Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — As of today, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food assistance to more than 430,000 people affected by the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In support of a unified response under the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), WFP is ramping up services to the whole humanitarian effort.

“This is human suffering at its most complicated. I said to our health partners, ‘Tell us what more we can do, how we can do better to help you.’ At WFP, we are shifting our gears to keep up with this huge challenge. We’re delivering food, logistic support, planes, helicopters, ships and building treatment centres,” said Denise Brown, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa.

WFP’s response to the Ebola outbreak includes:

• WFP’s food assistance is provided to patients in Ebola treatment centres, survivors of Ebola discharged from treatment centres and communities with widespread and intense transmission – including the families of people infected with Ebola who are in treatment, deceased, or recovering. This helps to stabilize affected communities by enabling them to limit unnecessary movement.

• Food distributions are ongoing in all three countries, in both urban and rural areas, often house-to-house, one family at a time — and more food is on the way. WFP has contracted a ship that is currently in Cotonou, Benin, loading 7,000 metric tons of rice to be transported to Monrovia and Freetown.

• The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), managed by WFP, has opened a new air corridor between Dakar, Accra, Freetown, Monrovia and Conakry to facilitate the rapid deployment of humanitarian staff to the field. UNHAS was already operating between the affected countries and has transported 497 passengers and 6.6 metric tons of light cargo for 25 organizations (NGO, UN, donors, government partners and media), using two fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter.

• WFP is providing unprecedented logistics support to help medical services to treat and prevent the spread of the virus. In Liberia’s capital Monrovia, WFP field engineers are setting up four Ebola Treatment Units with a capacity of 400 beds.

• WFP is helping to quantify the impact of the health crisis on household food security through an innovative technique called “mVAM,” using mobile phones for surveys that are normally done in person. In Sierra Leone, data collection via SMS has been completed for a sample of 800 households. In Guinea and Liberia, WFP is preparing data collection through interactive voice response.

• The UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD), managed by WFP, continues to support the response efforts of the World Health Organization, WFP, Irish Aid and Japan International Cooperation Agency. UNHRD depots in Dubai (UAE), Accra (Ghana), and Las Palmas (Spain) have so far dispatched 224 metric tons, worth US$ 1.9 million, of protective gear, emergency health kits and equipment to the region. Weekly dispatches are ongoing.

Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Every year, South Africa marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Week in an effort to increase awareness of trafficking in persons across the country. This year the week will run from today through next Friday (3-10 October).

The crime of human trafficking is being committed in South Africa, but due to its hidden nature, is very difficult to quantify. The number of victims assisted by IOM since 2004 shows that South Africans are being trafficked to other countries; that traffickers use the country as a transit destination; and that people are trafficked to the country from other parts of the world including Eastern Europe and Asia.

There is also evidence of internal trafficking taking place. Victims are recruited from informal settlements and rural areas by traffickers who take advantage of the desire of people for a better life, according to IOM’s 2008 report: “No Experience Necessary: The Internal Trafficking of Persons in South Africa.”

Victims often end up in the country’s major cities including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, and mining regions like Rustenburg.

“No country in the world is immune to the crime of human trafficking. It is a global phenomenon and the third largest profitable illegal trade after drugs and weapons. South Africa is a place of origin, transit and destination for victims,” says Richard Ots, IOM South Africa Chief of Mission.

To support the government of South Africa in the fight against human trafficking, IOM is launching a series of activities during this special awareness week.

Today and on Saturday (3-4 October), IOM will organize outreach campaigns in Pretoria and Johannesburg, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). These activities will aim at educating the public about trafficking – the process, forms of exploitation and how they can report suspected cases.

Earlier this year, IOM partnered with the UJ, Department of Strategic Communications to develop an awareness raising campaign. The concepts of campaigns were developed by UJ students as part of their Strategic Communication curriculum and student assessment this year.

The key message of the campaigns is “#TRAPPED”. This is intended to ignite curiosity about the campaign whilst highlighting the bondage and trauma experienced by trafficking victims. Once recruited and transported to their destinations, victims are usually trapped in helpless and exploitative situations.

On Monday (6 October), IOM will participate in a media briefing with senior officials from the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the headquarters of the NPA in Pretoria. The media briefing will provide an update on the human trafficking situation in South Africa, the national response, and share data on global and regional trafficking trends.

On the last day of the special week (10 October), IOM will partner with the Department of Justice, NPA, South African Police Service (The HAWKS) and the Dutch Embassy to host a public debate on Trafficking in Persons and Liberalization of Legislation on Commercial Sex Work in South Africa.

The debate aims to promote dialogue on legislation in combating trafficking in persons. Panellists will debate whether liberalization of legislation on prostitution in South Africa would lead to an increase or decrease in cases of trafficking in persons.

Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — One year after 368 migrants, mainly Eritreans, lost their lives in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy, survivors of the tragedy and relatives of the victims will return to the island of Lampedusa today for the first time to commemorate the event.

IOM Director General Ambassador William Lacy Swing, who met last year with the survivors of the shipwreck and heard their stories, will take part in the commemoration.

“Last year the world watched in horror when these migrants lost their lives trying to swim to the shores of Lampedusa. A few days later, on October 11th, hundreds more people, many of them families from Syria, lost their lives in another sinking. And last month, less than a year later, another 500 migrants, including Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians and Sudanese, met their death at sea off Malta. These tragedies appear endless,” said Ambassador Swing.

The IOM report “Fatal Journeys” presented earlier this week showed that over 3,000 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean – now the deadliest region in the world for irregular migration.

“Without (the Italian navy’s) Mare Nostrum operation, launched following the October 2013 tragedy, the number of deaths at sea would have been far higher. The top priority must be to continue patrols of this kind to save lives at sea,” added Swing.

Ambassador Swing will attend a conference this morning on “Humanitarian Channels for the Prevention of New Casualties”. At the event he will stress the need to provide safer and legal entry opportunities to migrants entitled to international protection. In IOM’s view, this is the best way to combat criminal organizations, smugglers and traffickers.

Other speakers at the conference will include President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz; President of the Italian Law Chamber Laura Boldrini; President of the Portuguese Parliament Maria De Assuncao Esteves; Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini; and Mayor of Lampedusa Giusy Nicolini. A representative of the families of the victims will also speak.

At midday, flowers will be placed at the spot where the boat sank. The Italian navy and coastguard, with others who participated in the rescue operation, will also place a gravestone on the seabed next to the wreck, which is about 130 feet below the surface. The commemoration will end at 7.00 pm, when 368 thin paper lanterns donated by IOM will be released into the night sky.

Oct 032014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On Sunday, 5 October, a community in the U.S. State of Ohio will put out the red carpet for a very special visitor. His name is Never. He was trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana and later rescued and rehabilitated by IOM.

Never’s heart-wrenching, yet uplifting story will be part of a “Save a Child” event in which IOM and U.S.-based partners will take part to raise awareness among residents of the City of Columbus, Ohio about the plight of trafficked children in Ghana.

Proceeds from the event will support the efforts of IOM and its U.S.-based non-profit partner, the U.S. Association for International Migration (USAIM), and GlobalGrandparenting, a charity founded by two community members, Rosanne and Mark Rosen, who were inspired to support this cause.

The three organizations have been working together to raise USD 100,000 to fund a 2015 rescue of 20 trafficked children exploited by fishing “masters” in the remote Lake Volta region of Ghana.

“We hope this event will bring greater awareness to our community about the incredible challenges children are facing all over the world,” says Rosanne Rosen. “This is all about Never and the kids in Ghana; they keep us motivated to do more.”

Children, as young as four years of age, are sold into slavery and still forced to work from dusk to dawn under dangerous conditions on Lake Volta.

Never was one of those children. When he was ten years old when he was removed from school and sent to work for a fisherman. Once in the fishing community, Never worked 14-hour days, starting at 5 a.m.

Most children are not able to attend school, lack adequate nutrition, face detrimental health consequences, and sometimes become entangled in fishing nets and drown.

Never was exploited for two years before the IOM team rescued him. Never hopes his story will bring relief to children who remain trafficked.

IOM has rescued 731 children, but unfortunately hundreds of children remain trapped in trafficking situations.

The Ghana project began attracting the attention of the U.S. public after the plight of these children was showcased on the Oprah Show in 2007. Since then, USAIM has raised over USD 500,000 for IOM Ghana’s counter-trafficking efforts.

“Beyond the financial resources mobilized, one of the greatest satisfactions for us is to see two communities, otherwise separated by thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, united behind a common cause. This is invaluable and shows the important role USAIM plays connecting globally conscious U.S. private donors and IOM,” said IOM Ghana Chief of Mission Sylvia Lopez-Ekra.

“In a country as large as the United States we try to target bigger cities,” added Luca Dall’Oglio, USAIM CEO and President. “Holding this event in a prominent community in the American Midwest is the perfect example of how effectively targeted messaging can reach the right people who will spread the word.”

The “Save a Child” event will highlight the 2015 goal to rescue 20 children and support them for at least 2 and a half years through IOM’s comprehensive approach to rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration.

The event will include music by the Urban Youth String Orchestra and performances by the Thiossane Institute Dancers. The “Save a Child” event will also provide an opportunity to recognize Children Saving Children, a Columbus community youth organization that has hosted fundraising events ranging from walkathons to benefit concerts to support this cause.

Oct 032014

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ —

⁻ Partnership aimed at addressing the high rates of preventable infant mortality across Africa

⁻ Philips unveils power-independent wind-up fetal Doppler; a clinical innovation that addresses local needs; enables healthcare workers to detect fetal distress during labour

Royal Philips (AEX: PHIA, NYSE: PHG) (http://www.philips.com), today announced a partnership with South Africa based not-for-profit organization, PET (PowerFree Education Technology) (http://www.pet.org.za), to further develop, test and commercialize a Wind-up Doppler Ultrasound Fetal Heart Rate Monitor (in short: Wind-up Fetal Doppler), a unique power-independent clinical innovation aimed at addressing the high rates of preventable infant mortality across Africa.

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

Photo 1: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1412 (The Wind-up Fetal Doppler is a device to easily and accurately count the fetal heart rate while the mother is in labor)

Photo 2: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1411 (from left to right: JJ van Dongen, Senior Vice President and CEO, Philips Africa; Maarten van Herpen, Head of the Philips Africa Innovation Hub; Dr Francois Bonnici, Director of PET and Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town)

The Wind-up Fetal Doppler is a device to easily and accurately count the fetal heart rate while the mother is in labor. A slowing of this fetal heart rate towards the end of a uterine contraction is an important indicator that a fetus is not receiving enough oxygen and may suffer brain damage or die. If this is detected early enough, a midwife or delivering nurse can take the necessary actions to save the child.

The Wind-up Fetal Doppler will be commercialized by the Philips Africa Innovation Hub (http://goo.gl/M1xVBI), which is the center for developing innovations “in Africa-for Africa” in the areas of healthcare, lighting and healthy living. The Philips Africa Innovation Hub has unveiled the first Philips prototype of the Wind-up Fetal Doppler, underpinning their commitment to the partnership. The prototype is subject to clinical testing and regulatory approval, before release for general usage.

Measuring fetal heart rate – an important indicator of fetal health

Women and infants in semi-urban and rural areas across Africa often die due to preventable complications during child birth. Many infants, especially in under-resourced settings die during labor or suffer brain injury due to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the baby during the hours that the mother is in labor. Many of these deaths could be prevented and cases of brain injury avoided, using a Doppler ultrasound monitor that helps midwives and delivering nurses to monitor the baby’s wellbeing during labor(1).

Current methods to measure the fetal heart rate are either too expensive, too inaccurate or rely on replaceable batteries or electricity to run; the Wind-up Fetal Doppler is especially designed to empower midwives and delivering nurses to give better care.

“It is very hard to do an accurate measurement with a Pinard-stethoscope, because you need to be able to hear the fetal heart well and count the rate correctly. It is often also uncomfortable for the mother. A Doppler ultrasound fetal heart rate monitor is a good solution, but the current monitors on the market require mains or battery power, and are not robust enough.” states, Anneke Jagau (http://pet.org.za/about.php?view=3), a midwife working for PET.

PET has been working on the development of the hand cranked, Wind-up Fetal Doppler for many years, and they verified the positive impact of the device in tests in Uganda (http://www.pet.org.za/media.php?node=11), where 60% more cases of abnormal fetal heart rate were detected in labor, compared to the standard Pinard-stethoscope.

Maarten van Herpen, Head of the Philips Africa Innovation Hub, states: “Philips is open to collaborations with key stakeholders, including governments and NGOs, to create impactful innovations that matter to people and address the key challenges that confront society. PET has invested many years in the development of this important idea. I am honored that PET has chosen Philips as the company that is best positioned to commercialize it and make it available across Africa”.

“We are very excited about the collaboration with Philips”, said Dr Francois Bonnici, Director of PET and Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town, “We chose to work with Philips because of a strong alignment on the mission to improve people’s lives with meaningful innovation. As a market leader in healthcare, Philips will be able to make our innovation available and affordable for frontline health care workers across the African continent.”

Philips remains consistently committed to reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, linked to the current UN Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 (MDGs) (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals); the company has also made a pledge (http://goo.gl/6kymNh) to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s initiative Every Woman Every Child (http://www.everywomaneverychild.org) and committed to improving the lives of 100 million women and children by 2025 targeting sub-Saharan Africa where high maternal and infant mortality can be addressed through early diagnosis and preventative care.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Royal Philips.

For further information, please contact:

Radhika Choksey

Philips Group Communications – Africa

Tel: +31 62525 9000

E-mail: radhika.choksey@philips.com

(1) Woods D. Appropriate technology and education for improved intrapartum care in under-resourced countries (http://goo.gl/xvBaL2). S Afr J Obstet Gynaecol 2009; 15: 78-79.

Mangesi L, Hofmyr GJ, Woods DL. Assessing the preference of women for different methods of monitoring the fetal heart in labour (http://goo.gl/W6YDkt). S Afr J Obstet Gynaecol 2009; 15: 58-59

About Royal Philips

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) (http://www.philips.com) is a diversified health and well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of Healthcare, Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips posted 2013 sales of EUR 23.3 billion and employs approximately 113,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. The company is a leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as male shaving and grooming and oral healthcare. News from Philips is located at http://www.philips.com/newscenter.

About PowerFree Education Technology (PET)

PET based in South Africa, was established as a not-for-profit organization by key experts in newborn and child health. PET advocates and stimulates the development of appropriate, low-cost, robust, and power-independent medical devices, together with learning materials, to aid life-saving decisions and help frontline healthcare workers meet the challenges of health care in under-resourced settings. More information on PET is located at


Oct 032014

NEW YORK, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Academic Impact will host another of its “Music for Peace” conversations on 9 October in Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m. Speakers will include members of South African a cappella group, The Soil, and singer and song writer, Simphiwe Dana.

The event takes place in observance of International Day of Non-Violence (2 October), Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and in tribute to the Mahatma’s formative years in South Africa. It will be co-hosted with two well-known cultural icons of New York City, the World Music Institute and the Apollo Theatre, who will kick off their “Africa Now! South Africa Festival” with this event at the United Nations Headquarters.

The United Nations Academic Impact, launched by the Secretary-General in November 2010, is committed to the “unlearning of intolerance” and peace and conflict resolution, both expressed through the power of music.

The “Music for Peace” event will be webcast and made available at http://webtv.un.org/. Online viewers are encouraged to submit their questions and comments to academicimpact@un.org.

Oct 032014

MOGADISHU, Somalia, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi visited Somalia to reaffirm the support of the United Nations to youth development in Somalia. During the mission, Mr. Alhendawi met with high level government officials and youth organizations to reiterate the support of the UN in developing the National Youth Policy to ensure that young people are empowered, consulted and able to participate in the development process.

“Young people in Somalia have paid the highest price of conflict and instability,” said Mr. Alhendawi. “I am here because I believe that youth are the country’s biggest assets. I reiterate the United Nations unwavering commitment to youth development through a new National Youth Policy.”

In meetings with the Somali Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, and Ministers of Higher Education, Youth and Sports, Education and Health, Mr. Alhendawi announced the support of the United Nations for the development of a National Youth Policy. The National Youth Policy, being developed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, will guide youth-focused interventions that will respond to the aspirations of youth and help young men and women play their role in bringing peace and stability to Somalia.

“The Youth are one of the critical resources of our nation considering their potential, numbers, vitality, and capabilities as change agents for national transformation,” said His Excellency Dr. Khalid Omar Ali, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Federal Government of Somalia.

Young people under 30 years old represent more than two thirds of the population today in Somalia, one of the largest demographic youth bulges in the world. Somalia has one of the lowest school enrolment rates in the world with only four out of ten children in school. Two thirds of youth are unemployed and lack of access to opportunities. As a result of over 25 years of conflict, two generations have been denied education, employment and knowing what a stable life is. Due to social and economic marginalization, young people are increasingly turning to crime and radicalization and are at risk of being recruited by armed groups. Particular emphasis is required to help girls and women to access education and employment as they face additional barriers compared to their male counterparts. Improving the lives of the youth is crucial for building peace and stability in the country.

“Through my meetings with government officials and young people in Somalia, I have felt the determination of this generation to open a new chapter. I have witnessed the challenges first hand, but I am confident that the determination of youth and right investment in them will transform the country. Young people have the potential to become drivers for peace and stability,” stressed Mr. Alhendawi.

In a visit to the Centre for Peace and Democracy to meet with youth from across different regions of Somalia, Mr. Alhendawi expressed that his visit was an opportunity to raise global awareness about the challenges and opportunities that Somali youth face.

“I would like to show the world who the real shabab are of Somalia,” said Mr. Alhendawi. “The real shabab of Somalia are the ones who are working hard to support the positive development and peace. Let’s restore the term ‘shabab’ to its true meaning—youth in Arabic. Somalia’s youth are the key to its future.”

In order for the Federal Government to reach its Vision 2016 and implement the New Deal Compact, the Youth Envoy stressed the importance of increasing the engagement with Somali youth. In partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and civil society, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) has already started to hold consultations with youth to ensure that they fully participate in and lend their voices to the ongoing peace- and state-building process their country is undertaking.

After the two-day mission to Somalia, the Youth Envoy stopped in Nairobi, Kenya to meet international donors and key stakeholders urging them to scale up investment into programming and support for Somali Youth.

In a meeting with the UN Country Team for Somalia, Mr. Alhendawi discussed the UN support to the Somali Federal Government through two initiatives that are currently under way: a comprehensive strategy on youth that aims at increasing youth participation in governance processes, prevent violence and promote reintegration, stimulate employment and economic empowerment of youth as well as further youth-friendly service provision; and a joint programme for youth employment that will provide direct employment opportunities, employment skills to the youth, and stimulate key sectors of the economy to create demand for skilled employment.

The visit was sponsored in part by United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Oct 032014

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Mr. Michel Lazare visited Abidjan from September 17 – October 2, 2014, to conduct discussions on the sixth review of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic and financial program supported by an arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF).1

At the conclusion of the mission, Mr. Lazare, issued the following statement:

“Macroeconomic performance in the first half of 2014 was solid, with continued strong economic activity, particularly in the construction, public work and service sectors. Inflation remained subdued. Budget execution was also satisfactory with stronger-than-expected revenue performance and expenditures contained to budgeted amounts. As a result, the basic primary balance recorded a small surplus compared to a deficit projected under the program. All performance criteria and indicative targets for end-June 2014 under the ECF arrangement were met.

“Côte d’Ivoire successfully issued in July 2014 a Eurobond, raising US$ 750 million to help finance the budget, extend average debt maturities and repay some domestic debt.

”Macroeconomic prospects for the remainder of 2014 and 2015 are encouraging. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is expected to reach about 8 percent in 2014 and 2015. The draft 2015 budget aims at supporting near and medium-term growth through a further expansion of public investment.

“Progress has been made in accelerating public procurement processes with a view to reducing sole-source contracting. The mission welcomes the authorities’ plans to set up a single Treasury account and further restructure public banks. The mission also welcomes the authorities’ intentions to reinforce the financial position of the energy sector and clear the stock of domestic arrears. Discussions shall continue in coming weeks on the financial modalities needed to achieve these objectives which are essential to keep public finances on a firm footing in the years ahead.

“The IMF team thanks the authorities for their hospitality and for the constructive discussions.”


The mission met and had constructive discussions with H.E. Dr. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; H.E. Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Finance and Budget; H.E. Ms. Niale Kaba, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of Economy and Finance; H.E. Mr. Abdourahmane Cisse, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of the Budget; H.E. Dr. Moussa Dosso, State Minister of Social Affairs, Employment and Vocational Training; H.E. Mr. Adama Toungara, Minister of Petroleum and Energy; H.E. Mr. Jean-Louis Billon, Minister of Trade, Handicraft and Small and Medium Size Businesses; H.E. Mr. Jean-Claude Brou, Minister of Industry and Mines; H. E. Patrick Achi, Minister of Economic Infrastructure; H.E. Cisse Ibrahima Bacongo, Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reform; other senior government officials; including from the Banque des Etats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO), as well as members of the business and donor communities.

1 The arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board on November 4, 2011 (see Press Release No. 11/399) in the amount of SDR 390.24 million (about US$616 million or CFAF 308 billion).

Oct 032014

DUBLIN, Ireland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Minister for Development, Trade Promotion, and North-South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock, TD, today announced over €1 million in extra funding to strengthen efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Minister Sherlock made the announcement during his two-day visit to Sierra Leone.

Today’s announcement brings Ireland’s total contribution to the Ebola response to over €2.5 million.

This extra funding will provide urgently needed extra beds in treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It will be used by International Medical Corps (IMC) to improve treatment centres in both countries, which have reached full capacity and face considerable pressure from the growing number of cases. The local and international staff will be trained in infection control and Ebola treatment.

Announcing the funding from Sierra Leone, Minister Sherlock said:

“My visit to Sierra Leone has shown me how grave the situation remains here. The continued spread of Ebola is having a devastating impact on already vulnerable communities across West Africa.

“This additional funding will go towards providing beds in an Ebola Treatment Centre with wards for suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola, ambulance services for patient transport, and safe burial at designated sites.

“Stopping this Ebola outbreak requires a comprehensive and co-ordinated response from the international community in support of the affected countries. We need to halt the spread of the disease through awareness-raising while at the same time increasing the capacity of the local health systems to treat those already infected.

“Ireland will continue to work closely with our EU, UN, NGO, and other international partners to improve and co-ordinate our efforts to effectively deal with this crisis.”

During his visit to Freetown Minister Sherlock met the President of Sierra Leone along with a range of Government Ministers, UN organisations, the WHO, and NGO partners including Concern, GOAL, International Rescue Committee, Red Cross, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Minister Sherlock made field visits to the Freetown Ebola Operations Centre supported by Concern and to communities supported by Goal to see how Irish assistance is directly contributing to tackling the epidemic on the ground.

Ireland has also provided over 42 tonnes of practical equipment including blankets, tarpaulin, tents, mosquito nets, soap, jerry cans, and water tanks to be distributed to affected communities.

Oct 022014

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — New data on irregular crossings of the Mediterranean, covering the third quarter of 2014, show an alarming increase in the numbers of people perishing while attempting to make the journey to Europe.

In both absolute and percentage terms, the numbers are up substantially. In all, 90,000 people crossed to Europe between 1 July and 30 September and at least 2,200 lost their lives, compared to 75,000 people and 800 deaths for the period between 1 January and 30 June. In other words, a person making the journey in the first half of the year faced a 1.06 per cent chance of losing their life, while the odds for someone crossing in the third quarter more than doubled to 2.4 per cent.

In all, 165,000 people have made the crossing so far this year compared to 60,000 for all of 2013 – making 2014 a record year and reflecting the level of desperation among many of those involved.

In light of the dangers, UNHCR is today reiterating its call for Europe to commit more resources for rescue at sea in the Mediterranean and step up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages. The collective response needs to maintain a strong capacity to rescue people at sea and increase safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe. If Europe fails in these efforts, many more lives will continue to be lost, and incidents such as the disasters off Lampedusa a year ago this week will become more common.

”We are failing to heed the lessons from the terrible events of last October, and more and more refugees are drowning trying to reach safety. EU countries must work together to continue and bolster the vital task – which has been mostly carried out by Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation, but also by commercial vessels – of rescuing people at sea,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

While the full reasons for this year’s increases both in crossings and deaths are not known, a number of factors appear to be involved. One is the situation in Libya, from where many of those making the crossing depart. There, insecurity has hit vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East hard – prompting many to flee. Libya must play its part in ensuring respect for the principles of human rights and international law, because weak law enforcement is allowing people smuggling networks to prosper. Also apparent is that boats and dinghies are often more crowded, with cases of people dying of asphyxiation aboard boats or travelling without life-jackets. Last month’s tragedy off Malta, in which as many as 500 people were killed when their boat was reportedly sunk by smugglers, left only 11 survivors. Those few that survived spe nt days in the water watching helplessly as family members and friends perished.

Although not all of the people making the journey to Europe are looking for asylum, the third quarter data show that the proportion fleeing war or persecution in their countries is growing. Asylum seekers from two such countries, Syria and Eritrea, have accounted for almost half of those making the crossing since 1 July. While this is a fraction only of the global refugee total (some 16.7 million people worldwide, overwhelmingly hosted by countries bordering war zones), it nonetheless represents growth in the refugee caseload.

Many of those making the crossing have no legal or safe way of reaching Europe. Alternatives must be urgently found to protect people from the risks of travelling with smugglers. These could include increased resettlement quotas and access to humanitarian visas for people fleeing war and persecution, as well as joint border management policies involving the EU and North African countries that not only look at border security but also have a clear human rights/refugee component.

UNHCR is also calling on European governments to do more to facilitate family reunification. In addition, states could establish private sponsorship schemes and use programmes such as student or employment visas to benefit refugees. “We have to find better ways of allowing these desperate people to find a place of safety. They have gone through dangers and horrific experiences which many of us can only try to imagine,” said Guterres.

These challenges cannot be addressed by a few states alone; a joint European response is needed, based on collaboration among states and EU support to ensure additional initial reception facilities, assistance in processing as well as identifying solutions for those in need of international protection.

Oct 022014

LONDON, United-Kingdom, October 2, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary co-hosts the Defeating Ebola Conference to drive forward the international response to the epidemic in Sierra Leone.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, today co-hosted a conference with the Development Secretary and Government of Sierra Leone to galvanise the international community into doing more to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The Defeating Ebola Conference brought together over 20 governments, the UN, WHO, World Bank, NGOs, health experts and the private sector to pledge greater financial assistance, equipment and health personnel. Will Pooley, the British nurse who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone and recovered in the UK, addressed the conference about his experience. Actor Idris Elba also joined a session with Africa Minister James Duddridge and representatives from the Sierra Leonean diaspora community.

Following the conference Philip Hammond said:

“Ebola is a terrible scourge. Today’s conference discussed the devastating impact Ebola is having on Sierra Leone and the region. We were clear that this disease is a major threat that knows no borders. We agreed to increase our efforts to tackle Ebola and to act fast to save lives.

“The UK has so far committed £125 million to this effort. But as well as the financial commitment, I want to emphasise the huge contribution made by British troops and medics who are creating new capacity including health facilities in Sierra Leone.

“The UK is leading and coordinating the response, but we need international help and today we have made significant progress in securing it. We’ve had some concrete pledges here today from a number of countries which range from financial support to airlift capability and health care personnel. I’ve been impressed by the real determination and renewed commitment from across the international community, including NGOs, the private sector and the Sierra Leonean diaspora, to defeat Ebola.

“It is clear this is the start of the process and not the end. The fight against Ebola will be won over the course of months, so we need to sustain our effort.”