USTDA Provides Technical Assistance for Power Africa Project in Ghana

Today, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a $704,815 grant to Home Energy Africa Limited, a Ghanaian solar power developer, for technical assistance that will help bring a 100-megawatt solar power photovoltaic (PV) project in the village of Nyimbale-Sankana, Ghana towards financial close.

“Lack of power is a challenge we see across sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of three people in this region lack access to electricity. That hinders business, and it hinders prosperity. We’ve made increasing access to power one of the top priorities for our bilateral relationship. Today’s grant is just one more way we’re bringing together government and the private sector to make Ghana’s future brighter,” stated the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson, who signed the grant on behalf of USTDA along with President and CEO of Home Energy Africa, Charles Sena Ayenu.

“One of Ghana’s paramount constraints to sustainable economic growth is the country’s inadequate electric power supply. This grant will support us in bringing our solar power PV project to financial close in order to fill the gap in power supply, meet Ghana’s goals for clean and sustainable energy, help create over 200 jobs to local communities and provide electricity to at least 80,000 average homes in Ghana,” said Mr. Ayenu.

Home Energy Africa has selected GreenMax Capital Advisors (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to carry out the technical assistance. This will include preparation for power purchase agreement negotiations, services contracts and financing arrangements. Implementation of the project will support the Government of Ghana in achieving its target of 5,000 MW of installed generation, including 10 percent from renewable sources.

USTDA’s partnership with Home Energy Africa supports the goals of Power Africa, a U.S. government-led initiative to increase electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

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USTDA Provides Technical Assistance for Power Africa Project in Ghana

Today, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a $704,815 grant to Home Energy Africa Limited, a Ghanaian solar power developer, for technical assistance that will help bring a 100-megawatt solar power photovoltaic (PV) project in the village of Nyimbale-Sankana, Ghana towards financial close.

“Lack of power is a challenge we see across sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of three people in this region lack access to electricity. That hinders business, and it hinders prosperity. We’ve made increasing access to power one of the top priorities for our bilateral relationship. Today’s grant is just one more way we’re bringing together government and the private sector to make Ghana’s future brighter,” stated the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson, who signed the grant on behalf of USTDA along with President and CEO of Home Energy Africa, Charles Sena Ayenu.

“One of Ghana’s paramount constraints to sustainable economic growth is the country’s inadequate electric power supply. This grant will support us in bringing our solar power PV project to financial close in order to fill the gap in power supply, meet Ghana’s goals for clean and sustainable energy, help create over 200 jobs to local communities and provide electricity to at least 80,000 average homes in Ghana,” said Mr. Ayenu.

Home Energy Africa has selected GreenMax Capital Advisors (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to carry out the technical assistance. This will include preparation for power purchase agreement negotiations, services contracts and financing arrangements. Implementation of the project will support the Government of Ghana in achieving its target of 5,000 MW of installed generation, including 10 percent from renewable sources.

USTDA’s partnership with Home Energy Africa supports the goals of Power Africa, a U.S. government-led initiative to increase electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

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USTDA Provides Technical Assistance for Power Africa Project in Ghana

Today, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a $704,815 grant to Home Energy Africa Limited, a Ghanaian solar power developer, for technical assistance that will help bring a 100-megawatt solar power photovoltaic (PV) project in the village of Nyimbale-Sankana, Ghana towards financial close.

“Lack of power is a challenge we see across sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of three people in this region lack access to electricity. That hinders business, and it hinders prosperity. We’ve made increasing access to power one of the top priorities for our bilateral relationship. Today’s grant is just one more way we’re bringing together government and the private sector to make Ghana’s future brighter,” stated the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson, who signed the grant on behalf of USTDA along with President and CEO of Home Energy Africa, Charles Sena Ayenu.

“One of Ghana’s paramount constraints to sustainable economic growth is the country’s inadequate electric power supply. This grant will support us in bringing our solar power PV project to financial close in order to fill the gap in power supply, meet Ghana’s goals for clean and sustainable energy, help create over 200 jobs to local communities and provide electricity to at least 80,000 average homes in Ghana,” said Mr. Ayenu.

Home Energy Africa has selected GreenMax Capital Advisors (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to carry out the technical assistance. This will include preparation for power purchase agreement negotiations, services contracts and financing arrangements. Implementation of the project will support the Government of Ghana in achieving its target of 5,000 MW of installed generation, including 10 percent from renewable sources.

USTDA’s partnership with Home Energy Africa supports the goals of Power Africa, a U.S. government-led initiative to increase electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

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Readout of the Secretary-General’s phone call with H.E. Mr. Denis Sassou N’Guesso, President of the Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General spoke today with the President of the Republic of the Congo, H. E. Mr. Denis Sassou N’Guesso.

The Secretary-General thanked President Sassou N’Guesso for his engagement with the Central African Republic and looked forward to his continued support in the post-transition period.

The Secretary-General expressed concern about the Government’s ongoing security operation in the Pool region of the Republic of the Congo and its impact on the civilian population. He urged President Sassou N’Guesso to ensure that humanitarian and other relevant actors are granted access to the affected areas. He also called on the President to ensure that the security forces show restraint in the use of force and comply with the Republic of the Congo’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

The Secretary-General underscored the need for political dialogue to foster national unity following the recent elections. He emphasized the importance of President Sassou N’Guesso’s personal engagement and reaffirmed the United Nations’ readiness to support the Government and people of the Republic of the Congo in this regard.

New York, 18 May 2016

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Mauritania

The Secretary-General welcomes the release of human rights activists Biram Dah Abeid and Brahim Ould Bilal on 17 May in Mauritania, following a Supreme Court decision.

The Secretary-General commends efforts by the Mauritanian authorities to strengthen the rule of law and urges the judicial authorities to carefully investigate the circumstances that led to the arrests of the activists.

The Secretary-General also encourages the Mauritanian Government to pursue its efforts to promote national unity and social cohesion.

New York, 18 May 2016

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Readout of the Secretary-General’s phone call with H.E. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya

The Secretary-General spoke today by telephone with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya following the Kenyan Government’s decision of 6 May 2016 to close the Dadaab refugee camps. He expressed deep appreciation to President Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for decades of generous hospitality to significant populations of asylum-seekers and refugees. The Secretary-General assured President Kenyatta that he appreciated the enormous task and responsibility involved in hosting large numbers of refugees, amidst daunting security challenges.

The Secretary-General urged President Kenyatta to continue to use the Tripartite Agreement, signed in November 2013 with the Federal Government of Somalia and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as a basis for the voluntary return of Somali refugees in safety and dignity. He expressed the United Nations support to Kenya, including the proposal by the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, that a high-level bilateral review on the refugee situation in Kenya be conducted by the Government of Kenya and UNHCR.

The Secretary-General mentioned that the Deputy Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Refugees would visit Kenya at the end of May. They look forward to discussing this issue forward with the Government of Kenya, and will underline the readiness of the United Nations to garner the support of the international community in addressing Kenya’s refugee challenges, with consideration for the host communities in Kenya as well as the sub-regional security concerns.

New York, 18 May 2016

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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International day of United Nations peacekeepers to be observed at New York Headquarters, 19 May

The United Nation Headquarters will observe the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Thursday, 19 May 2016. It will mark the eighth successive year in which the Organization will honour more than 100 “blue helmets” who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will lay a wreath to honour all fallen peacekeepers and will preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 128 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2015.

Three fallen peacekeepers from Nigeria are among the 128 who will posthumously receive the Dag Hammarskjold medal — Police Chief Superintendent Michael Onuoh, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan; Mr. Oladipo ONI who served as an international staff member of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSC); and Mr. Salisu O. ADEYEMI who was a United Nations Volunteer deployed with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

In a message to mark the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “On this Day we honour our heroes – the more than one million men and women who have served under the United Nations flag with pride, distinction and courage since the first deployment in 1948. And we pay our highest tribute to the more than 3,400 peacekeepers who have lost their lives while in service during that period.”

Today, more than 105,000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop- and police-contributing countries serve under the blue flag, along with 18,000 international and national civilian staff and United Nations Volunteers.

Nigeria is the twelfth largest contributor of military and police personnel to the United Nations with 2,810 currently serving in 10 peacekeeping operations.

In addition to maintaining peace and security, peacekeepers are increasingly charged with assisting in political processes; reforming judicial systems; training law enforcement and police forces; disarming and reintegrating former combatants; supporting the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

In the words of the Secretary-General, “They manifest the best attributes of global solidarity, courageously serving in dangerous environments to provide security to some of the world’s most vulnerable.”

Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “Over 120,000 men and women – military, police and civilians — today serve in 16 missions world-wide. Our peacekeepers are deployed in some of the world’s most dangerous and austere environments. Too many of them have paid the ultimate price while serving under the blue flag in the name of peace. Today, we pay tribute to their memory by rededicating ourselves to the ideals for which they have sacrificed so much.”

According to Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support “The sacrifices of the brave men and women of peacekeeping inspire us to serve with courage and dignity and to pursue continuous improvement and innovation in our work. We owe this not just to our departed colleagues, but also to the millions of civilians that we have been entrusted to protect. We must continue to work together to enable complex operations to succeed with rapid, effective, efficient and responsible support.”

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, in tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The Assembly designated 29 May as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the United Nations’ first peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO),began operations.

Commemorative activities will be held at United Nations Headquarters on the 19th to enable the Heads of the Military Components of UN peacekeeping operations, who will be present in New York this week, to join the Secretary-General in observing the Day. UN peacekeeping operations, UN Information Centres and other UN offices around the world will observe the Day on or around the 29th.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations (UN).

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Large-Scale HIV Vaccine Trial to Launch in South Africa

An early-stage HIV vaccine clinical trial in South Africa has determined that an investigational vaccine regimen is safe and generates comparable immune responses to those reported in a landmark 2009 study showing that a vaccine can protect people from HIV infection. Consequently, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and its partners have decided to advance the experimental HIV vaccine regimen into a large clinical trial. This new study, called HVTN 702, is designed to determine whether the regimen is safe, tolerable and effective at preventing HIV infection among South African adults. The trial is slated to begin in November 2016, pending regulatory approval.

“For the first time in seven years, the scientific community is embarking on a large-scale clinical trial of an HIV vaccine, the product of years of study and experimentation,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health and a co-funder of the trial. “A safe and effective HIV vaccine could help bring about a durable end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and is particularly needed in southern Africa, where HIV is more pervasive than anywhere else in the world.”

The experimental vaccine regimen that will be studied in HVTN 702 is now being tested in the smaller initial trial, named HVTN 100, and is based on the regimen investigated in the U.S. Military HIV Research Program-led RV144 clinical trial in Thailand that delivered landmark results in 2009. The current regimen is designed to provide greater protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa.The experimental vaccine regimen tested in the RV144 trial was found to be 31.2 percent effective at preventing HIV infection during the 3.5 years after vaccination, although the regimen appears to have been 60 percent effective one year after vaccination. In the HVTN 702 study, the design and schedule of the RV144 vaccine regimen have been adjusted to try to increase the magnitude and duration of vaccine-elicited immune responses.

NIAID is responsible for all operational aspects of the pivotal Phase 2b/3 trial, which will enroll 5,400 HIV-uninfected men and women ages 18 to 35 years who are at risk for HIV infection. The NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) will conduct the study. Results are expected in late 2020. The HVTN 702 study will be led by Protocol Chair Glenda Gray, MBBCH, FCPaed (SA). Dr. Gray is president and chief executive officer of the South African Medical Research Council, research professor of pediatrics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a director of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa.

“HVTN 702 will tell us whether the initial success observed in HVTN 100 will bear fruit in the form of a safe and effective HIV vaccine designed for the people of southern Africa,” said Dr. Gray.

HVTN 100 and HVTN 702 are part of a larger HIV vaccine research endeavor led by a group called the Pox-Protein Public-Private Partnership, or P5—a diverse set of public and private organizations committed to building on the success of the RV144 trial. The P5 aims to produce an HIV vaccine that could have a significant public health benefit in southern Africa and to deepen scientists’ understanding of the immune responses associated with preventing HIV infection. P5 members are NIAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the South African Medical Research Council, HVTN, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program.

The HVTN 702 vaccine regimen consists of two experimental vaccines: a canarypox-based vaccine called ALVAC-HIV and a bivalent gp120 protein subunit vaccine with an adjuvant that enhances the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Both ALVAC-HIV (supplied by Sanofi Pasteur) and the protein vaccine (supplied by GSK) have been modified from RV144 to be specific to HIV subtype C, the predominant HIV subtype in southern Africa. In addition, the protein subunit vaccine in HVTN 702 is combined with MF59 (also supplied by GSK), a different adjuvant than the one used in RV144, in the hope of generating a more robust immune response. Finally, the HVTN 702 vaccine regimen will include booster shots at the one-year mark in an effort to prolong the early protective effect observed in RV144.

All study participants will receive a total of five injections over one year. The volunteers will be randomly assigned to receive either the investigational vaccine regimen or a placebo. The safety of HVTN 702 study participants will be closely monitored throughout the trial, and participants will receive the standard of care for preventing HIV infection. Study participants who become infected with HIV during the trial will be referred to local medical providers for care and treatment and will be counseled on how to reduce their risk of transmitting the virus. For more information about HVTN 702, please see Questions and Answers: The HVTN 702 HIV Vaccine Study.

Read today’s statement by Dr. Fauci marking HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website. About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

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Food and nutrition security interventions among populations affected by El Niño in region of the Greater South in Madagascar

Following the declaration of a drought situation in the region of the Greater South of Madagascar, the vulnerability of the rural population has reached an alarming level.

A project for emergency agricultural rehabilitation of farming households and vulnerable producers has been implemented to allow them to recover quickly from the loss of their crops as a result of the drought that hit the area.

“As part of this project on Integrated Actions for Nutrition and Food (AINA), currently being implemented in five regions in Madagascar and funded by the European Union, farmers were encouraged to use improved, adapted and drought-tolerant seeds.Through the implementation of the approach of Climate-Smart Agriculture, over 35,000 households have benefited from these seeds,” noted Patrice TallaTatoukam, FAO Representative in Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles , while visiting Ambovombein the region a week ago.

“In the interest of a sustainable and inclusive development, it is important to become acquainted with the daily realities and increase contacts with beneficiaries, in order to better target needed responses,”said Mr. Talla. His visit also served to recognize the efforts made by the technical team of the SouthernFAO Office in implementing projects aimed at improving the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable populations in this region particularly affected by the effects of El Niño.

Challenge of adaptation to climate change

Climate change impacts on agriculture and food security through increased frequency of extreme meteorological events (cyclones, floods, and drought, as in the case of Southern Madagascar) and increased unpredictability of weather patterns.

As a result, this has caused decreases in production and income in vulnerable areas. Many smallholder producers are already facing the degradation of natural resources. They often lack knowledge on how to adapt their production systems and have limited resources and risk-taking capacity to access technology and financial services.

Improving food security while contribute to mitigating the impact of climate change and to the protection of natural resources requires a transition to more productive agricultural production systems witha more efficient use of inputs and a less variable and more stable production that is more resilient to risks, shocks and long-term climate variability.

A more productive and resilient agriculture requires a major change in land, water, soil nutrients and genetic resourcesmanagement practices, to ensure that these resources are managed more effectively. The Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), as defined and presented by FAO at the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in 2010, contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nutrition – At the heart ofaactions

After the presentation of the Report on the Cost of Hunger by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, during his visit to Madagascar on 10 and 11 May, a particular attention is now being given by the Government to nutrition. FAO has participated in the preparation of this document, and has already issued the recommendation to update the nutrition policy of the country by taking into account the multidisciplinary aspect of nutrition during the evaluation of the results of implementation of the National Action Plan on Nutrition – Phase II in February 2016. For its part, FAO Madagascar is intensifying crop diversification and nutrition education activities among farming and rural populations.

This week, US Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome (FAO, IFAD and WFP), David Lane, is visiting Madagascar with a team of international and Malagasy journalists.

Useful links:

U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome

US Ambassador Lane’s visit is on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies. Also follow the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the U.S. Embassy of Madagascar for Their reports on the turn.

El Niño Website (FAO)

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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Rotary Foundation Donates ETB 88.8 Million to Support WHO Ethiopia Operational Cost of Polio Eradication Initiative

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International grants Eth. Birr 88.8 million for operational support to ENDPOLIONOW in Ethiopia through WHO- Ethiopia. As long standing supporter of polio eradication initiative for the last 25 years, Rotary’s grant globally is bout USD 2.3 Billion.

This new pledge of 88.8 million is made in honor of current Ethiopia’s polio free status and it will be used to sustain this position. Examining Rotary’s 25 years of engagement in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative endeavor, which is in a state of the completion and closure of Polio Eradication Initiative was the basis for continuing the strengthened effort and success that Africa is celebrating now.

“Thanks to the generous Rotary’s donation. We will dramatically increase our capacity and this fund will ensure that World Health Organization Ethiopia will always be able to sustain the gain. This grant will secure our leadership position to continue providing our technical support in polio eradication initiative, explained Dr. Olusegun Ayorinde Babaniyi, Acting WHO Representative for Ethiopia. “With the increasing Rotary’s commitment to support the country and the global initiative, we wanted to ensure that the World Health Organization would maintain its pre-eminence to build on the polio legacy to accelerate the improvement in routine immunization for closing the immunization gap. We are so pleased to be able to take this step,” he added.

As the initiative enters its final stages by 2018, investments made in the cause of polio eradication are built on to benefit other development goals. Therefore the completion and closure of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is as serious as the beginning of polio Eradication Initiative.

PDG Tadesse Alemu NPPC Chairman in Rotary Grant handing over ceremony said, “ As we needed fund to launch Polio Eradication Initiative program and we have to see to it that funding is crucial for Endgame activities and polio legacy to ensuring investments made are built on to benefit other development goals. Therefore, this grant is for one-year, which must be fully expended by 31 March 2017. The Rotary Foundation is very pleased to support polio eradication efforts in Ethiopia through this grant.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Ethiopia.

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Rotary Foundation Donates ETB 88.8 Million to Support WHO Ethiopia Operational Cost of Polio Eradication Initiative

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International grants Eth. Birr 88.8 million for operational support to ENDPOLIONOW in Ethiopia through WHO- Ethiopia. As long standing supporter of polio eradication initiative for the last 25 years, Rotary’s grant globally is bout USD 2.3 Billion.

This new pledge of 88.8 million is made in honor of current Ethiopia’s polio free status and it will be used to sustain this position. Examining Rotary’s 25 years of engagement in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative endeavor, which is in a state of the completion and closure of Polio Eradication Initiative was the basis for continuing the strengthened effort and success that Africa is celebrating now.

“Thanks to the generous Rotary’s donation. We will dramatically increase our capacity and this fund will ensure that World Health Organization Ethiopia will always be able to sustain the gain. This grant will secure our leadership position to continue providing our technical support in polio eradication initiative, explained Dr. Olusegun Ayorinde Babaniyi, Acting WHO Representative for Ethiopia. “With the increasing Rotary’s commitment to support the country and the global initiative, we wanted to ensure that the World Health Organization would maintain its pre-eminence to build on the polio legacy to accelerate the improvement in routine immunization for closing the immunization gap. We are so pleased to be able to take this step,” he added.

As the initiative enters its final stages by 2018, investments made in the cause of polio eradication are built on to benefit other development goals. Therefore the completion and closure of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is as serious as the beginning of polio Eradication Initiative.

PDG Tadesse Alemu NPPC Chairman in Rotary Grant handing over ceremony said, “ As we needed fund to launch Polio Eradication Initiative program and we have to see to it that funding is crucial for Endgame activities and polio legacy to ensuring investments made are built on to benefit other development goals. Therefore, this grant is for one-year, which must be fully expended by 31 March 2017. The Rotary Foundation is very pleased to support polio eradication efforts in Ethiopia through this grant.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Ethiopia.

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Source:: Rotary Foundation Donates ETB 88.8 Million to Support WHO Ethiopia Operational Cost of Polio Eradication Initiative

New United Nations study finds digital payments to Ebola response workers saved lives and $10 million

Mobile phones serving as digital “wallets” for payments to response workers proved an invaluable tool in Sierra Leone’s response to the Ebola crisis, according to a new study from the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance (www.BetterThanCash.org).

With economic instability, natural disasters and political conflict now taking place at unprecedented rates, the new research offers valuable lessons on how to harness the power of technology to help emergency workers reach more people by paying them digitally during crises. The country has been Ebola free since January.

The report comes just ahead of the first ever United Nations World Humanitarian summit set to begin next week.

The study shows digital payments delivered compelling results in Sierra Leone, including:

  • Cost savings of US $10.7 million for the government, taxpayers, development partners and response workers – the equivalent of funding Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care Program catering for 1.4 million children and 250,000 pregnant women annually.
  • Reducing payment times from over one month on average for cash to one week.
  • Preventing the loss of around 800 working days per month from the Ebola response workforce, helping save lives during this critical time.
  • Saving response workers around $80,000 per month in travel costs by avoiding lengthy journeys to cash payment centers.

Crucially, Sierra Leone’s experience shows the critical importance of governments, companies, and international organizations working together to develop policy frameworks, infrastructure and operating guidelines for digital payments before crises strike.

“Sierra Leone’s firsthand experience with digital payments and its impact on Ebola response and control taught us that, Governments like ours must take this growing payment system seriously as it can significantly contribute to inclusive growth and transparency,” said H.E. Momodu L. Kargbo, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development. “In developing the partnership with private sector, development organizations, the Central Bank, financial institutions, network providers; and building the foundation for an inclusive digital payment system, Government must take the lead.”

Sierra Leone was one of the hardest-hit countries during the Ebola outbreak, with more than 14,000 reported cases of the 28,000 total cases in West Africa (http://www.apo.af/H05ZGr). Ebola response workers were spread across Sierra Leone’s 14 districts, including many health units in rural areas. The speed with which Ebola spread meant the government needed a more efficient, reliable and secure tool than cash to manage payments to response workers in a country where there were fewer than 50 ATMs when the outbreak struck.

Digital payments offered a powerful solution, particularly given Sierra Leone already had mobile network coverage across nearly 95 percent of the country, and more than 90 percent of response workers with access to a mobile phone.

One of the major challenges of cash is that it is expensive, slow, difficult to transport and vulnerable to theft, graft and payment errors. Late or incorrect payments to response workers often led to strikes during past emergencies and at the start of the Ebola crisis before digital payments were implemented.

In Sierra Leone, digital payments reduced these strikes from an average of eight per month – causing the loss of about 800 working days per month – to virtually zero.

“Ebola response workers put their lives at risk every day. It was vitally important they received all the money they earned, with no skimming or theft. They got it immediately, as their families had no other income; and only legitimate workers got paid – no one else. Paying Ebola response workers directly into a digital wallet instead of cash met these goals, saved lives and over $10 million,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of The Better Than Cash Alliance. “Sierra Leone’s experience shows the critical importance of developing and implementing national policy frameworks and supporting infrastructure to drive effective and flexible digital payments ecosystems in advance of humanitarian crises.”

The vast majority of the cost savings were due to eliminating payments to people who were not legitimate Ebola response workers, known as “ghost workers”. The money saved was given to those who really needed it.

The full report is available here: http://www.apo.af/Deh1qI. The Better Than Cash Alliance has experts available to comment on the study.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Better Than Cash.

Media contacts

Angela Corbalan, angela.corbalan@uncdf.org / (+1) 917 224 9109

The Better Than Cash Alliance (www.BetterThanCash.org) is a global partnership of governments, companies, and international organizations that accelerate the transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth. The United Nations Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat. To learn more, visit www.BetterThanCash.org, follow @BetterThan_Cash and subscribe for news: http://betterthancash.org/sign-up/.

Source:: New United Nations study finds digital payments to Ebola response workers saved lives and $10 million

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