place in 2016. The United States will seek agreement on measures to improve national implementation of the Convention’s prohibitions on biological weapons and improve coordination of international assistance in the event of outbreaks of infectious disease, whether caused naturally – as in the case of Ebola – or intentionally.

Article VII of the BWC commits its Parties to provide assistance to any other Party “if the (UN) Security Council decides that such Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention.” The problem is that it can be difficult and time consuming to determine whether biological weapons have been used, particularly compared to use of most other types of weapons. This means that much of what needs to be done to fulfill the undertaking of Article VII is also necessary for disease outbreaks that occur naturally. The international community cannot wait to provide the necessary assistance while investigations on the cause of an outbreak are carried out.

And this fact, in turn, means that the work of the BWC in this area is tied closely to international efforts to prepare for any type of public health emergency. Planning to deal with an Article VII scenario can enhance public preparedness, but must also be done with the experience of natural disease outbreaks in mind. We are hoping that lessons learned from the response to the Ebola crisis can help BWC Parties prepare for more effective coordination in the event of future disease outbreaks, regardless of whether such outbreaks are naturally occurring, the result of accidents, or caused by intentional acts. I think one of the biggest lessons learned from the first year of the Global Health Security Agenda is that resolve makes all the difference.

The Agenda was launched on a bitterly cold and snowy day, when roads and offices across Washington were closed. That didn’t keep people from the table. They knew the effort we were starting was too important to delay. We have also witnessed extraordinary resolve and courage in the health workers in West Africa who – in the face of mortal danger – continued to treat the sick. As I said, we are determined to get to zero cases, and long after this epidemic is over, we will need that resolve to meet new challenges wherever and however they arise.

Thank you so much for your attention. I look forward to your questions.

Source:: Africa: Biosecurity in the Time of Ebola

Categories: African Press Organization

UN Emergency Fund CERF gives US$10.2 million for flood response in Malawi and Mozambique

NEW YORK, February 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — United Nations humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, has allocated US$10.2 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support thousands of families displaced by major floods in Malawi and Mozambique.

Extremely heavy rains and floods in January displaced 230,000 people in Malawi, and 50,000 people in Mozambique. Many have lost everything, including their homes.

“The Humanitarian Country Teams in both countries requested CERF funding to kick-start emergency relief efforts. CERF has been part of the collective effort to provide critical, life-saving assistance for those affected by the floods in Malawi and Mozambique,” said Mr. Ignacio Leon-Garcia, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for Southern Africa.

CERF allocated $7 million for Malawi, where displaced families fled with what little they could carry. Many have found shelter in makeshift structures, schools, churches and other public buildings while thousands have been forced to sleep out in the open. Most people still lack access to the most basic facilities.

In neighbouring Mozambique, CERF provided $3.2 million for relief operations for 50,000 people housed in temporary in accommodation hardest hit Zambézia province. Almost half of Zambézia’s population was food insecure before the floods hit, meaning displaced people have extremely limited resources to fall back on.

With these funds, humanitarian partners in Malawi and Mozambique will provide urgent aid including food, shelter, clean water and sanitation services and seeds and tools so that affected farming families have another chance at a harvest and a livelihood this year.

“However, more resources will be needed to build back better, ensuring that the population affected will be more resilient in the near future,” warned Mr. Leon-Garcia.

CERF was established in 2006 to help humanitarian agencies respond rapidly to new or deteriorating humanitarian crises. Since then, CERF has allocated $18.8 million to support relief efforts in Malawi and $30.8 million for aid operations in Mozambique.

Source:: UN Emergency Fund CERF gives US$10.2 million for flood response in Malawi and Mozambique

Categories: African Press Organization

Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H.E. Mr. Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt

NEW YORK, February 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The Secretary-General reiterated his condemnation of the recent killing of 21 Egyptians in Libya by Da’esh. He also discussed with the Minister issues of mutual concern, including the situations in Libya and Gaza, and the fight against terrorism.

Source:: Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H.E. Mr. Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Categories: African Press Organization

Is transmission the cancer of Africa’s electricity market?

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — As we witness utilities across the continent struggling to acquire and evacuate electricity sufficient enough to reach a base-load, transmission is fast-proving the biggest barrier to energy access across Africa.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/energynet1-2.png

Photo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1763

Presently, there are never-before-seen levels of investment into the power sector- no longer is it simply the poor cousin of exploration. Investors today view power as an opportunity quoted by some as so vast it will make the returns of the African telecoms giants insignificant by comparison.

However, despite over US$8bln of project investments in greenfield projects in South Africa alone, transmission continues to collapse, significantly impacting the social and political landscape of the continent. In addition, this threatens the bankability of future generation projects already under development.

After over 20 years in development, the EAPP, SAPP, African Development Bank, China Development Bank and World Bank together with their public sector partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa are starting to make headway which could finally see an end to the transmission crisis.

These projects could be the start of incredible opportunities for East and Southern Africa, promoting everything from township electrification to major industrial development. This outcome is only possible if these countries can maximise the capacity of the presently elusive manufacturers and industrialists looking to take advantage of the export zones currently under development.

You only have to see what the UAE has achieved to see how a resource-based economy can transform a country’s riches if the right investments in infrastructure are made. On the flip side, there are examples where these critical investments were not made – resulting in economic and social turmoil.

The question therefore is this – which president will rise to the challenge and build a legacy on the continent that reads, “I truly brought electricity to Africa, I truly made a difference?”

EnergyNet, as it has been doing for the last 17 years, will facilitate this debate by welcoming 100 key decision-makers to Kenya from 25-27th March for the Powering East Africa meeting (www.powering-eastafrica.com). Major DFIs, power developers and transmission companies will come together to influence the conversation, enabling participants to understand what’s happening to East Africa’s transmission network in the medium to long term. For more information, visit www.powering-eastafrica.com

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of EnergyNet Ltd.

EnergyNet welcomes your contribution to this debate. To get involved, tweet us at @EnergyNet_Ltd #poweringeastafrica or contact pe-a@energynet.co.uk

Source:: Is transmission the cancer of Africa’s electricity market?

Categories: African Press Organization

Keys Communications introduces its successful Township Wall Media to the rest of Africa, from Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe, February 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — After over 5 years of leadership in the township wall advertising industry throughout South Africa, township media specialists, Keys Communications (http://www.keyscommunications.co.za) are expanding their successful business model to include the rest of Africa. The African operations will be headquartered in Zimbabwe. This unique model has a pivotal CSI component, providing community members with revenue opportunities for the use of the township wall as an advertising platform. In turn brands enjoy a strategic advertising location which facilitates direct access to a captive audience within the context of their daily experiences – be it going to work, school or a place of leisure.

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Photo 1: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1760 (Anisa Kale, Founder and Owner of Keys Communications)

Photo 2: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1761 (Work by Keys Communications)

“This is our ABCD model of Township Outdoor Media which we are now introducing into the rest of Africa,” says Anisa Kale, Owner of Keys Communications, commenting on the (ABCD) Assets Based Community Development Model which uses existing township resources of people, knowledge and structures, creating mutual benefits between the advertiser and target market to foster community affinity and loyalty to brands.”

Keys Communications provides brands with advertising locations on main arterials in the townships, while giving brands the opportunity to improve the socio-economic conditions of people in the township by renting their wall space and providing them with an income.

This has been achieved working with the likes of Nike SA, Supersport, Nedbank, Wimpy, Department of Water Affairs, Strepsils, Coca Cola SA (Powerplay Energy Drink), Guinness Draught Beer, Eskom and many other brands, providing the perfect advertising platform which enables these and other brands to access the niche township growth market present in both South Africa and Zimbabwe (including the rest of Africa).

“Zimbabwe and similar countries in Africa are an ideal environment for Township Wall Media, where like South Africa, there is always an ever increasing consumer market. This medium provides a perfect solution for brand advertising and Keys Communications is creating the necessary infrastructure, opening up new avenues to facilitate further brand exposure opportunities using township wall advertising in Africa” says Kale.

By establishing a close connection to the Zimbabwean and other African townships and communities, Keys Communications optimises their expertise in marketing to create the foundations that will both further a brand’s objectives and also uplift the community through the CSI model which combines philanthropy with an entrepreneurial edge. “We aim to create an ideal win-win situation, enabling brands to communicate directly with the aspirational township target market, giving them inroads to places where traditional outdoor media do not often enjoy access, including rural and township areas while also providing brands with exposure in urbanised locations,” says Kale.

A fundamental figure in our Africa Operations, head quartered in Zimbabwe is Vimbai Muchenje, who brings a wealth of marketing knowledge from over ten years of work experience across a broad spectrum of industries, making her instrumental in being able to act in the best interests of different brands.

Together with strong family values, accompanied with a passion for the advertising and marketing industries, Muchenje is an effective communicator which has played a significant part in opening up the medium of Township Wall Media in this new territory. “Both Zimbabwean brands and the communities of their respective target markets and brands are excited to embrace this medium,” says Muchenje. “We are currently creating strong relationships with both landlords and clients alike based on the ABCD model.”

This is further supported by Keys Communications’ fastidious commitment to excellence, providing an advertising solution with a production finish, using a unique high definition airbrushing to create this sophisticated effect. “Basically, this enables a brand to paint anything on a township wall surface, resulting in a visual environment which becomes a landmark that could be positively associated with a brand, and provide top of mind awareness – such as when people speak about the “Clover AMASI Wall at the Maponya Mall,” using it as a destination landmark to direct traffic, or even asking the taxi driver to stop at that particular point,” says Muchenje. “In this way a brand is adopted by the community as part of the culture and everyday life experiences.”

This is further attested by results obtained from research conducted by the globally renowned Millward Brown in the last quarter of 2013. Results showed that not only is Township Wall Media as impactful as billboard advertising, effectively placing Township Wall Media in the mainstream Out of Home Offering, but Township Wall Media has better and deeper penetration, and costs less than traditional billboards.

“In this way Keys Communications is introducing new opportunities to brands in Zimbabwe, supplying the ideal communication medium for the target market and providing the high quality of a production finish of a billboard while capturing the township’s vital essence,” says Kale.

“We are very excited about the new expansion into Zimbabwe, a place where, together with Vimbai, we are importing the successful Keys Communications business model, in order to support brands in communicating their messages, while simultaneously assisting local communities, so that ultimately everyone can have a share in the success and effectiveness of each advertising campaign,” concludes Kale.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Keys Communications.

Media contact:

Anisa Kale, Keys Communications

Tel: (011) 027 0745

Cell: 083 548 4856

Email: anisa@keyscommunications.co.za

Source:: Keys Communications introduces its successful Township Wall Media to the rest of Africa, from Zimbabwe

Categories: African Press Organization

WFP GRATEFUL FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR SOUTH SUDAN’S HUNGRY

JUBA, South Sudan, February 17, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of US$165.5 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to feed hungry people in South Sudan.

“Support from the United States was vital last year in averting a hunger calamity in South Sudan, but our work is far from over, and this additional contribution will be critical in allowing us to pre-position food before the rainy season,” said Joyce Luma, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan.

“Without sustained assistance, a humanitarian catastrophe still lurks for millions of people, especially as long as fighting continues,” she said.

USAID’s latest contribution includes yellow split peas, vegetable oil, sorghum and ready-to-eat nutritional supplements to treat malnourished children. This food helps WFP respond to the needs of hungry people affected by conflict and food insecurity in South Sudan.

More than a year of fighting has forced 2 million people from their homes, damaged farming and trade, and devastated people’s lives. About 2.5 million people are estimated to be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity and need humanitarian assistance to survive.

WFP urgently requires US$377 million for its food assistance operations in South Sudan for the next six months, including prepositioning food ahead of the rainy season. With 60 percent of the country inaccessible from May due to rains, WFP must preposition food at safe forward bases to reduce the need for costly airlifts during the second half of the year.

Another US$56 million is needed to feed South Sudanese refugees in Kenya, Sudan and Uganda over the same time period.

Including this most recent funding, the United States has provided around US$600 million to support WFP’s lifesaving food assistance work in South Sudan since the conflict began more than a year ago. The latest contribution is part of a larger $273 million humanitarian package for agencies in South Sudan that the U.S. State Department announced on 9 February.

Source:: WFP GRATEFUL FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR SOUTH SUDAN’S HUNGRY

Categories: African Press Organization