Uganda blocks contacts of Ebola patients from foreign travel

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to other countries.

He said a list of confirmed contacts has been given to the immigration authorities who will prevent them from international travel.

The country has also started screening people at airports and land border points of entry for temperature, symptoms and history of contact.

during his fourth televised address to the country since the outbreak of Ebola in September, President Museveni said that his Uganda’s efforts to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola disease are starting to pay off as few new cases are currently being recorded as compared to how the situation was a few weeks ago.

Confirmed cases

As of Wednesday, there are 141 confirmed cases. Fifty five of these have died while 73 have recovered and 13 are admitted to the Ebola treatment units.

Two districts of Kassandra and Mubende, which are the epicentres of the outbreak, are currently under lockdown, with public transport restricted to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.

“In the past 21 days, the number of new cases has reduced to an average of three per day. This was because of intensifying control interventions which included door-to-door sensitisation of the communities by the village health teams, training of the health workers on infection prevention control in both public and private health facilities, safe dignified burials of all deceased in the communities and hospitals, and early treatment of cases at the Ebola treatment units,” Mr Museveni said.

Since these interventions were instituted, Mubende district, which recorded the first case and is regarded as a high-risk area, has not recorded a new Ebola case for the past 18 days.

Flouting rules

However, even with the efforts in place, many people, especially from high-risk areas, continue to flout the rules, which has seen the disease reach six districts across the country currently. A case was recently reported in Jinja, 80km east of Kampala, on Saturday. Two more people have succumbed to the disease in the area.

According to President Museveni, progress in containing the disease is being hindered by, among other things, a passenger relay system by boda bodas that allows contacts to escape areas under lockdown and subsequently spread the disease, frequent visits to traditional healers, myths, misconceptions, and misinformation, and escape by Ebola contacts under quarantine.

In his Tuesday address, the president ordered the Ministry of Health and local government leaders to intensify sensitisation of the boda boda riders on the dangers of aiding contacts to leave places under lockdown.

Traditional healers barred

He added that all traditional healers and witchdoctors have been prohibited from carrying out their activities and that trucks carrying logs, which have been discreetly transporting people, are prohibited from moving into and out of Mubende and Kassandra districts with immediate effect for the next 21 days.

The president noted that reports from the tourism sector players indicate that tourists have been cancelling their trips to Uganda and that some have even postponed their bookings in hotels and lodges due to the Ebola outbreak. In addition, several international conferences and meetings have been postponed and some moved to other countries due to the outbreak.

“I would like to reassure the international community, tourists and conference organisers and the entire Ugandan population that the government has put in place measures to control the outbreak. The Ebola outbreak is localised to only six out of the 146 districts. Uganda remains safe and we welcome international guests,” Mr Museveni said.

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Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said contacts and suspected contacts of Ebola patients will not be allowed to leave the country in order to prevent the disease from spreading to […]

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Hopes for big finance at Cop27 fade in climate of war, high energy prices

Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as the Ukraine war, high energy prices and geopolitical tensions take precedence.

In interviews, more than a dozen US and European finance leaders were pessimistic the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt starting November 6 can make clear progress.

What they want are signals on the pace of regulation that would allow company boards to plan their climate policy.

But as governments have lately been distracted by world events, they fear countries will fail to provide any major new commitments.

“Geopolitical relations going into COP27 are at one of the worst levels in recent history,” said Luke Sussams, head of ESG and Sustainable Finance, EMEA at Jefferies.

“The age-old dilemma of climate finance, facilitated between the developed and the developing world, will of course be critical. We, I don’t think, are too optimistic that many resolutions will be met in that regard.”

Emissions must drop

A UN report published in October underlined the urgency of the climate problem and that emissions must drop 43 percent by the end of the decade to prevent the worst impacts of a hotter planet.

The best hope could be to prevent the progress so far being undone.

“Avoiding a rollback of existing pledges and commitments… could probably be considered a success,” Benedict Buckley, research analyst at ClearBridge Investments, said.

Many companies made pledges to cut emissions last year, but like many governments, they have yet to work out how those will be implemented.

More than 550 financial firms are members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, aiming to cut their emissions and push companies in the real economy that rely on their financing to do the same, but the pace of action has been slow.

Not enough done

“The reality is that not enough has been done in the last 12 months – some would argue we have moved backwards,” said Hortense Bioy, Global Director of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

The biggest disruption since last year’s Glasgow climate talks has been the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil and gas exporter.

Europe in particular has been forced to rethink its previous reliance on Russian gas and to seek alternatives. In the short term that includes coal, undermining a deal the UN summit in Glasgow to phase out its use. However, as this year’s high oil and gas prices have rewarded those producing fossil fuels.

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Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as […]

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‘Death every day’: Fear, fortitude in Uganda’s Ebola epicentre

As Ugandan farmer Bonaventura Senyonga prepares to bury his grandson, age-old traditions are forgotten and fear hangs in the air while a government medical team prepares the body for the funeral — the latest victim of Ebola in the East African nation.

Bidding the dead goodbye is rarely a quiet affair in Uganda, where the bereaved seek solace in the embrace of community members who converge on their homes to mourn the loss together.

Not this time.

Instead, just a handful of relatives accompany 80-year-old Senyonga as he digs a grave on the family’s ancestral land, surrounded by banana trees.

“At first we thought it was a joke or witchcraft but when we started seeing bodies, we realised this is real and that Ebola can kill,” Senyonga told AFP.

His 30-year-old grandson Ibrahim Kyeyune was a father of two girls and worked as a motorcycle mechanic in central Kassanda district, which, together with neighbouring Mubende, is at the epicentre of Uganda’s Ebola crisis.

Under lockdown

Both districts have been under a lockdown since mid-October, with a dawn to dusk curfew, a ban on personal travel and public places shuttered.

The reappearance of the virus after three years has sparked fear in Uganda, with cases now reported in the capital Kampala as the highly contagious disease makes its way through the country of 47 million people.

In all, 53 people have died, including children, out of more than 135 cases, according to latest figures by Uganda’s health ministry.

Everyone is afraid

In Kassanda’s impoverished Kasazi B village, everyone is afraid, says Yoronemu Nakumanyanga, Kyeyune’s uncle.

“Ebola has shocked us beyond what we imagined. We see and feel death every day,” he told AFP at his nephew’s gravesite.

“I know when the body finally arrives, people in the neighbourhood will start running away, thinking Ebola virus spreads through the air,” he said.

Ebola is not airborne — it spreads through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

But misinformation remains rife and poses a major challenge.

In some cases, victims’ relatives have exhumed their bodies after medically supervised burials to perform traditional rituals, triggering a spike in infections.

In other instances, patients have sought out witchdoctors for help instead of going to a health facility — a worrying trend that prompted President Yoweri Museveni last month to order traditional healers to stop treating sick people.

“We have embraced the fight against Ebola and complied with President Museveni’s directive to close our shrines for the time being,” said Wilson Akulirewo Kyeya, a leader of the traditional herbalists in Kassanda.

‘I saw them die’

The authorities are trying to expand rural health facilities, installing isolation and treatment tents inside villages so communities can access medical attention quickly.

But fear of Ebola runs deep.

Brian Bright Ndawula, a 42-year-old trader from Mubende, was the sole survivor among four family members who were diagnosed with the disease, losing his wife, his aunt and his four-year-old son.

“When we were advised to go to hospital to have an Ebola test we feared going into isolation… and being detained,” he told AFP.

But when their condition worsened and the doctor treating them at the private clinic also began showing symptoms, he realised they had contracted the dreaded virus.

“I saw them die and knew I was next but God intervened and saved my life,” he said, consumed by regret over his decision to delay getting tested.

“My wife, child and aunt would be alive, had we approached the Ebola team early enough.”

A powerful weapon

Today, survivors like Ndawula have emerged as a powerful weapon in Uganda’s fight against Ebola, sharing their experiences as a cautionary tale but also as a reminder that patients can survive if they receive early treatment.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng urged recovered patients in Mubende to spread the message that “whoever shows signs of Ebola should not run away from medical workers but instead run towards them, because if you run away with Ebola, it will kill you.”

It is an undertaking many in this community have taken to heart.

Doctor Hadson Kunsa, who contracted the disease while treating Ebola patients, told AFP he was terrified when he received his diagnosis.

“I pleaded to God to give me a second chance and told God I will leave Mubende after recovery,” he said.

But he explained he could not bring himself to do it.

“I will not leave Mubende and betray these people at the greatest hour of need.”

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As Ugandan farmer Bonaventura Senyonga prepares to bury his grandson, age-old traditions are forgotten and fear hangs in the air while a government medical team prepares the body for the funeral […]

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Tanzania in five-year plan to eradicate malaria scourge

Tanzania is now banking on support from the USA to end the scourge of malaria — one of the world’s biggest killer diseases — by 2027.

The new five-year anti-malaria programme to combat malaria infections, both in Tanzania mainland and in Zanzibar, targets destruction of breeding points for mosquitoes, the vectors that help malaria parasites to spread.

It also targets strengthening of healthcare systems, including readiness to deal with emergency cases.

The programme is based on seed funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In Zanzibar, a $27 million boost will target the Tanzania Malaria Case Management (TMCM) programme, which falls under the US president’s plan to combat malaria.

This newly launched malaria control project would also help Zanzibar to reduce its overall malaria prevalence by 2027, then achieve a total zero-malaria as part of the island’s initiatives to improve the welfare of its people. This is then expected to contribute to improved tourism business through a healthy environment.

Make Zanzibar malaria-free

“The 2022-2027 TMCM project will accelerate our struggle to make Zanzibar a malaria-free area, with great hope to extend to the mainland,” Zanzibar’s Health Minister Nassor Ahmed Mazrui said.

“Health safety is a major tourist consideration when tourists consider taking a safari in Africa. Malaria prevalence is one of the major tropical diseases that tourists are conscious about and in many cases, a deterring factor,” Mazrui noted.

Over 45 million people in Tanzania are at risk of malaria because of the climate and topography. The US government funding helped reduce malaria prevalence from 18 per cent in 2015 to 7 per cent in 2022, the latest available data from USAID indicates.

Since 2006, the US government has contributed more than $661 million (Tsh1.5 trillion) to combat malaria in Tanzania, USAID said in its latest report.

Tanzania is currently implementing a five-year malaria surveillance activity (TMSA) between August 2022 to August 2027 through the Ifakara Health Institute, which aims at reducing the malaria burden and moving towards elimination of the disease.

Skilled health workers

MNSP also targets to improve availability of skilled health providers and high-quality testing services to control the spread of malaria in Tanzania.

Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu said the government, in collaboration with major donors in the health sector, has been running preventive campaigns against malaria.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had placed Tanzania among 17 countries with high rates of infections globally.

Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that malaria cases have dropped from 7.7 million patients in 2015 to 4.4 million patients in 2021.

Deaths from malaria have reduced from 6,311 in 2015 to 1,905 in 2021, data from the Ministry of Health shows.

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Tanzania is now banking on support from the USA to end the scourge of malaria — one of the world’s biggest killer diseases — by 2027. The new five-year anti-malaria […]

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Uganda to close schools after eight children die of Ebola

Uganda will close schools nationwide later this month after 23 Ebola cases were confirmed among pupils, including eight children who died, the country’s first lady said on Tuesday.

Janet Museveni, who is also the education minister, said there had been cases in five schools in the capital Kampala, as well as the neighbouring Wakiso district and Mubende, the epicentre of the outbreak.

She said the cabinet had agreed to close pre-primary, primary and secondary schools from November 25, two weeks before the scheduled end of term.

“Closing schools earlier will reduce areas of concentration where children are in daily close contact with fellow children, teachers and other staff who could potentially spread the virus,” said the minister and wife of President Yoweri Museveni.

On Saturday, Uganda extended a three-week lockdown on Mubende and neighbouring Kassanda, the two central districts at the heart of the outbreak which has claimed more than 50 lives.

The measures include a dusk-to-dawn curfew, a ban on personal travel and the closure of markets, bars and churches.

Since the outbreak was declared in Mubende on September 20, the disease has spread across the East African nation, including to the capital Kampala.

But the president has said nationwide curbs were not needed. 

Fifty three people have died of Ebola out of 135 cases according to government figures dated November 6.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week said Uganda had registered over 150 confirmed and probable cases, including 64 fatalities.

Uganda’s last recorded fatality from a previous Ebola outbreak was in 2019.

The strain now circulating is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine, although there are several candidate vaccines heading towards clinical trials.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea. 

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments

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Uganda will close schools nationwide later this month after 23 Ebola cases were confirmed among pupils, including eight children who died, the country’s first lady said on Tuesday. Janet Museveni, […]

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Hunger for FDI relegates labour rights, conservation to back seat

The growing appetite for investors is pushing countries in the East Africa region to turn a blind eye to labour rights laws and conservation obligations in order to attract multinationals.

And experts warn the long-term danger is that of a region that will have rogue players dominating the corporate scene, trampling on basic rights of the communities.

The revelations emerged even as the world enters the second decade into voluntary UN-endorsed soft power instruments referred to as the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights. They are meant to ensure that states are aware of their duty to protect human rights and prevail upon companies domiciled within their territory to do so.

The UNGPs, which are voluntary, also emphasise corporate responsibility to human rights at all times, especially in conflict-affected areas, and access to remedy for victims of rights abuses.

Remained on paper

For Africa the UNGPs, they have largely remained on paper, with only two countries. Only Kenya and Uganda have pioneered a National Action Plan (NAP) to domesticate and enforce the principles.

“Initially, businesses were not very open to have dialogue with us, said Ms Claris Kariuki, a senior state attorney at the Attorney General’s Office in Kenya.

“From Kenya’s NAP consultations, the common human rights issues that always came up were access to land, access to remedy, environment, transparency and labour,” she told The EastAfrican.

Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique have initiated processes to conclude a NAP. Critics argue that these countries have continued to overlook violations by corporates.

Implementing standards

The revelations emerged during the African Business and Human Rights Forum in Accra, Ghana. Organised by the African Union on October 12 and 13, it was meant to identify progress, gaps and challenges, and pick lessons from the world’s other regions that are already implementing these standards.

Arnold Kwesiga, member of the African Coalition for Corporate Governance argues that that questions remain as to whether poor and weak countries can call multinationals to order.

“We have to question and look at the capacity of the state to regulate and also the capacity of the state to ensure that all affected communities on the ground are part of the process,” he says.

Harriet Asibazuyo, Social Safeguards Specialist at the Gender, Labour and Social Development Ministry in Uganda, says part of the challenge is the number of stakeholders that need to be brought on board, before she rollout.

“This is a complex subject. We need political support to lend weight to this action plan in its implementation.”

Implementation gaps

The problem may be global, but in Africa, implementation gaps and challenges that undermine compliance means multinationals playing by tough rules elsewhere enjoy impunity in Africa.

“In February, the European Union adopted the due diligence protocol, which requires EU companies to undertake due diligence on human rights wherever they operate,” says Oyeniyi Abe, researcher and law lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, UK.

“This has implications for Africa where the state is often silent or indifferent to human rights violations,” adding that the protocol imposes a corporate due diligence duty on large EU and third-country companies to ensure a human rights regime that is universal.

This is especially companies in certain high-risk sectors, such as extractives. Under the EU law, they will be tasked to identify and take steps to remedy actual, prevent or mitigate potential adverse impacts on human rights and the environment in the companies’ own operations, and their subsidiaries and value chains.

In Germany, for instance, whose multinationals have a large supply chain footprint in Africa in the automobile, logistics, infrastructure, energy, mining and pharmaceutical sectors, has already enacted a law, to effect the EU due diligence protocol.

Mandatory rights due diligence

“Our new mandatory human rights due diligence regime has possible impacts and implications for the Africa region,” says Marlene Landes, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainable Transformation of Global Supply Chains, at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The law, which experts say will be replicated across the EU, has a direct bearing on African businesses, including small and medium sized companies, because suppliers of German MNCs will have to share more information and meet human rights and environmental requirements, as laid down in contracts with their business partners, Ms Landes explains.

The German Due Diligence Act will enter into force next year for companies with at least 3000 employees, and in 2024, businesses with at least 1000 employees will fall within the scope of the law.

A study commissioned by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and published in August this year, says African states are weak and hampered by lack of regulatory clarity and enforcement provisions to call transnational corporate actors to order, when the latter abuse human rights.

Mr Abe, who authored the study, titled “African Union and the State of Business and Human Rights in Africa”, says while the worst cases of human rights violations by corporate entities occur in Africa, such cases are dealt with in the homes states of these multinational companies (MNCs).

“Challenges range from governance of MNCs, weak corporate laws and lack of political will,” he wrote.

Law on minimum wage

Trade unions in Uganda, for instance have for decades pushed for a law on minimum wage, as a labour right, and this culminated in the passing of the Bill into an Act by Parliament in 2019, but President Museveni declined to sign it into law arguing that the current law is sufficient.

Analysts said the president was shielding multinationals, which establish in Uganda to take advantage of a cheap labour pool that would be threatened by signing into law the minimum wage Act effectively leaving companies to determine what to pay workers.

Labour rights activists say this state of affairs, massaged by the UNGPs and a NAP on business and human rights that is voluntary, cannot guarantee adequate compensation for workers.

“We want to see things passed into law [because] the law allows you to hold anyone, even the government, accountable,” says Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Binding regime of principles

In their statement, civil society actors at the Forum said they want a binding regime of principles that will cure the gaps and challenges in implementation of the UNGPs, and therefore guarantee that businesses respect for human rights.

“While the UNGPs have triggered and facilitated the critical debate on business and human rights, their voluntary and non-binding nature renders them inadequate and ineffective in addressing increasing corporate abuses and enhancing corporate accountability on the continent,” the statement said.

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Yellowstone, Kilimanjaro glaciers likely to vanish by 2050: UNESCO

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save the rest.

The warning followed a study of 18,600 glaciers at 50 World Heritage sites — covering around 66,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) — which found glaciers at a third of the sites were “condemned to disappear”.

The study “shows these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures”, UNESCO said.

The glaciers were losing 58 billion tonnes of ice every year, equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain, and were responsible for nearly five percent of observed global sea-level rise, the agency explained.

Condemned to disappear

“Glaciers in a third of the 50 World Heritage sites are condemned to disappear by 2050, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases,” UNESCO said.

“But it is still possible to save the glaciers in the remaining two thirds of sites if the rise in temperatures does not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period.”

Countries have pledged to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a goal the world is set to miss on current emission trends.

“This report is a call to action,” said UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay, ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt starting on Monday.

“Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them. COP27 will have a crucial role to help find solutions to this issue.”

Gone by 2050

In Africa, glaciers in all World Heritage sites will very likely be gone by 2050, including at Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya, UNESCO warned.

In Europe, some glaciers in the Pyrenees and in the Dolomites will also probably have vanished in three decades’ time.

The same went for glaciers in the Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks in the United States.

The melting of ice and snow is one of the 10 key threats from climate change, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in February said.

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save […]

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Countries seek joint approach to fight climate change in Horn of Africa

Development organisations predict that up to 5 billion people will face water shortages by 2050 globally as the climate change bug continues to bite and the effects intensify.

The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades.

Besides the impacts of climate change, other significant trends and issues affect the continent, including rapid population growth, with urbanisation rates expected to triple by 2050.

In a hybrid meeting held both physically and via zoom at Nairobi’s Trade Mark Hotel, stakeholders deliberated on how to deal with development issues in the Horn of Africa, especially regarding climate change and its effects.

The gathering was the second to be held this year and for the third time in history. Dubbed the Horn of Africa Resilience Network (HoRN) learning event, the annual event brings together stakeholders, including representatives from both national and regional governments, development partners and private sector actors. Other participants include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) bilateral mission representatives and academic and research institutions.

Stakeholders follow proceedings during the HoRN learning event in Nairobi On October 26, 2022. Dr James Nyoro, an agricultural economist and food security expert from kenya, outlined some gains made in g climate change adaptation in the past few years. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Knowledge sharing

The HoRN acts as a platform for interaction and knowledge sharing among stakeholders. It is also an opportunity for creating partnerships through engaging in effective multi-stakeholder partnerships to leverage the comparative advantages critical to making developing countries and communities more resilient and self-sufficient. During the forum, participants also explore discussions around the future of resilience in the Horn region.

On October 26, participants at the HoRN learning event discussed climate change, its effects, the future, resilience and the development agenda, among other related subjects. Under the theme ‘Climate change adaptation and resilience: Managing risks for a more resilient future’, the half-day event brought to light various issues through cultural lenses, livelihoods, economies, health and access to fundamental rights that affect local communities in the region.

Climate shocks and stresses

“Everyone around the globe is vulnerable to climate change. Even though other countries are more vulnerable, climate shocks and stresses are increasingly impacting all of us,” said Laurie Ashley, the Resilience and Climate Adaptation Advisor-Centre for Resilience at USAID.

She noted that most impacts of climate change are related to water— too much of which results in flooding and too little of which results in drought — as is the current situation in many places within the HoRN region.

Climate change has threatened development progress and exacerbated inequality, including increasing water and food scarcity, the need for humanitarian assistance and displacement.

USAID, Ms Ashley noted, has developed a new climate change strategy for 2022-2030 with six ambitious targets that sustain the gains already made in building resilience in the face of climate change-related shocks and stresses.

The strategy is built on the understanding that without urgent action, climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. The strategy’s targets include adaptation, which will improve the climate resilience of 500 million people, and finance, through which USAID will mobilise $150 billion in public and private finance for the climate agenda.

Residents of Mtito Adei in Kenya’s Makueni County fetching water from a dam. The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Reduce carbon emissions

Under the mitigation target, USAID will collaborate with countries to support activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester an equivalent of six billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. Through the Natural and Managed Ecosystems target, there will be support for the conservation, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares, with a climate change mitigation benefit. Under the Critical Populations target, USAID will support its partners to achieve systemic changes that increase meaningful participation and active leadership in climate action for indigenous people, local communities, women, youth, and other marginalised and underrepresented groups in at least 40 partner countries.

“Achieving these targets will require a holistic approach — every USAID sector, mission, and the programme has a role to play as we work towards more resilient systems in areas like agriculture, energy, governance, infrastructure, and health,” said Ms Ashley.

“With all hands on deck and using locally-led and equitable approaches, we will greatly increase our ability to address current and evolving climate risks,” she added.

In her opening remarks, USAID Acting Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa Sheila Roquette called for the adoption of a joint implementation approach, saying it would yield the maximum results needed to ensure communities become resilient and interventions lead to desired results.

“Only together can we achieve resilient systems guided by national and regional priorities. There is a need for greater and strengthened regional and cross-border collaboration to advance resilience in the region,” said Ms Roquette.

Climate change adaptation

In his presentation, Dr James Nyoro, former governor of Kenya’s Kiambu County, who is also an agricultural economist and food security expert, outlined some gains made regarding climate change adaptation in the past few years.

Significant policies and strategies have been formulated in Kenya, which include the National Climate Action Plan 2008/2022, National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010, the National Disaster Management Authority strategic plan, and Vision 2030 for the development Strategy for Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands. 

Regarding climate mitigation, several approaches have been adopted. They include enhancing the use of green energy in Kenya by up to 85 per cent, enhancing reforestation and afforestation (the current government proposes to have every citizen plant at least three trees over the next five years), enhancing efficient energy utilisation methods and popularising the use of renewable energy in rural areas.

Dr Nyoro stressed the need to ensure the engagement of community members across the board. In addition, there is a need to employ measures that focus on climate change adaptation. Such measures include promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable, regenerative and conservative tillage, enhancing capital-intensive precision agriculture, solarising streets and water sources, enhancing drought and flood management and developing more early maturing drought-resistant crops.

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Fallen giant: Dida, one of Kenya’s last ‘Tusker’ elephants, dies at 65

One of Africa’s last remaining giant “Tusker” elephants has died aged 65, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has said. An elephant is considered a ‘Tusker’ when its ivory tusks are so long that they scrape the ground.

Dida died at Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park from natural causes, KWS said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are saddened by the death of Dida who was possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker and a matriarch residing in Tsavo East National Park. She died from natural causes due to old age, having lived a full life to about 60-65 years old,” the statement said.

KWS described Dida as a truly an iconic matriarch of the Tsavo and a great repository of many decades’ worth of knowledge.

“Those who got to know her through pictures and videos as well as those who had the exquisite pleasure of meeting her in person will remember her,” KWS said.

Quite a spectacle

Dida was one of Kenya’s most famous Tuskers. Adorned with ivory that stretches down to the ground, she was quite a spectacle. Huge tusks are considered rare and noteworthy on a female elephant.

Usually, only old bull elephants grow their tusks long enough to reach “Tusker” status.

In 2020, another iconic elephant, Big Tim, died in Mada area of Amboseli National Park in Kenya from natural causes aged 50 years.

But unlike Big Tim, who was discovered soon after his death and his body transported to Nairobi where a taxidermist was able to preserve him for display at the national museum, Dida’s carcass had already decomposed by the time her death was discovered.

Few remaining

Conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals are left on the continent due to poaching.

Animals with the biggest tusks face the highest risk from poachers. In 2014, poachers killed a famous big ‘Tusker’, Satao, in the park using a poisoned arrow, prompting global outrage. Poachers also killed Satao II, named after it, in 2017.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants plunge by 110,000 over the past 10 years to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The carcass of Dida, who was possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker. PHOTO | COURTESY | KWS

Conservationists mourn Dida

Conservationists who interacted with the Dida mourned the animal on social media.

“I am so devastated to hear the news that Dida, arguably Africa’s most iconic elephant, passed away. I also celebrate that she was able to live a full life. It is difficult to comprehend how her ivory stretched all the way to the ground in absolute perfect symmetry,” photographer James Lewin posted on social media.

Hannes Kächele said, “Dida managed to beat the odds and lived a long life. She made it through poaching times, droughts, floods, habitat loss, and human encroachment. Her biggest flex was those unbelievable tusks and she managed to keep them until the very end.”

Tsavo is home to about 12,000 elephants, the largest population in Kenya.

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One of Africa’s last remaining giant “Tusker” elephants has died aged 65, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has said. An elephant is considered a ‘Tusker’ when its ivory tusks are […]

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Tanzania’s population expanded 16 million in a decade

Tanzania’s population expanded by 16 million in ten years to 61.7 million, President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced from Dodoma on Monday.

President Suluhu said the census results showed there are  59.8 million in Tanzania mainland and 1.9 million in the Zanzibar islands.

Of the total population, 31.7 million are females, and 30 million are males.

Dar es Salaam is the most populous region, with 5.38 million people, followed by Mwanza with 3.69 inhabitants.

The Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics conducted the Population and Housing Census (PHC), the sixth since independence in 1964, from August 23 to September 4.

Tanzania’s population stood at 44.9 million in the 2012 census.

President Suluhu also launched the 10-year National Directive for the Implementation of the 2022 Census that will span from November to October 2032.

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Tanzania’s population expanded by 16 million in ten years to 61.7 million, President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced from Dodoma on Monday. President Suluhu said the census results showed there are  […]

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Free-for-all bush-meat trade adds pressure to wildlife conservation efforts

In June last year, over 180 slaughtered dikdiks were seized by authorities in Akales, Galana Ranch, Kilifi County in Kenya. Five people were arrested in association with the crime.

A few weeks later, three people were arrested at Didima Bula in Tana Delta sub-county, Kenya, with the carcasses of more than 140 dikdiks.

Earlier in May, at least 88 kilogrammes of bushmeat was confiscated between Tsavo East and Tsavo West in Kenya. The meat was likely headed for the capital Nairobi or nearby Voi town, where it would be mixed in with livestock meat as has become custom.

This — killing wildlife for meat — is not confined to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the region in general are in on it.

Wildlife conservationists now say they are worried about the rise in poaching for bushmeat in the region and the imminent destabilisation of wildlife resources. They blame it all on legal and administrative loopholes.

Annual seizure

In Tanzania, official data estimates that more than 2,000 tonnes of illegal game meat is seized annually in the country.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an estimated one million tonnes of bushmeat flows to urban markets each year, according to a recent survey by wildlife conservation bodies.

While in Central and West Africa as much as five million tonnes of bushmeat is consumed every year, according to the study “Bushmeat trade in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,” unsustainable hunting for bushmeat is among the important threats to East Africa’s wildlife.

But the illicit trade in bushmeat — and its commercialisation — which seems to have exploded in recent years, with traders found to earn between $300 and $500 per month, has drawn renewed fears of a sector in peril.

During the period of the study (between November 2020 and May 2021) it was found that 81 percent of the bushmeat catches consisted of ungulates, seven percent primates, five percent rodents, three percent birds, three percent carnivores, and one percent pangolins.

A market in Libreville where bushmeat, including pangolin, is sold. PHOTO | STEEVE JORDAN | AFP

Most hunted ungulates

Of the ungulates, dikdiks, buffalos, impalas, wildebeests, bush pigs, warthogs, zebras, gazelles, elands and hartebeests, were among the most hunted ungulate species for bushmeat exploitation.

According to Kenneth Kimitei, landscape ecologist for the Tsavo-Mkomazi Landscape at the African Wildlife Foundation, “Most of the bush meat poachers in Tsavo are targeting the giraffes to supply Nairobi, Voi, towns in Taveta, and  Tarakea and Rombo areas in Tanzania. Hence the Maasai giraffes in Tsavo are facing a slight decline.”

The Maasai giraffe is listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN.

“It may be that right now the other ungulates seem to be in abundance, but if unsustainably hunted like this… other ungulates may be headed down the same road if nothing is done.”

“During the rainy season most of the poaching dies down as most of the people move to farms to prepare for the planting season,” noted Kimitei who operates on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, “but immediately after that there’s a resurgence…. the snares come back in their multitudes mostly July to December when people are idle, not preparing land for planting.”

Triggered by poverty

Although he describes cartel-like syndicates in the trade complete with a chain style business operation from village-based poachers, brokers, transporters and wholesalers, according to Kimitei, poverty is one of the drivers for both commercial and subsistence-driven poaching for bushmeat, as mostly poverty stricken residents seek household income.

“The three main drivers for bushmeat poaching are poverty, unemployment and the impacts of climate change. The climatic conditions in this region are not very favourable for agriculture. And sometimes when they plant crops they end up drying up midway through the season. So food security here is a big problem.”

“But there also exists a class of poachers who do it as a second source of income. For this category this is a quick money-making enterprise.  For instance, a giraffe is also equated to a motorbike in terms of value. It is said that if you want to buy a motorbike all you need to do is to kill and sell the meat of a giraffe.”

Primary source of income

The multi-agency study found that for an estimated 20 per cent of bushmeat traders this is their primary source of income.

“There is a huge problem of lack of awareness of the laws and regulations in relation to bushmeat,” he added. “Others have got cultural beliefs that they have to depend on bushmeat.”

Closely behind, the eland and zebras too are victims to the bush meat poachers.

“The giraffes and elands are the most poached in terms of total body weight, but in terms of numbers, the dik-diks and impalas and small game are the biggest causalities probably because they’re all over and are easy to catch and kill with the snares.”

Kimitei says he is worried the poaching is leading to an ecosystem imbalance that has also been amplifying human-wildlife conflict as carnivores now go after livestock.

“The numbers of herbivores are going down at an alarming rate and sometimes carnivores will go for the docile livestock.”

A man from the Bagyeli Pygmy community in the Kribi region of Cameroon displays captured rats for sale. PHOTO | NABILA EL HADAD | AFP

Bushmeat consumption

Tanzania leads in bushmeat consumption with 83 percent of those interviewed in the survey confirming that they regularly consume bushmeat. In Kenya, the number is 82 percent and in Uganda the number is 78 percent. The survey was carried out in Uganda (in Murchison National Park, Masindi, Kasese, Kampala, Lake Mburo National Park , Queen Elizabeth National Park); in Tanzania (in Kigoma, Musoma, Mkomazi, Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park, and Katavi) and in Kenya (in Laikipia Conservancies, Narok, Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Voi and Tsavo National Park ).

In these sites surveyed in the three East African countries, 823 traders of bushmeat were counted.

Traffic — under the Usaid funded project, Connect (Conserving Natural Capital and Enhancing Collaborative Management of Transboundary Resources in East Africa) has been working with Usaid and WWF to collect data on the trends in bushmeat consumption in East Africa, to guide management of wildlife.

Covid-19

According to Kimitei, there has been an upsurge in bushmeat consumption since the onset of Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated poaching of wildlife for bushmeat due to reduced presence of law enforcement and worsened economic conditions for communities living next to or adjacent to national parks and high food prices,” he noted during a recent seminar “The Story Behind Bushmeat” that discussed and highlighted the relationship between rising viral diseases and diminishing animal communities.

“At the height of Covid-19 in 2020, increased cases of bushmeat hunting were recorded. Even though this hunting is illegal in many African countries, including Kenya, killing wildlife for recreation and for food remains common in places such as Tanzania, Uganda and places such as DRC….. there was a marked increase especially during the pandemic, when many lost their tourism income.”

Export connection

Yet, according to Wildlife and Protected areas manager—WWF Uganda, Daniel Ndizihiwe, the threat does not stop at the roaring domestic market for wildlife meat and body parts for traditional medicine.

“Even though a significant amount of this meat is consumed locally, a good chunk also finds its way abroad, especially to Asian countries,” said Ndizihiwe.

He says many communities consume bushmeat because they believe it cures various diseases.

According to the study, while 85 percent of those who consume meat do it as food, 10 percent consume it as medicine and five percent as both food and medicine.

International trade pangolin

“Pangolins in Africa, and in Uganda, specifically, have been traditionally hunted for bushmeat and traditional African medicine. However, there is growing evidence of international trade taking place with Asia as the main destination. Both the legal trade data from the CITES Trade Database and the recent seizure data from within Uganda show an increasing demand for pangolin scales,” he said.

The Ugandan NGO NRCN and UWA report 20 seizures of pangolin scales from 2012 to 2016. In 2015, about 2,000kg of pangolin scales was seized in Entebbe International Airport together with 700 kg of ivory destined for Amsterdam.

“As a region, we’re looking at mitigating the problem using national bans in bushmeat trade and consumption,” he said noting that Uganda with the help of WWF was supporting ex-poachers under the Reformed Poacher Groups associations to undertake appropriate entrepreneurial projects of their choice in exchange of poaching for bushmeat.

“The projects include commercial beekeeping and resource use agreements to be able to exploit certain resources within the parks in a more sustainable manner under collaborative management partnerships to reduce dependence on wildlife for meat.”

“But the limitation is in scaling up to other places where the crime is also high,” explained Ndizihiwe.

Inadequate research

Although he said investigations had not established association to bushmeat yet, Ndizihiwe, said “the (initial) Ebola case in Uganda could have originated from the consumption of bushmeat. We know that originally this disease came from primates and we know that most of the communities in Uganda eat primates.”

This April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged countries to suspend the sale of live wild animals at food markets – saying it was the source of more than 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans, and the suspected culprit behind the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 6.54 million people worldwide, and counting.

A joint report by the WHO and Chinese authorities last year demonstrated the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by the spillover of disease from animals to humans.

“And the more humans and animals come into contact with each other, especially when humans eat infected animals, the more likely it is that additional diseases will emerge. Currently, diseases such as HIV, Ebola, Covid-19, Marburg, Swine Fever, Monkeypox, Simian Foamy and other forms of Covid such as SARS-CoV-1 and now SARS-CoV-2 are all disease that whose transmission to humans was believed to be from wild animals,” said senior project manager, wildlife and trade, Dr Daniel Mdetele, a scientist who works for Traffic International East Africa, while addressing consumption of bushmeat and its association with zoonotic diseases.

“We need to have an alternative source of protein for communities that mostly rely on bushmeat. As well as alternative livelihoods for those relying on it for income.”

He explained that the high incidences of the viral and zoonotic diseases emerging from Asian countries can be attributed to the high consumption of bushmeat, noting that Asia and Africa are all regions along the Equator and are hotspots for pathogens as the climatic conditions favour and survival multiplication of these zoonotic pathogens.

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In June last year, over 180 slaughtered dikdiks were seized by authorities in Akales, Galana Ranch, Kilifi County in Kenya. Five people were arrested in association with the crime. A […]

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Tea volumes at Mombasa auction dip as drought ravages the region

The volume of tea auctioned at the Mombasa bourse has gone down significantly, with officials warning the trend may worsen in the next decade due to erratic weather.

Latest figures from the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) show the volume of tea offered on the auction dipped by almost 500,000 kilogrammes in the last trade, the second time in a row the quantities have declined in less than a month.

EATTA managing director Edward Mudibo said the decline in volume of tea offered for sale at the Mombasa auction was as a result of ongoing drought.

“Kenyan tea contributes about 60 percent of tea traded in the auction followed by Uganda at eight percent. Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania come third, fourth and fifth respectively. The total volume traded for Sale 39 was 407,913 kilos less than Sale 38, which was as a result of ongoing drought,” said Mudibo.

During the last sale at the auction, the average price increased to $2.27 from $2.25 in the previous sale.

Demand was reduced for the 181,340 packages (12,077,628kg) on offer, with about 120,480 packages (7,952,000kg) being sold, and 33.56 percent of packages remaining unsold.

Last month, Rhoda Ruto, a senior researcher at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s Tea Research Institute warned that tea production will be affected by increased temperature as a result of global warming.

“More effect of climate change on crops will be felt in Kenya’s tea sector as an increase in temperature beyond 23.5 degrees Celsius would significantly reduce yields of the cash crop,” she said.

Climate change has the potential to significantly affect smallscale farmers’ livelihoods.

Extremely low temperatures also affect tea production, with frosts cutting yield per bush.

Ruto, however, noted that climate change will enhance the suitability of tea production in areas where the crop is today not grown, especially the higher altitudes around Mount Kenya.

Kenya’s temperature will rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius between 2000 and 2050, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The country will experience extreme rainfall events, especially in the Rift Valley region.

Kenya’s yearly and monthly rainfall and mean air temperatures are expected to increase moderately by 2025, according the report, which will impact the very taste of tea.

Tanzania has also witnessed a decline in tea production over the past three years according to recent data.

Statistics from data aggregation portal Statista show that Tanzania produced 20,400 tonnes of tea in 2020/2021, a five-year low compared to 27,000 tonnes (2016/2017), 34,000 tonnes (2017/2018), a peak of 37,200 tonnes in 2018/2019 and 28,700 tonnes in 2019/2020.

Tanzania affected

According to the Tanzania Public Tea Company (Tatepa), a leading exporter of tea from Tanzania, production is being effected by weather patterns.

The firm said in a report that its subsidiary, the Wakulima Tea Company (Watco), decreased production due to climate constraints and as a consequence it made financial losses.

“During the year tea production decreased by three per cent as compared to 2018. This was due to weather conditions in 2019. The average selling price of $1.67 per kg was lower than last year’s price of $1.90 kg. The lower price was due to lower world prices,” said the firm.

Tatepa made a loss before tax of Tsh715 million ($305,444) in 2019 compared to 2018 where it garnered a profit of Tsh898 million ($383,621).

The listed firm also experienced bad debts amounting to Tsh452.9 million ($193,508) and disposed of its Kyimbila Tea Packing Company, also on a loss basis that year.

Tatepa is involved in growing, processing, blending, marketing and distributing tea. It three subsidiaries are Watco, Kibena Tea and Chai Bora.

While Watco and Kibena grow and process the commodity, Chai Bora is involved in blending, packaging and marketing of packed tea for local and export.

Tanzania exports fermented and partially fermented tea to Britain, South Africa, Russia, Pakistan and Poland among other countries.

Other major tea-producing countries including India, Sri Lanka and China are also facing rising temperatures and extreme weather that could affect their tea production, the FAO report noted.

Kenya is the largest producer of black tea in the world while China leads in green tea production.

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The volume of tea auctioned at the Mombasa bourse has gone down significantly, with officials warning the trend may worsen in the next decade due to erratic weather. Latest figures […]

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IMF warns of looming recession in 2023 as shocks persist

The International Monetary Fund has warned that a global economic recession could be apparent next year if the war in Ukraine and other economic shocks persist in the near term.

The projections for the growth rate of the global output (Gross Domestic Product) this year remain 3.2 percent as earlier predicted, down from 6 percent in 2021, and is forecast to reduce further to 2.7 percent in 2023.

Read: Brace for impact, some of East African woes are self-inflicted

The global slowdown is a result of the Russian war in Ukraine, rising costs of living caused by persistent and relentless inflation pressures, and the reduced economic activity in China due to consistent lockdowns, dimming the global growth prospects, IMF said.

“The 2023 slowdown will be broad-based, with countries accounting for a third of the global economy expected to contract this year or next,” said Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, IMF’s chief economist and research director.

“The worst is yet to come, and for many people, 2023 will feel like a recession. Despite the slowdown, inflation pressures are proving broader and more persistent than anticipated.”

Read: East Africa’s economic recovery prospects facing headwinds

Global inflation is expected to peak at 9.5 percent in the third quarter of 2022, and is broadening beyond food and energy, IMF said.

Should the war in Ukraine persist, inflation continue to broaden and the dollar continue to appreciate, IMF says, there is a 25 percent chance GDP growth could drop to below two percent and a 10 percent chance it could reduce to 1.1 percent.

Read: Africa facing recession, a first in 25 years says World Bank

“Increasing price pressures remain the most immediate threat to present and future prosperity by squeezing real incomes and undermining microeconomic stability,” Mr Gourinchas said.

The growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to drop to 3.6 percent in 2022 down from 4.7 percent last year.

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The International Monetary Fund has warned that a global economic recession could be apparent next year if the war in Ukraine and other economic shocks persist in the near term. […]

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How Kafala system in Arab Gulf states is leading to the death of Kenyan girls

Eunice Wanjiku is long dead and forgotten. In the Kenyan records at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – she is just another name.

By the time she died at the hands of her employer in Saudi Arabia, Wanjiku, 23, had lost most of her liberties.

In death, they had taken away her last liberty: Her name. After that, she was ‘unidentified.’ Unknown. Her family only learnt about Wanjiku’s death two years after her demise.

Tortured by her employer, humiliated, raped, and later killed – Wanjiku is today a statistic.

For the love of diaspora remittances, now amounting to $3,718 million in 2021, the government has turned a blind eye to multi-billion-shilling house-help trade as long as the dollars can flow to the coffers.

In 2014, the government attempted to close Gulf’s house-help trade due to the reported abuse of domestic workers. But, after a few months, it was re-opened for a dubious reason.

Latest statistics from Central Bank show that for the first eight months of this year, Kenya received Ksh22.65 billion ($187 million) from Kenyans living in Saudi Arabia as the country emerged as the third largest source of our remittances after the US, which brought in Ksh188.8 billion ($1.5 billion), and UK’s Ksh25.4 billion ($210 million).

Last month, the story of an emaciated Diana Chepkemoi, who was ailing and held against her will, touched many Kenyans.

Diana had gone to the Gulf hoping to save money to pay for her university education.

Kenyans’ uproar rescued Diana before becoming a statistic – and she has now returned to university.

But 23-year-old Beatrice Waruguru, whose disfigured body was brought back in May, was not as lucky.

The five-hour stand-off at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as her mother refused to sign papers to protest the torture her daughter was taken through, is a painful reminder of how the maid trade system is rotten.

Kafala system

The government knows that migrant workers in Jordan, Lebanon, and all Arab Gulf states have in place the archaic Kafala system, which ties the legal residency of a migrant worker to their employer for a specific period. During the days of slavery, this was called indentured labour. 

Unlike in the West, where migration targets highly educated workers, the Gulf countries target migrants from vulnerable families to work as domestic servants in this Kafala system – where you can only buy your freedom.

In the Gulf, the girls sign documents written in Arabic. The handlers then take away the girls’ passports, thus restricting their right to any movement. After that, any escape could only take you to a detention camp.

During slavery in the Caribbean, some enslaved people were set free after paying the masters who had “bought” them the shipping and purchase fee.

Today, migrant domestic workers in the Gulf are employed on similar terms. However, they can only earn freedom if they pay their “sponsors” some hefty amount calculated as the agency recruitment fee, visa fee and air ticket.

The stories that come from the Gulf – and told by survivors – are straight from Satan’s compound.

When Slaida Vugutsa was killed in Saudi Arabia last year, she was partially buried by her murderer in the desert – before somebody stumbled on the grave.

It took several months before her family received the body. At the airport, they were inconsolable– and angry. 

Last week, the family of Linet Akinyi, 24, who has been missing for three years, got the news that her body is in a Saudi morgue.

Blind eye

As the flow of dollars increases, the government has turned a blind eye to the number of cadavers of young girls that arrive at JKIA and continues to watch as agencies send more girls to the death traps of domestic labour. 

And it is not that they don’t know. In September last year, the PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Macharia Kamau, told a parliamentary committee that 41 Kenyans had died in Saudi Arabia within nine months, apparently of cardiac arrest.

That means we lose approximately two girls every week. The scandal is that we don’t seem to see it as an indictment of how we treat our poor.

There is a deep history behind this Kafala system. Historians argue that slavery had always been a fixture of the Persian Gulf societies, and the rich had always imported cheap labour from East Africa, which was regarded as a reservoir of slaves destined for the Middle East markets.

The efforts to eliminate the slave trade in the 19th century had limited impact on Gulf slavery as the British patrol ships could not, at times, outrun the dhows.

More so, the British had to face the powerful Persian Gulf sheikhdoms. As a result, it signed treaties with some of these entities, which allowed them to retain domestic slaves – and to enslave the slave descendants.

In 1916, the British government – which had colonised the Gulf – signed a treaty with the Sheikh of Qatar, allowing the Sheikhs to retain their black slaves as long as they “accord the negroes fair and just treatment”.

At best, the British did not interfere with local forms of slavery as long as they did not threaten the colony. At worst, they did not care.

By this time, some Saudi families had started to import what historians call indentured labour, where those kidnapped or lured to the Kafala system were contracted to serve for several years without the option of leaving – unless they bought their freedom.

Indentured labour

Today, in the Gulf states, we still hear stories of Kenyan girls asked to purchase their freedom by refunding the money used to recruit and ferry them into indentured labour. 

This type of labour was popular in the 19th-century British empires, and it is a pity that it still thrives – and that we still allow our citizens to get enslaved.

If you read the literature on Caribbean slavery and its indentured labour, the similarities with Kafala system will shock you.

You will find that indentured labour from India replaced slave labour, which explains the immense Indian population in some Caribbean islands. 

As the successor to slavery, indentured labourers operated in the same space as slaves – and some had been kidnapped to work as waged labourers.

In the British colony of India, this type of labour was called “coolie,” and the indentured labourers were once shipped and used to build the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1890. Many of these never found their way back home.

We know from the Gulf that the emancipation of enslaved Black people did not change their status since they had no place to go or means of subsistence.

Some historians have argued that the British popularised the current Kafala system to control the flow of migrants into the pearl hunting trade in the ocean, a lucrative business.

Rather than Britain’s control of these migrants, it allowed the employers to be in charge of their visas and delegated responsibility to the employers.

In essence, the British government left the migrant labourers outside its purview. That was in the 1920s.

Today, in Lebanon, for instance, Article 7 of the Labour Law expressly excludes migrant domestic workers from any labour protection.

As a result, they cannot enjoy a minimum wage, a limit on working hours, overtime pay, a weekly rest day, and freedom of association. 

Thus, the girls we usually send to Lebanon to work under the Kafala system get trapped in regulations that mimic slavery.

In all these cases, workers cannot leave or change jobs without their employers’ consent. If they leave their employers without permission, they risk losing their legal residency and face detention and deportation.

Because domestic servants’ visa and freedom of movement is at the discretion of private entities, all stories emanating from the Gulf start with the employers seizing passports – meaning they have control of their subjects.

Amnesty International has raised all these issues in the Middle East. They have told governments that the Kafala system is subjecting domestic workers to unpaid labour, forced labour, physical abuse, rape, and dangerous working conditions.

In all the cases we have heard, the recruiting agencies in Nairobi have no say on the recruits once they pass through our “door of no return” – to borrow the name given to the place slaves boarded their ships in West Africa.

The number of girls dying in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries is alarming. Yet, we still continue to send hundreds of them into servitude – allowing them to be trapped in the Kafala labour system that has been dismissed by human rights bodies as a new form of slavery.

Dr Alfred Mutua, who has been picked as the next Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Diaspora must streamline this trade – or stop it.

How many more should die before we stop this trade?

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Eunice Wanjiku is long dead and forgotten. In the Kenyan records at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – she is just another name. By the time she died at the […]

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WHO sounds alarm over suicides in Africa

Africa needs to combat a suicide rate that is the highest in the world yet remains widely unrecognised and often stigmatised, the UN has said.

Six of the 10 countries with the greatest suicide rates in the world are in Africa, and the continent’s per-suicide rate is more than a fifth higher than in other regions, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

“Around 11 people per 100,000 per year die by suicide in the African region, higher than the global average of nine per 100,000 people,” the agency’s Africa branch said on Thursday.

Death by hanging or poisoning by pesticide head the list of methods.

The agency launched an appeal for awareness of the problem ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10.

“Suicide is a major public health problem and every death by suicide is a tragedy. Unfortunately, suicide prevention is rarely a priority in national health programs,” said regional director Matshidiso Moeti.

Stigma is a key problem, as is lack of funding, the WHO said.

Africa has on average only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 inhabitants — a ratio 100 times lower than the WHO’s recommendation — and the lack of therapists is especially serious in countries that have been in conflict.

Spending on mental health in Africa is under 50 cents per head, less than a quarter of UN recommendations.

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Africa needs to combat a suicide rate that is the highest in the world yet remains widely unrecognised and often stigmatised, the UN has said. Six of the 10 countries […]

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Tanzania screens travelers, trains communities on Ebola prevention

Tanzania has begun training border communities on preventive measures as well as screening passengers following the Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Uganda.

The trainings for local communities in eight district councils in Kagera region, northern Tanzania, are being carried out by health services officers.

The country has been on high alert since Uganda confirmed an outbreak on its soil.

Read: Tanzanian doctor becomes second health worker to die of Ebola in Uganda

Early this week, Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu and medical experts visited the region and ordered local officials to deny entry into the hinterlands to anyone infected with or suspected to have Ebola—the patients will, instead, be taken to designated camps for quarantine.

Ministry reports show that about 6,000 people have been screened at the border, among them 500 truck drivers.

Tanzania has not recorded any cases of Ebola, said Beatrice Mutayoba, the Director of Disease Control from the Ministry. However, the country is taking precautionary measures to prevent and, if need be, combat the Ebola Virus Disease.

So far, Uganda has so far recorded 44 cases of Ebola infections and 10 deaths, among them health workers.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Ugandan Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has urged all health workers to wear protective gear in the course of duty to prevent infections.

The country has also called for mask wearing and hand washing to prevent spread of Ebola, which is transmitted from person to person through contact with an infected person’s fluids. The virus can also be transmitted through infected animals. Its main symptoms include being fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding.

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Tanzania has begun training border communities on preventive measures as well as screening passengers following the Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Uganda. The trainings for local communities in eight district councils in Kagera […]

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President Ruto unlocks GMO billions as Kenya okays biotech foods

Kenya’s Cabinet has unlocked billions for firms involved in the genetically modified organisms (GMO) industry after it approved the farming and importation of biotechnology crops in a major policy shift that seeks to make the country food secure and contain runaway prices.

President William Ruto Monday chaired a Cabinet meeting that lifted the 2012 moratorium that restricted importation or open cultivation of GMO crops, making Kenya the second country in the continent after South Africa to allow biotechnology foods.

The approval comes in the wake of a biting drought that has exposed three million Kenyans to famine in 23 counties, forcing the government to intervene with relief food. Firms involved in GMO seed manufacturing will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy shift that will put pressure on farmers to reduce prices or be forced out of the market.

The approval is meant to allow imports of GMO maize that are readily available in the market at a cheaper cost to help in lowering the price of flour which has now hit a high of Ksh200 ($1.65) for a two-kilo packet as the new government drops the subsidy scheme, which Dr Ruto termed as costly to the economy.

In consideration of the adoption of GMO crops, the Cabinet says it put into mind various expert and technical reports including that of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“In accordance with the recommendation of the Task Force to review matters relating to Genetically Modified Foods … the Cabinet vacated its earlier decision of November 8, 2012, prohibiting the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations.

“Effectively lifting the ban on Genetically Modified Crops, by dint of the executive action open cultivation and importation of white (GMO) maize is now authorised,” reads a Cabinet memo.

Scientists argue the GMO maize variety can yield double what farmers are getting from the conventional breeds given that they are drought tolerant and can withstand pests and diseases.

Timothy Njagi, a research fellow with Egerton University-based Tegemeo Institute, says the decision was long overdue.

“GMO maize is cheaper than the conventional one and once we start importing it will lower the cost of food locally,” said Dr Njagi.

Dr Njagi said GMO imports will also help in addressing the high cost of animal feeds, which have for the last three years remained at a historic high. The waiver on GMO imports, he said, will now see millers import other non-conventional materials used in making feeds such as soya.

Roy Mugiira, the chief executive officer of the NBA, which is the sector regulator, welcomed the move by the Cabinet. “In the coming few days, we shall now be issuing guidelines to be followed in importing or growing of these varieties, but I can say that it is now legal to have GMO crops in the country,” said Dr Mugiira.

The ban on GMOs was announced by former Health Minister Betty Mugo in 2012 after a journal by French scientist Eric Seralini claimed that these crops had a link to cancer after a mouse that was fed on it developed a cancerous tumour. The journal was, however, recalled two years later on grounds that it was not conclusive on the matter.

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approval for the environmental release was granted by the NBA in 2016. The scientists completed research on genetically modified maize last year and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming.

Read: Kenya rules out GMO maize imports to tame cost of animal feeds

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Porous borders stoke Ebola fears across the region

Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down

Health authorities across the region are scratching their heads on how to counter the health and economic threats posed by the growing Ebola emergency in Uganda, even as economies struggle to recover from the effects of Covid-19.

This week, President Yoweri Museveni clarified that his government has ruled out Covid-like restrictions that saw borders, schools, entertainment and worship centres shut down for more than one year.

Ebola threat

The Ebola fear is not restricted to Uganda as health officials in the region continue to contend with porous borders that put the entire region at risk.

But an even bigger fear is that restrictions at border points could hurt movement of people and goods.

Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what you need to know

On Thursday, Dr Anthony Kafumbe, the East African Community (EAC) acting deputy secretary-general for Productive and Social Sectors, said the EAC Secretariat would work with partner states to co-ordinate emergency preparedness and response at common borders.

“I urge partner states to enhance surveillance and laboratory testing especially at border areas; to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures and increase risk communication and community awareness of the disease,” he said.

“I ask partner states to consider the deployment of the EAC mobile laboratories to the strategic outbreak hotspots and at the various border point of entries.”

Taking measures

This week, Rwanda reinstated the use of non-contact thermometers across all its border crossings.

Rwandan health workers, in protective gear and face masks, were at the Gatuna and Kagitumba borders, engaging cross-border travellers, taking their temperature and noting down their travel history.

Although Rwanda has not suffered a single Ebola case in the past, Uganda’s Mubende District – the epicentre of this year’s outbreak – is about a six-hour drive from the border.

“The Ministry of Health strongly urges each and every one to be cautious and seriously comply with the preventive measures against Ebola,” reads a statement from Rwanda’s ministry of Health.

It warned against “unnecessary visits and contacts with people who have travelled to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak.”

The public has been advised to report all visitors from Uganda and observe high hygiene.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

By Friday, Ebola cases had been detected in Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kagadi and Kassanda across 120 kilometres, the World Health Organisation said in its bulletin.

“Some 400 had been identified and will be monitored as the search continues to identify other people who may be at risk,” it said.

WHO said confirmed cases need supportive care to improve their survival chances. The agency deployed three viral haemorrhagic fever kits with medical supplies, medicines and personal protective equipment to an isolation unit set up in the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital with plans underway for an additional Ebola treatment unit. “More kits will be deployed based on need,” a statement said.

Uganda will also receive $500,000 to support the country’s control efforts and another $300,000 from WHO’s preparedness programme to support readiness activities in the neighbouring countries, including screening, awareness campaigns and isolation centres.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

The WHO had earlier in the week praised Uganda’s response and especially testing capacity for Ebola, with 5,000 tests having been done by Wednesday.

But health officials in the affected areas are expressing frustration that the localised measures imposed to contain the spread were being violated, and suggested expanded lockdown measures.

So far, there are 31 confirmed cases and six confirmed deaths.

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services at the Ugandan Health ministry, said some people suspected to have contracted the disease had escaped from Mubende Hospital a week ago before samples taken from them had been tested. Results for one of the said people turned out positive, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

Risky behaviour

Officials say they have since tightened security at quarantine facilities, but are still worried of a possible community infection.

Yet when detected and treated early, the risk of dying from Ebola is significantly reduced.

In Kasese district bordering DR Congo, another suspected Ebola patient escaped from a health facility on Wednesday morning.

As the emergency escalated this week, the country has reported that five doctors and an anaesthetist have been gone into isolation for treatment after contracting Ebola in the line of duty.

“Initially, there were issues with personal protective equipment. In the areas where the patients reached first, the health workers there were not having PPEs,” Dr Herbert Luswata, the president of an association of doctors in the country said.

One of the health workers, a Tanzanian doctor, died on Saturday while receiving treatment. He was in Uganda pursuing a Master of Medicine in Surgery course at Kampala International University.

Sheila Nduhukire, the spokesperson of the National Medical Stores, says they have since supplied adequate PPE stocks to the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

On Friday, Health officials in Kenya said they were investigating a suspected case of Ebola in Kakamega County, western Kenya. The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said.

Mumias West Disease Surveillance Co-ordinator Boaz Gichana said the patient had been admitted at St Mary Hospital isolation unit awaiting laboratory results.

Last week, the Kenyan government issued an Ebola alert and called for screening of travellers at entry points on the border with Uganda.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu has meanwhile directed regional commissioners from high-risk Ebola regions to strengthen the rapid response teams to control possible spread of the disease.

The high risk regions are Kagera, Mwanza, Kigoma, Geita and Mara in the Great Lakes zone and Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Songwe for their high interaction with foreign citizens.

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Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down […]

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Rift Valley fever vaccine trials get under way

Trials for a human vaccine for Rift Valley fever will soon begin, giving hope that a vaccine will be released in the next five years.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has been working on the inoculation, says trials will take three to four years.

CEPI project leader Mike Whelan said this week that 17 vaccine candidates have been selected to undergo trials for the vaccine, but will first go through pre-clinical stages to determine their suitability.

“We estimate that the initial trial projects will likely take three to four years to complete,” Mr Whelan said.

“After that, depending on available data, successful vaccines will move forward into efficacy trials before a licence for human use can be granted,” he added.

The efficacy trials will determine whether people in the clinical trial who got vaccinated with the Rift Valley fever vaccine are less likely to develop the disease than those who got the placebo shot.

CEPI estimates that approval of the Rift Valley fever vaccine, at least for emergency use, will happen within a five to 10-year period.

Rift Valley fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease caused by the Rift Valley fever virus, transmitted by mosquitoes (Aedes, Culex, Anopheles, and Mansonia spp) and blood feeding flies. It commonly affects domesticated animals (such as cattle, sheep, goats, and camels) but can also cause illness in people.

No vaccines are currently approved for human use, even though climate change could increase the severity and frequency of its outbreaks among human communities.

In East Africa, its outbreaks are associated with cycles of heavy rainfall that result in floods and increased vegetation cover favouring high vector density and species diversity.

During the 2006-2007 outbreak in East Africa, the fever caused a $60 million loss of trade due to livestock deaths and animal abortions.

The virus has been reported in 30 countries across the world and there have been heavy cases in Kenya, Mauritania, Uganda and Egypt over the past 40 years.

CEPI is supporting two vaccine programmes at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Colorado State University in the US.

Last month, CEPI launched its second phase of funding to advance the development of innovative vaccine programs against Rift Valley fever, including $35 million financial support provided by the European Union Horizon Europe program. Up to $50 million in total will be made available by CEPI to support promising Rift Valley fever vaccine candidates through Phase I and II clinical trials in endemic areas.

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Trials for a human vaccine for Rift Valley fever will soon begin, giving hope that a vaccine will be released in the next five years. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations […]

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Erratic weather, global crises push cost of food to record high levels

Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond the reach of many.

This week, Kenya launched a relief food programme for communities trapped in a cycle of four failed agriculture seasons, and Uganda had already been distributing relief food to people in Karamoja regions.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha)is predicting the likelihood of a fifth failed crop season. Uganda, which has generally enjoyed above average food production from its arable fertile soils, having two harvest seasons annually, is now increasingly facing food challenges due to less erratic and less predictable rains and unprecedented prolonged dry spells.

According to the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), some rainy months now have only 18 wet days compared with 20 previously which impacts on food yields.

According to meteorological information, 40 per cent of all rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests, which have been encroached on and destroyed by developers for housing or peasants for farming and others decimated for firewood and charcoal.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, says the Ugandan government has been forced to provide food to areas that have “had pockets of hunger,” costing upwards of Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) in the past three months alone.

According to the Meteorological department, the country steadily been receiving less rainfall over the past 16 years. However, there are those that argue that the food shortages being currently experienced in the region is also effects of bad national policies, rather than the weather.

In Kenya, President William Ruto flagged off relief food to drought-stricken counties on Tuesday, but admitted it was only a short-term measure.

The programme is targeting 3.5 million people. Kenya’s Meteorological Department has declared severest drought in 23 out of the 47 counties.

And Ocha’s National Drought Early Warning data for September 2022, says 10 counties are under an alarming drought phase with at least 4.35 million people in danger.

The Horn of Africa, including parts of Kenya, is facing the worst drought with at least 20 million people in immediate need of food. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan, and Djibouti and Eritrea

Kipkorir Arap Menjo, the director of the Farmers Association, a lobby for local food producers, said Kenya’s maize growing regions are expecting a harvest early October. But even in countries touted as having almost sufficient food supplies, like Tanzania, prices are soaring and limiting access for many.

As countries struggle to get cheaper grain from traditional sources like Russia and Ukraine, world prices and growing world demand is making the situation harder in the region.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, the price of maize alone has more than doubled over the past year, hitting Tsh87,383 ($37.66) per 100-kilogramme sack in July compared with Tsh43,371 ($18.69) in the same month last year. Other key basic foods like rice and beans have also registered sharp price increases.

In its latest monthly review report for August 2022, the BoT says wholesale food prices had increased “mainly due to low harvests associated with delayed short rains and a high demand for food from neighboring countries.”

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Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond […]

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Kenya on the spot as ICC suspect dies mysteriously

The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has put President William Ruto’s regime in the international spotlight.

Gicheru, 52, was found dead at his Karen home on Monday evening. This means his case at The Hague is over since the ICC does not convict or acquit the dead – as reasoned in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the case against Slobodan Milosevic.

It also means that President Ruto, who was adversely mentioned during the Gicheru trial, is off the hook — for now.

Mr Gicheru, a former ally of President Ruto, was charged with interfering with ICC witnesses in the case in which Dr Ruto was charged with crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election violence. His arrest warrant was unsealed on September 10, 2015.

However, though a Kenyan court had stopped his extradition, the lawyer surrendered to the Dutch authorities on November 2, 2020, surprising his friends and lawyers.

During his trial, which closed on June 27, 2022, Dr Ruto was adversely mentioned by the prosecution as the beneficiary of the “common scheme”, which included bribery and intimidation of witnesses.

Interestingly, Mr Gicheru, who was charged with eight counts of offences against the administration of justice, opted not to present any oral testimony during his case, and his lawyer relied on documents disclosed by the prosecution to extricate him from the jaws of the ICC. Even more intriguing is that Mr Gicheru’s defence failed to call any witnesses.

Mr Gicheru’s death is the second one among the members of the “common scheme”. In December 2015, one of Mr Gicheru’s allies, Meshack Yebei, was abducted and killed.

His body was later found in the Tsavo National Park. Mr Yebei was also implicated in efforts to corrupt witnesses in the case against Dr Ruto and his co-defendant, Joshua arap Sang.

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The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court […]

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Health officials probe suspected Ebola case in western Kenya

Health officials in Kakamega County, western Kenya, are investigating a suspected case of Ebola.

The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said.

Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what you need to know

Mumias West Disease Surveillance Coordinator Boaz Gichana said in a statement released on Friday that the patient is currently at St Mary Hospital isolation unit awaiting laboratory tests.

Last week, Kenya issued an Ebola alert and called for screening of travellers at entry points on the border with Uganda following an outbreak in the neighbouring country.

South Sudan and Tanzania also heightened surveillance, especially at their borders with Uganda, while Rwanda has began screening travellers at the borders to prevent cross-border spread of Ebola.

Last month, Kenya put health officials on the border on high alert after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating a suspected case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DRC then announced an Ebola outbreak, and has this week announced an end to its 15th outbreak after no more new cases of the disease were reported for 42 days.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Uganda is currently battling a rise in infections and deaths caused by the Sudan strain, which currently has no vaccine. Health officials have urged residents to adhere to measures to prevent infection and spread of the virus.

Previous outbreaks and responses have shown that early diagnosis and treatment, optimised supportive care with fluid and electrolyte repletion, and treatment of symptoms, significantly improve survival rates of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

Read: Uganda rules out Ebola lockdown

Also Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

The disease is usually introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

It is transmitted from person to person through contact with body fluids.

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Health officials in Kakamega County, western Kenya, are investigating a suspected case of Ebola. The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said. Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what […]

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Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Ebola survivors have to wait for at least three months before having sex again unless they use condoms as one the preventive ways to curb spread of the disease, the Ministry of Health has advised.

“Before returning home, Ebola patients will have their blood tested in the laboratory to ensure the virus is no longer in their body. However, people who have recovered from the illness should not have sex for at least three months unless they use condoms,” the Ministry of Health’s advisory reads in part.

The executive director of Uganda Virus Research Institute, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, said although Ebola is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, in some studies, experts have found the virus in sperms after recovery.

Dr Ataro Ayella, a clinical epidemiologist, who has managed previous Ebola outbreaks in Bundibugyo in 2007, Liberia in 2014, and DR Congo in 2019, told Monitor in a separate interview yesterday that Ebola can be transmitted sexually and the virus can stay in the semen for up to three months. This means transmission can occur even if the survivor has no symptoms of the disease.

“Besides having got cured of the disease, a relapse or reinfection could occur… The reinfection depends on the immunity of the person and other co-existing diseases,” Dr Ayella added.

Scientists say studies done in Liberia indicate that a woman was infected with Ebola following sexual intercourse with a male Ebola survivor.

Dr Charles Olaro, the Ministry of Health’s director for curative services, said the Ebola virus hides in testes after recovery.

Asked when the three-month count down starts, Dr Olaro said “from the time they (survivors) get discharged”.

Dr Ayella explained that the virus can hide in other places such as backbone fluid and eyes.

“The nature of the virus gives it ability to survive for long in reserves in the body (brain, spinal fluid, semen, placenta and eyes) even when the patient is declared cured…The virus can be stored alive in the semen for long since it is conducive environment for its survival, unlike other body fluids,” Dr Ayella explained.

Several people who spoke to Monitor urged the government to conduct more sensitisation.

Ms Grace Aine, businesswoman in Kampala, said: “The Ministry needs to sensitise the population. I am sure not very many people know about this despite the number of Ebola outbreaks this country has had. I am sure people will abide if they know the risk involved, after all they are saying protected sex is okay.”

Mr Alex Ariho, a resident of Kampala, said: “This message needs to be taken to people who need it the most, the sex workers. Emphasise the need for protected sex since they are saying with protection, it’s okay.”

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Uganda’s Ebola death toll hits 23

The death toll in Uganda resulting from the Ebola Sudan strain has reached 23, health officials have said.

Read: Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior communications officer, said the latest situation report indicated that as of Monday the country has a cumulative 36 cases of Ebola, 18 of which are confirmed and the other 18 are probable.

“The deaths stand at 23, five confirmed and 18 are probable. In the last 24 hours, we registered two new cases and two more deaths,” he said.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

The Ebola taskforce officials in Mubende District, the epicenter of the outbreak, revealed that five out of the deaths have occurred at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital where they have set up an isolation centre, while the other cases were registered from the community.

Ms Rose Mary Byabasaija, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and head of the area Ebola taskforce, on Monday said that while the number of admissions at both the emergency and isolation facilities stands at 38, the confirmed cases are 16.

“It is unfortunate that we have a positive case among the seven people that escaped from the isolation facility at Mubende Hospital. We have now got clues that will possibly help us get the woman that escaped from the facility. Both the security and health surveillance teams are tracking down the escapees,” she added.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

The taskforce has also beefed up security at Mubende Hospital to ensure that all Ebola cases are isolated from the surrounding community to prevent spread of the disease.

“We have requested for extra deployment from police at the hospital,” the RDC said.

Meanwhile, a spot check in public places such as markets in Mubende revealed that many people are not heeding to the government’s calls to take measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Most shops did not have hand washing facilities.

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The death toll in Uganda resulting from the Ebola Sudan strain has reached 23, health officials have said. Read: Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior communications officer, […]

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Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda

The death toll from Ebola in Uganda has risen to four, while the number of confirmed Ebola cases rose to 16, data from the Ministry of Health indicates.

Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said that apart from the four confirmed deaths, 17 other fatalities are probable cases of Ebola infection. He added that the number of confirmed Ebola cases in Uganda rose to 16 at the weekend, with 18 others listed as probable cases of infection.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

“Cases reported outside Mubende include three in Kyegegwa and one in Kassanda but all linked to the index case in Mubende,” ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said, adding that there were “no confirmed cases in [the capital] Kampala”.

Health authorities said samples from suspected cases are being analysed at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

The ministry appealed to residents to adhere to preventive measures and report any suspected cases to nearby health facilities or authorities.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

At the weekend, officials expressed concern over the gaps in contact tracing.

While delivering his message at the national taskforce meeting at Mubende District headquarters on Saturday, Lt Col Henry Kyobe, the Ebola incident commander, said they are tracing 213 contacts.

“As we speak today (Saturday) we have 213 cumulative contacts. Contact tracing is still a challenge madam. The biggest proportion, numbering 118 (55 percent), are health workers, meaning that community contacts have not all been listed which creates a challenge,” he said.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng demanded a robust contact tracing.

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The death toll from Ebola in Uganda has risen to four, while the number of confirmed Ebola cases rose to 16, data from the Ministry of Health indicates. Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel […]

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Uganda increases surveillance as it confirms six more Ebola cases

Uganda’s Ministry of Health on Thursday reported six new cases of Ebola, raising the total number of confirmed cases to seven.

On Tuesday, the country confirmed the first fatality from the disease after a 24-year-old man died in Mubende District, central Uganda, and was confirmed to have been infected with the virus.

“As of today, we have seven confirmed cases – one confirmed Ebola death and seven probable [Ebola] deaths. We have listed 43 contacts [of the victims] and we are doing contact tracing,” said Dr Henry Kyobe, the Ebola Incident Commander.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

He added that they forecast an increase in infections but actions are underway to protect the population and health workers.

“There are trial drugs using the monoclonal antibody technology. Largely, the treatment is mainly on supportive care. This [Sudan] strain has no vaccine,” Dr Kyobe said.

“For now we are concentrating on making sure we inform the population about what it is, guiding them on the measures to be able to protect [themselves], guiding them to show us where contacts are –identify them to be able to get patients early in care.”

Read: Kenya on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Also read: South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Meanwhile, health authorities in Uganda are increasing surveillance and contact tracing of Ebola cases, widening their nets to many more parts of the country in a bid to control the spread of disease.

Health ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, told The East African on Thursday that the ministry had mapped out 13 districts, in the proximity of the Mubende epicentre, for contact tracing with more than 42 contacts identified by Thursday.

“We have also deployed our rapid response teams to all these districts which will orient health workers and prepare them for a possible outbreak,” he said.

The rapid response units will also be tasked with activating district health task forces, risk communication to communities and evaluation of laboratory preparedness in all the 13 districts earmarked as vulnerable.

Earlier in the week, Dr Diana Atwine, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary at the Health ministry, expressed worry over the fact that the country only has in store vaccines for the Zaire strain that has twice affected it, but not for the current Sudan strain it now faces.

According to Mr Bayo Fatunmbi, the head of disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization office in Kampala, vaccines for the Sudan Strain are currently being tested.

The Sudan strain was first recorded in Sudan in 1976 and in Uganda in 2011.

Uganda has experienced three Ebola outbreaks with its deadliest being that of 2000 that killed hundreds of people, including the lead medic Dr Matthew Lukwiya.

Around the country public places, authorities have heightened surveillance and are encouraging hand washing and proper disposal of waste.

In Mubende district which is the current epicentre of the outbreak, local leaders have ordered markets and entertainment places to close while crowded parties and burial are being restricted.

On Wednesday, the ministry of health issued new measures and standard operating procedures to inform national response to curb the spread of the contagion to both health workers and the public.

These measures include hand hygiene and proper use of Personal Protective Equipment; cleaning and waste management; safety with laboratory samples; managing exposure to the virus; burial protocol; and reducing home transmission risk.

Uganda’s neighbours Kenya and South Sudan have already heightened surveillance for the disease after Kampala confirmed its first case earlier in the week.

South Sudan has stepped up vigilance along its borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ainebyona said that Uganda is currently not worried about the border areas since the outbreak is far from border districts.

Ebola is a highly contagious disease transmitted to people from animals and rapidly spreads through human-to-human infection.

First identified in 1976 in the DRC, the virus, whose natural host is the bat, has since set off a series of epidemics in Africa, killing around 15,000 people.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

At present, there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighbouring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020. It is currently battling another outbreak

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Uganda’s Ministry of Health on Thursday reported six new cases of Ebola, raising the total number of confirmed cases to seven. On Tuesday, the country confirmed the first fatality from […]

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Campaigners want health funding cuts reversed amid Africa crises

Global leaders have been challenged to reverse funding cuts to vital health services for women, children and adolescents caused by Covid-19, conflict and climate change.

Civil society groups and health professionals, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, said there was an urgent need for targeted investment in programmes and policies to tackle the devastating social and economic impact of crises, including the food crisis in Africa and the conflict in the Democratic of Congo (DRC).

 “It is essential for citizens to be heard at the highest levels of government and leadership. Leaders need to understand what people want, and to play their part as champions in creating robust and responsive health systems and communities,” said Helen Clark, the board chair of Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.

Covid-19 has led to food price hikes and the overall rise in the cost of living in most African countries. Some countries have been limiting access to food and other essentials, even if food is available at increased prices in local markets.

Read: Drought-ravaged Horn of Africa in need of funding: envoy

About 5.5 million children in East Africa are facing high levels of malnutrition due to the compounding effects of Covid-19, intense drought, and the Ukraine crisis. About 97 million more people are living on less than $1.90 a day because of the pandemic, increasing the global poverty rate from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent.

Data from the World Health Organisation, for instance, shows that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis on account of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Further, conflict in Africa increased women’s mortality by 112 deaths per 100,000 person-years which translates to a 21 percent increase above the baseline.

The DRC continues to witness one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises arising from conflict. More than 27 million people face severe and acute food insecurity, with nearly 5.5 million IDPs forced to move sometimes several times. Some 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers are hosted in neighboring countries.

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Kenya’s Ruto: Climate crisis ‘Africa’s biggest problem’

Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday asked continental colleagues to see the climate crisis as Africa’s biggest problem, suggesting more financial focus on taming its effects.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the President indicated while the world should focus on rebuilding from the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises, Africa may find itself hurt more by climate change, in spite of contributing the least of its causes.

“While these are important issues affecting the entire world, the greatest challenge that connects our world is Climate Change: unfortunately, due to many pressing concerns, CoP27 has not been given the prominence it deserves,” he told a gathering of African leaders at the continental meeting of the 3rd Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

The Committee is expected to push for one voice for the continent ahead of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP27) due in Egypt in November this year.

Africa produced under four percent of greenhouse gases, the pollutants that have caused global warming over the past decades, contributing to irregular climate such as frequent floods, longer droughts as well as the spread of pests like desert locusts.

Adaptation funding

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current African Union chairman, said Africa must be given its adequate share of resources to adapt to climate change.

“It is legitimate, fair and equitable that Africa, the continent that pollutes the least and lags furthest behind in the industrialisation process, should exploit its available resources to provide basic energy, improve the competitiveness of its economy and achieve universal access to electricity,” President Sall told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. 

“We see adaptation funding not as aid, but as a contribution by industrialised countries to a global partnership of solidarity, in return for efforts by developing countries to avoid the polluting patterns that have plunged the planet into the current climate emergency,” he said.

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, developed countries are to raise $100 million annually for mitigation programmes in developing countries. The pledge has never been fulfilled, however.

An earlier dispatch from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had indicated President Ruto would insist on more focus on climate change because Kenya sees most other problems tied to it. According to President Ruto, African countries have already been doing their bit to ensure mitigation, including 10 percent of GDP annual allocations.“

African countries will need financial and technical support for a just transition to low carbon, clean technologies to drive our industrial and productive sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure development and job creation.

“It is my hope that we will, at CoP27, call for enhanced adaptation efforts, fulfilment and implementation of pledges.

“Building resilience to address the multiple crises and risks, while ensuring the impact of climate change on Africa remain high on the global political agenda, and must remain a priority for CAHOSCC.”

President Ruto gave his maiden speech to the Assembly, as head of state, on Wednesday night. Watch here

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Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday asked continental colleagues to see the climate crisis as Africa’s biggest problem, suggesting more financial focus on taming its effects. Speaking on the sidelines […]

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Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

Health experts on Tuesday urged Uganda to focus on preventing and controlling the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, noting that there is no vaccine against the rare Sudan strain that has been confirmed in the country.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed an Ebola outbreak in the country after the virus was detected in Mubende, central Uganda. One death was confirmed while six other deaths are suspected to have been caused by Ebola, but remain unverified.

Bayo Fatunmbi, head of disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization office in Uganda, told reporters that the Sudan strain is rare and had only occurred in Sudan in 1976 and in Uganda in 2011.

“We have done something before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but we find that the vaccination that worked with the Zaire virus [strain] will not be useful for this particular Sudan strain,” he said. He added that another type of vaccine is currently being tested.

Diana Atwine, Uganda’s permanent secretary at the Health ministry, said that while the country has the vaccine for the Zaire strain, there is no vaccine for the Sudan strain.

She said a team of epidemiologists has been sent to Mubende to investigate the source of the index case, a 24-year-old male who died on Monday.

“There is no need to panic at all because Uganda is well known for handling epidemics. We have built capacity, and we want to assure the public that we shall contain this epidemic,” Ms Atwine said. 

She added that Uganda is working with partners like the WHO to contain the spread of the deadly disease. 

The Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes various symptoms, including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, generalized pain or malaise, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding. According to the WHO, the fatality rate for those who contract Ebola ranges from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on the viral sub-type.

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Health experts on Tuesday urged Uganda to focus on preventing and controlling the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, noting that there is no vaccine against the rare Sudan strain […]

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South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda.

Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts confirming that it was the deadly Sudan strain that currently has no vaccine.

On Tuesday, South Sudan’s undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, Victoria Anib Majur, urged communities living along the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to report any suspicious cases of Ebola to health authorities.

“We are very concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda because we share the border. We have a lot of movement across the border. Our families are in Uganda and Ugandans are on this side,” Majur told journalists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

She also urged the public to refrain from eating bush meat as the Ebola virus can spread from animals to humans through contaminated bush meat.

Majur added that national assessment teams will be deployed in the border areas of Yambio and Nimule bordering DRC and Uganda, respectively.

On August 21, the DRC government announced an Ebola outbreak after detecting the virus in a 46-year-old woman living in the city of Beni, in the province of North Kivu. This came just a month after it had declared the end of the 14th Ebola outbreak in the country.

Majur added that Juba would partner with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to promote public awareness of the Ebola virus disease.

Fabian Ndenzako, the acting WHO Representative for South Sudan, said that the Ministry of Health has already activated the incident management system for Ebola virus disease.

“There is a lot of movement across the border, so it’s really important that this incident management system is really activated. We don’t have a case in South Sudan but, given the proximity and closeness, we have to prepare,” Ndenzako said.

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South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda. Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts […]

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Africa set for fertilizer boom as food crisis remains critical

A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis.

With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively impacted by a severe food crisis, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the use of fertilisers has become more central, even as environmental and green farming activists call for caution.

The global production of fertilisers is responsible for around 1.4 percent of annual CO2 emissions, and fertiliser use is a major contributor of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, according to Carbon Brief.

World consumption of the three main fertiliser nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus expressed as phosphate, and potassium, is estimated to have surpassed 186 million tonnes, up by more than 1.4 percent since 2015.

That said, Africa has barely used fertilisers. Only six percent of Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated, and the average fertiliser consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 17 kilogrammes of nutrients per hectare of cropland, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra). 

That is only a drop in the ocean when compared with a world average fertilizer consumption of 135kg/ha.

At the just-ended AGRF Summit in the Kigali, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, urged Africa to increase fertiliser use, irrigation and thermal power in order to ensure food security.

“I recently inaugurated a fertiliser plant in my country… and I for one would not abandon thermal power,” he said, much to the amusement of the audience at the Kigali Convention Centre.

Cost for going green

“We have all the resources necessary to ensure food security for our countries and all the inputs for fertilisers security. Africa must be allowed a reasonable transition, but if they [international green energy agencies and governments] want us to leapfrog to their level, they must pay the cost.”

Zimbabwe, which suffered a failing economy and sanctions imposed by Western powers for two decades, now offers a rare example on food security policies and programmes.

For example, with multiplied irrigation and fertiliser use, the country has increased its wheat production from a three-month supply to a 15-month supply, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“So the wheat crisis emanating from Ukraine does not affect us now,” President Mnangagwa said.

“Our wheat came from Ukraine and our fertilisers from the Russian federation. We have introduced a model that says that we need to have food security by exploiting domestic resources, and we have solved that big problem.”

Magic bullets?

Much as there is no single silver bullet to make Africa self-sufficient in food and cease to be a net importer, fertiliser use and irrigation are touted as key tools. But such projects cannot happen without good leadership.

Enock Chikava, the director of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says that “trial and error” farming — which is practised across Africa — is not sustainable. He argues that leaders across sub-Saharan Africa are largely to blame for not adopting the so-called “green revolution of Africa.”

“If there is anything close to being a silver bullet that guarantees food security in Africa, it is good leadership. We can outsource technology but we cannot outsource good leadership.

‘‘We need leaders who understand the need to prioritise modern agriculture and deliver the Green Revolution,” he said.

Tanzania is among those that have acted fast. The government introduced a three-year programme that will see the construction of dams for irrigation in each of its regions – to cover an area of up to 360,000 hectares.

The country is also constructing a second fertiliser plant – expected to be completed by the end of 2022 – to benefit the 65 per cent of its population that are engaged directly in farming.

“Productivity in agriculture in Tanzania has remained low due to low technology and limited use of fertiliser. We still depend on the vagaries of weather…we still have huge post-harvest losses to the tune of 30 per cent,” Philip Mpango, Vice President of Tanzania said.

Chilli bucks in Rwanda

“But we now have a fertiliser factory under construction and soon we shall have two, to cover up for the deficit in fertiliser use. We also increased our budget allocation to agriculture from an average of around $125 million per annum, to $404 million, targeting research, irrigation, seed multiplication and training.”

Rwanda President Paul Kagame, however, sees the possibility for greater diversity in Africa to agriculture.  He argues that Africa has enough biomass and resources to shift to organic farming, and stop being too exposed to external shocks.

“The food crisis is a serious one and in order to deal with it we need to develop a sense of urgency…to treat food like a business,” he said during the AGRF summit.

“If you look at the crisis in Ukraine, the whole of Africa suffers because we cannot get wheat or fertiliser. All these are lessons we should learn from; but these lessons have been here for a long time. We need to act quicker.”

Rwandan chilli farmer Diego Twahirwa has benefitted from agribusiness. In 2019 he signed a $500 million deal to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of chili annually to a Chinese firm, GK International.

Twahirwa’s company, Gashora Farm, also exports chilli products to Europe.

“I have now expanded into Zimbabwe, where we have about 2,000 hectares to grow chilli in partnership with a Zimbabwe company,” Twahirwa told The EastAfrican.

“At our Gashora Farm, we use modern farming technology, and irrigation and fertilisers to ensure that the effects of climate change do not affect us much. It may not be easy at the start but eventually agribusiness pays off massively.”

Rwanda targets to reach agricultural exports of $1 billion, up from $465 million made in 2018/2019.

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A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis. With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively […]

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Ruto to rally African leaders on climate change

enya’s President William Ruto will use his maiden trip to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to rally African peers to raise their voice on the danger of climate change.

Africa is expected to be take the biggest hit from climate change.

Dr Ruto is expected in New York on Tuesday afternoon to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. He will be travelling from London where he had attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday.

A tentative programme from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Ruto will meet African heads of state to discuss climate change and its effects, including the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and flooding in Sudan.

“In his capacity as Coordinator, President Dr Ruto will also chair a meeting of the Conference of African Heads of State on Climate Crisis (CAHOSCC),” said a dispatch from the Ministry on Monday.

“The 77th UNGA coincides with the worst drought in the Horn of Africa with many countries in the region, including Kenya, are experiencing unprecedented effects in the last forty years.

“At the United Nations Headquarters, Kenya will seek to promote its foreign policy at the multilateral system including enhancing participation in the quest for realisation of SDGs and global leadership in emerging issues including climate change.”

Dr Ruto is scheduled to address the General Assembly for the first time as head of state, although he had given a speech here in 2016 then as Deputy President representing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

According to the schedule of speeches publicised by the UN, he will speak in the afternoon on Wednesday just after the Slovenian representative.

US President Joe Biden will kick off the speeches and will be followed by representatives from Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia, Libya and Moldova.

As is tradition, leaders converge in New York every September for the UNGA where they give speeches, hold bilateral meetings and attend mini conferences on issues important to their countries.

This year’s UNGA theme is “A watershed moment: Transformative solutions to interlocking challenges”, under which leaders are expected to discuss the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global energy crisis, climate change, and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his inauguration speech last week, Dr Ruto promised to place climate change among priority items to deal with.

“Among the central concerns of my government will be climate change. In our country, women and men, young people, farmers, workers and local communities suffer the consequences of climate emergency,” he said, suggesting he will encourage alternatives to fossil fuels.
“Africa has the opportunity to lead the world. We have immense potential for renewable energy. Reducing costs of renewal energy technologies make these the most viable energy source. We call on all African states to join us in this journey.”

Egypt is due to host the upcoming UN Conference of Parties (Cop27) on climate change in November. And African countries have demanded financial backing to pledges meant to lower temperature rise and for technological transfer to help adapt to changes. 

At the UN, Kenya is finishing its final year as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and Dr Ruto is expected to meet with various leaders whose countries sit on the Council.

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Uganda confirms Ebola outbreak

Uganda has confirmed one case of Ebola in the central Mubende District, high-level government officials briefed on the matter said late Monday.

Senior Ministry of Health staff rushed to Mubende to investigate after unknown number of residents succumbed to what was initially reported as a “strange illness” until Monday’s confirmation.

“Uganda confirms an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Mubende District, Uganda. The confirmed case is a 24 year old male a resident Ngabano village of Madudu Sub County in Mubende District presented with EVD symptoms and later succumbed,” the Health ministry said.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng was reported to be in New York, and sources said officials first briefed President Museveni. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo, which neighbours Uganda to the west, is currently battling an outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, which causes a deadly haemorrhagic fever. 

According to the World Health Organization, the disease is transmitted to people from animals and spreads through human-to-human infection.

Uganda has had at least three previous outbreaks of Ebola, the deadliest being in 2000 that killed hundreds, including the lead treatment officer Dr. Matthew Lukwiya.

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Uganda has confirmed one case of Ebola in the central Mubende District, high-level government officials briefed on the matter said late Monday. Senior Ministry of Health staff rushed to Mubende […]

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Tanzanian minister calls for talks over water shortage in the capital

Tanzania is organising a meeting of stakeholders to discuss ways of ending water shortage in the capital Dodoma.

Minister for Water Jumaa Aweso on Sunday announced plans to convene the meeting when he launched the third phase of the country’s Water Sector Development Program, a five-year initiative estimated to cost $6.5 billion.

He said the meeting will be attended by officials from the Ministry of Finance and Planning and development partners.

He, however, did not confirm when the meeting would take place.

Aweso said the national capital of Dodoma should be supplied with adequate water to meet the demands of a growing city.

Residents and leaders have for a long time complained of water crisis in Dodoma.

Earlier this year, Tanzania and the African Development Bank signed a $125.2 million loan agreement for a project that will help address water shortages in three districts in the country’s Dodoma region.

Read: Dar es Salaam hit by power, water rationing as rivers dry up

The Dodoma Resilient and Sustainable Water Development and Sanitation Program (Phase I) is set to benefit more than two million residents in the Bahi, Chemba and Chamwino districts, which have suffered droughts and recorded high population growth.

Last November, the country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam faced power and water rationing blamed on low water volumes in rivers and dams following a drought.

The dire situation has prompted the Law and Human Rights Center (LHRC) to call on the government to take short and long-term measures to mitigate the situation.

The LHRC urged the government to adopt strategies to ensure sufficient supply of water, including digging deep wells, monitoring water sources and taking measures to ensure they work efficiently. The LHRC also urged the government to allocate a sufficient budget for water harvesting projects.

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Tanzania is organising a meeting of stakeholders to discuss ways of ending water shortage in the capital Dodoma. Minister for Water Jumaa Aweso on Sunday announced plans to convene the […]

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Uganda on alert as malaria cases and deaths rise

A resurgence of malaria cases and deaths in Uganda is worrying the medical fraternity amid reported shortage of medicines.

According to Jimmy Opigo, the programme manager for malaria control at the Ministry of Health, preliminary findings point to a drop in usage of mosquito nets, mutation of the malaria parasite and increase in drug resistance.

“We are also studying whether Covid-19 could have had some impact,” Dr Opigo said.

Some private and public hospitals in high risk districts are reporting an increase in the number of malaria patients seeking treatment in the facilities, health workers said.

“Most of the inpatients at our facility are malaria patients although we have many outpatients coming in daily. Most of the drugs we have been stocking for the bigger part of this year are malaria drugs,” said Annet Nsole, a lab technician at Kasana Health Centre in Luweero district.

According to August data from the Ministry of Health, about 46 districts across the country are currently experiencing a surge in the number of new malaria infections.

“We have made some progress. We had over 70 districts, and we are now down to 40. But it’s still one third of the country, and that is really high,” Dr Opigo said.

In the last two weeks of August, the country registered 199,695 new cases with 35 deaths. Since the peak of the upsurge in January, the average number of bi-weekly new infections stood between 200,000 and 250,000.

This year’s figures are higher than last year’s average of between 100,000 and 120,000 new bi-weekly infections, Health ministry’s data shows.

The ministry has reported that about 23 percent of districts lack enough Artemisinin-based combination therapy stocks for treatment of patients.

Increased supplies

“This is mostly because of logistical constraints. But currently as government, we are increasing supplies in terms of medicine and mosquito nets in high risk areas. In some others, we are spraying. We are now enhancing case investigation and running media campaigns to create awareness within the population,” Dr Opigo said.

But most of these interventions have been constrained by limited funds.

According to Dr Opigo, the Health ministry spends about $140 million annually in the fight against malaria but the current upsurge has created a funding gap. Recently, the ministry secured $14 million from the Global Fund to help them finance the current upsurge, but officials say more funding is still needed.

“We run long-term grants of about three to four years so what we did was to call forward the money for 2023 to help us increase medicine supply mostly. We are sourcing for more so we can be able to fill the gaps created by the increasing consumption arising from the upsurge,” Dr Opigo said.

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A resurgence of malaria cases and deaths in Uganda is worrying the medical fraternity amid reported shortage of medicines. According to Jimmy Opigo, the programme manager for malaria control at […]

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Concerns as Africa struggles to contain drug-resistant pathogens

Africa’s low testing on anti-microbial resistance has been blamed on lack of lab facilities. A study across 14 sub-Saharan Africa found that only five out of the 15 antibiotic-resistant pathogens prioritised by the World Health Organisation for surveillance are being consistently tested — and all five had a higher-than-expected prevalence.

The patchy surveillance is compounding an obscure but complex problem that threatens to jeopardise achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and lead up to catastrophic health outcomes.

In the countries included in the study only 1.3 percent of medical laboratories there conduct any bacteriology testing.

The erratic use of available antibiotics, also contributes to resistance.

New data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from the 14 countries released Thursday at a meeting held at the African Union in Addis Ababa, reveals the under-reported depth of the AMR crisis.

“When pathogens are repeatedly exposed to an insufficient dose or an abbreviated treatment time of antimicrobials they may survive and evolve into resistant strains. These new strains lose their susceptibility to antimicrobials that had previously been effective — creating antimicrobial resistance. Resistant pathogens can be transmitted through contamination, but also can pass their mutation mechanisms to similar ‘bystander’ pathogens, and the resistant infections spread,” said the study.

The results provide stark insights on a health situation the research describes as dire and “a crisis within the crisis” that needs urgent policy interventions.

The report says AMR pathogens of immediate concern include Enterobacterales a large order of bacteria that includes E.coli, a common food poisoning infection, and Klebsiella pneumoniae, a common infection in health care settings. More than half of all samples tested were resistant to penicillins and cephalosporins.

Poor data foundations

More than 40 percent of samples tested were classified as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a lethal pathogen, drug resistance combination that globally accounted for more than 100,000 deaths in 2019. It is the source of a skin infection that can turn deadly if drug resistant.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is bacteria common in hospitalised patients can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), and other parts of the body after surgeries. More than 30 percent of samples tested were resistant to Carbapenems, a class of antibiotics used to treat infections that have not responded to commonly available drugs. Resistance to these is a grave threat.

The researchers warned, “Failing to consistently test for all priority resistant pathogens translates to substandard care, where antimicrobials are used to treat infections without first determining whether they will be effective. But retrospective lab records collected also revealed that clinical and treatment data were not included in lab results.”

“Africa is struggling to fight drug-resistant pathogens, just like the rest of the world,” said Director of Science and New Initiatives of the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Dr Pascale Ondoa. “This study shines much-needed light on the crisis within the crisis.”

The results of the study, which was supported by the Fleming Fund, provide insights into the AMR burden and antimicrobial consumption in the 14 countries; areas where most available data on AMR is only based on statistical modelling.

The WHO has warned that AMR is one of our time’s leading global public health threats. A study estimated that, in 2019, nearly 1.3 million deaths globally were attributed to antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections. Africa had the highest mortality rate from AMR infections in the world, with 24 deaths per 100,000 attributable to AMR.

Furthermore, current estimates of AMR are based on poor data foundations in low- and middle income countries, and especially in Africa, hence limiting understanding of the efficacy of commonly used antimicrobials as well as the drivers of resistance in humans.

Across the 14 countries, clinical and treatment data are not being linked to lab results, making it hard to understand what’s driving AMR. Out of almost 187,000 samples tested for AMR, around 88 percent had no information on patients’ clinical profile, including diagnosis or origin of infection, presence of indwelling devices (such as urinary catheters, feeding tubes and wound drains) often associated with development of healthcare-associated infection, comorbidities, or antimicrobial usage.

Based on the findings, MAAP is calling for a drastic increase in the quality and quantity of AMR and AMC data being collected across the continent, along with revised AMR control strategies and research priorities.

“The future of modern medicine and our ability to treat infectious diseases reliably hinges on our ability to control AMR,” said Director and President, One Health Trust Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan.

Researchers found that most laboratories across Africa are not ready for AMR testing with only 1.3 percent of the 50,000 medical laboratories forming the laboratory networks of the 14 participating countries conduct bacteriology testing. And of those, only a fraction can handle the scientific processes needed to evaluate AMR. Researchers also found that in eight of the 14 countries, more than half of the population is out of reach of any bacteriology laboratory.

“Across Africa, even where data on AMR is collected, it is not always accessible, often recorded by hand, and rarely consolidated or shared with policy makers,” said chief executive officer for ASLM, Nqobile Ndlovu.

“As a result, health experts are flying blind and cannot develop and deploy policies that would limit or curtail antimicrobial resistance.”

“This study is an important step forward for Africa’s health systems and the health of people across the continent. I hope MAAP inspires more investment in essential data collection and desperately needed resources.”

According to the researchers, while the common understanding is that AMR is usually driven by incorrect or excessive consumption of antimicrobials, many African populations still lack access to effective and affordable medicines, emphasizing the need to address AMR by improving universal health. Little information exists on how resistance patterns are affected by the use of standard (and non-standard) antimicrobial medicines in human health or in agriculture and food production systems — those used to produce livestock, crops, fish, and even in beekeeping.

There is also a dearth of information on antimicrobial consumption and antimicrobial use in Africa — both in human medicine and for agriculture and food production systems. Without understanding antimicrobial usage, effectiveness and resistance patterns, health experts cannot develop and deploy policies that would limit or curtail AMR.

“The disconnect between patient data and antimicrobial resistance results, coupled with the extreme antimicrobial resistance burden, makes it incredibly difficult to provide accurate guidelines for patient care and wider public health policies,” said Dr Yewande Alimi, Africa CDC AMR Programme Coordinator. “Hence, collecting and connecting laboratory, pharmacy and clinical data will be essential to provide a baseline and a reference for public health actions.”

Antibiotic groups

The research also found that only four drugs comprised more than two-thirds (67 percent) of all the antibiotics used in healthcare settings. Stronger medicines to treat more resistant infections (such as severe pneumonia, sepsis, and complicated intra-abdominal infections) were not available, suggesting limited access to some groups of antibiotics.

“Collectively, the data highlights a dual problem of limited access to antibiotics, and irrational use of those that are available,” said Head of Public Health (Africa and Middle East) and Head of Real World Evidence (Middle East) at IQVIA, Deepak Batra. “As a result, people don’t get the right treatment for severe infections, and irrational use of antibiotics drives antimicrobial resistance for existing available treatment options. Routine monitoring of antimicrobial consumption could help monitor the limited access and irrational use.”

The researchers said the growing threat of AMR poses a major threat to progress made in health and in the attainment of Universal Health Coverage, and is likely to take a heavy toll on the health systems on the continent.

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Africa’s low testing on anti-microbial resistance has been blamed on lack of lab facilities. A study across 14 sub-Saharan Africa found that only five out of the 15 antibiotic-resistant pathogens […]

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How two Kenyan nurses swindled Boston state out of $100 million

Before the law caught up with them, Winnie Waruru, 42, and Faith Newton, 52, lived large in America.

One drove a Maserati, an Italian luxury brand known for its exclusive styling, and the other one a Range Rover. As dollar millionaires, they kept their lives private and few Kenyans had heard about the two nurses whose fortunes seemed endless. In addition to their lavish lifestyles, they had five properties in the US and operated 40 bank accounts.

The US government now claims that the two Kenyans swindled Boston state out of $100 million in healthcare fraud. They are alleged to have paid kickbacks to obtain referrals and retain patients over a five-year period.

US detectives watched their transactions that ran into millions of dollars for many months.

Last week, Waruru pleaded guilty before US Senior District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr, who has scheduled sentencing for January 12, 2023, according to a release by US Attorney Rachael Rollins. Newton’s case will continue.

Detectives allege that between January 2013 and January 2017, the two used Arbor Homecare Services LLC as a conduit to siphon $100 million from MassHealth and Medicare – a program that provides health coverage primarily for people with low incomes – by claiming refunds and filing false statements. They then closed down the company.

With a budget running into billions of dollars, MassHealth, which pays for personal care attendants, medical equipment, and specific prescription, has been a target of swindlers who first apply to become providers through registered companies. The healthcare company nurses are supposed to attend to vulnerable members and then bill the programme for reimbursement.

Both Waruru and Newton were accused of “conspiracy to commit health care fraud” and for billing for healthcare services that they never provided. They are also charged with making false statements to MassHealth.

The federal government has filed a civil action to seize the duo’s properties and freeze their bank accounts, which held millions of dollars.

The court papers say that Newton was part-owner and operator of Arbor Homecare Services LLC, while Waruru was a licensed practical nurse. On paper, Waruru was “employed” by Arbor Care Homecare Services, but, according to court records, she was more than that.

To get more money, they are said to have entered into “sham” employment relationships with family members of MassHealth patients and purported to provide unnecessary medical care, billed as “visits”. For example, Arbor would reimburse a relative staying with a relative member for fictitious nurse visits in a scheme that went undetected between January 2013 and January 2017. It would then make claims to MassHealth.

The two are also said to have been paying kickbacks to patients under their care to retain them as part of Arbor Homecare Services LLC. Detectives alleged that Waruru “caused Arbor to bill MassHealth over $1.2 million (Sh120 million) in fraudulent nursing visits” and “passed money from Newton to two Arbor patients in order to retain them.”

By luring the patients into the scheme, the two billed for services that were neither rendered nor needed.

According to the prosecutor, “Arbor, through Newton and others, developed employment relationships” with patients’ relatives who purported to offer services. They would also pay kickbacks for patient referrals, regardless of medical necessity requirements, in a scheme that saw Arbor’s income run into millions. By entering into “sham” employment relationships with patients’ family members, according to the prosecution, it was easy for Arbor to purport “to provide home health aide services that were not medically necessary and routinely billed for fictitious visits that did not occur”.

For instance, said the charge sheet, “Waruru and Arbor billed MassHealth for Waruru’s skilled nursing visits, many of which she did not perform, were medically unnecessary, or were not approved by a physician.”

According to the civil complaint, Newton targeted low-income, disabled, and/or people with mental health issues. Additionally, Newton is alleged to have laundered the illegally acquired wealth.

The court records indicate that Arbor was registered by a Mr Njoroge Muiruri, a registered nurse, and it ceased to exist in 2017 after he filed a certificate of cancellation with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. It is not clear whether the company folded due to the investigations.

The indictments of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering each offer a jail term of up to 10 years, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of the money involved in the laundering.

The conspiracy to pay kickbacks, make false statements, and make a false statement in health care matters each provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

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Before the law caught up with them, Winnie Waruru, 42, and Faith Newton, 52, lived large in America. One drove a Maserati, an Italian luxury brand known for its exclusive […]

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DR Congo reports new Ebola case in eastern city of Beni

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a new case of Ebola in its violence-wracked east, the country’s health ministry said, just weeks after the end of a previous epidemic.

The DRC early last month declared its latest Ebola outbreak over, more than two months after the virus re-emerged in the northwestern Equateur province.

Read: DR Congo declares Ebola over

Last week, however, the World Health Organisation said DR Congo was investigating a suspected case.

The sample from a 46-year-old woman who died on August 15 in Beni city, North Kivu province, “tested positive” for Ebola, DR Congo’s health ministry said in a statement published late Monday.

It added that tests showed the case is linked to a previous strain of the virus from 2018 and was not a new variant.

The ministry sought to reassure the public that officials were “hard at work on the ground” to respond to the situation. Around 160 people have been identified as contact cases, it added.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. The disease was named after a river in Zaire, as the country was known when it was discovered.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Read: New Ebola outbreak declared in DRC

Over 120 militias roam the DRC’s mineral-rich but volatile east, where attacks on civilians are routine.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a new case of Ebola in its violence-wracked east, the country’s health ministry said, just weeks after the end of a previous epidemic. […]

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WHO experts back second Covid booster for most at risk

The World Health Organization’s vaccine advisers on Thursday recommended that people most at risk from Covid-19 should be offered a second booster dose to increase their immunity. 

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) said following initial vaccination, typically consisting of two doses, and an already recommended first booster dose, specific groups of people should be offered an additional jab.

“We are doing this on the basis obviously of observations in relation to waning immunity and particularly in the context of Omicron,” WHO senior health advisor Joachim Hornbach told reporters via video link.

The UN health agency has already recommended that all adults receive a booster shot four to six months after an initial round of vaccination, typically consisting of two jabs.

But SAGE chairman Alejandro Cravioto stressed that Thursday’s recommendation for a second booster after another four to six months had passed was only meant for the “populations at the highest risk”.

It “does not constitute a general recommendation of vaccinating all adults after the first booster”, he told the virtual press briefing.

SAGE said second boosters should be offered to the elderly and all immunocompromised people, pregnant women, as well as those with conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cardiac, lung and kidney disease that put them at higher risk.

Health workers of all ages should also get the additional jab, Cravioto said, insisting on the need to “protect our health systems from the devastation of having its personnel sick and not at work”.

Looking forward, the SAGE experts pointed to “significant uncertainties related to the evolution of the virus, the characteristics of future variants, and the trajectory of the epidemic given increasing vaccine- and infection-induced immunity globally”.

“It is likely that additional doses may be needed within 4–12 months after the second booster, especially in persons most vulnerable to severe disease and death,” they said. For now, the booster recommendations are for the available vaccines developed to tackle the initial Covid-19 strain.

WHO has said it will evaluate new jabs being developed by vaccine makers like Moderna and Pfizer that are adapted to target new, fast-spreading Omicron variants.

But SAGE stressed that current vaccines appeared to continue providing high protection “against severe disease in the context of the Omicron variant and its sub-lineages”.

Second boosters for at-risk populations “should not be delayed in anticipation of future variant-containing vaccines”, they said.

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The World Health Organization’s vaccine advisers on Thursday recommended that people most at risk from Covid-19 should be offered a second booster dose to increase their immunity.  The Strategic Advisory […]

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Kampala reels under burden of unbearable noise and air pollution

Early Sunday morning, a booming voice off the speaker of a church about 100 metres from my house in Kampala’s Kawempe suburb, wakes me up and keeps me awake all the way to 7am when I finally decide enough is enough.

I head to the church to ask whoever is responsible to reduce the noise. To my surprise – and dismay – there are only two people in the church: preaching to an empty house.

My pleas to have them reduce the sound fall on deaf ears, and I will have to endure their utterly unnecessary noise for the whole day.

Uganda’s Noise Standards and Control Regulations restrict noise levels to 40 decibels in residential areas and 60 decibels in commercial areas.

Sacred cows

In my estimates, however, this particular church – and indeed most churches in Kampala – emit noise levels not below 100 decibels at any one time. According to Ugandan law, this is an offence punishable by up to 18 months in jail or a fine of up to Ush18 million – or both.

There are many churches that send out preachers onto the streets daily or on particular days and the cacophony of noise from the speakers they use and hooting from vehicles.

“Places of worship, bars and schools that are set up in residential areas are always bound to emit unacceptable levels of noise, but it is Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) that is mandated to regulate them because it is the body that issues the operating licenses,” says Tony Achidria, the senior communications officer at the National Environment Management Authority.

But it seems like KCCA lets many entities abuse their licenses and be disruptive. In February, Dorothy Kisaka, the executive director of KCCA, hosted over 1,000 Kampala bar owners to address the increasing noise pollution in the city.

She noted that most complaints to city authorities concerned “noise pollution, from operations of the bars and people of faith within the five zones of the city,” KCCA said in a news release.

Churches and street preachers seem to get away with noise pollution because people are afraid of inflaming religious sentiments.

In February, Hudu Hussein, the Resident City Commissioner of Kampala city, issued a 30-day ultimatum to street preachers. “Our good pastors, we love you so much but I am giving you an amnesty of 30 days to evacuate the streets. We want a more serious city. All pastors, vendors, beggars and other groups should leave the city,” Hussein said.

His decree got various reactions, with some people supporting him, and others condemning him. Preachers warned Hussein over his hard line he had taken.

Less than a month later, Mr Hussein was transferred from the city to Yumbe, 520km north east of Kampala, in a reshuffle announced by President Yoweri Museveni in March.

Away from the preachers, most Kampala shop owners now place loudspeakers in front of their shops advertising their range of products – exacerbating the cacophony already created by unrelenting motor vehicle horns and sirens that characterise Kampala streets.

The noise makers include more sirens from VIPs than ambulances, police and fire trucks as well as hooting from the thousands of commuter taxis and boda bodas.

Such sleep disruption can lead to sleep disorders while over-exposure to noise pollution can lead to hearing loss.

A recent report by the WHO estimated that up to 1.1 billon people aged between 12 and 35 around the world are at risk of hearing loss due to the noise pollution that now characterise many of the world’s metropolises.

According to Achidria, the major contaminants are dust from unpaved roads, use of wood fuel, burning of domestic solid waste and motor vehicle emissions.

He added that industries contribute the least pollution because they are regularly monitored, and that his organisation was ramping up monitoring across the city to collect enough data that will be used to sensitise the public.

Besides noise and air pollution, increasing water pollution also continues to threaten lives in Kampala, with the biggest offenders being people’s homes because of poor waste management.

“Again, industries don’t pose a serious problem in water pollution because they are few in number and are easily monitored. Monitoring at domestic level is difficult because the homes are way too many,” Mr Achidria said.

The National Water and Sewerage Corporation, mandated to distribute water and manage sewage in the country, says it spends hefty sums of money on treating water to make it fit for human consumption hence the high price of a unit of water, now at Ush4,300 ($1.1). This follows an increase in the past three months.

Still, researchers have found the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the water. The contamination is due to poor waste management and badly-designed pit latrines and release of waste into streams that flow to Lake Victoria.

The poor waste disposal poses a big risk of cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery breaking out in communities that rely on water from these sources, and Kampala has had many outbreaks of cholera in the recent past.

SOURCE

Early Sunday morning, a booming voice off the speaker of a church about 100 metres from my house in Kampala’s Kawempe suburb, wakes me up and keeps me awake all […]

Continue reading "Kampala reels under burden of unbearable noise and air pollution"

Kampala reels under burden of unbearable noise and air pollution

Early Sunday morning, a booming voice off the speaker of a church about 100 metres from my house in Kampala’s Kawempe suburb, wakes me up and keeps me awake all the way to 7am when I finally decide enough is enough.

I head to the church to ask whoever is responsible to reduce the noise. To my surprise – and dismay – there are only two people in the church: preaching to an empty house.

My pleas to have them reduce the sound fall on deaf ears, and I will have to endure their utterly unnecessary noise for the whole day.

Uganda’s Noise Standards and Control Regulations restrict noise levels to 40 decibels in residential areas and 60 decibels in commercial areas.

Sacred cows

In my estimates, however, this particular church – and indeed most churches in Kampala – emit noise levels not below 100 decibels at any one time. According to Ugandan law, this is an offence punishable by up to 18 months in jail or a fine of up to Ush18 million – or both.

There are many churches that send out preachers onto the streets daily or on particular days and the cacophony of noise from the speakers they use and hooting from vehicles.

“Places of worship, bars and schools that are set up in residential areas are always bound to emit unacceptable levels of noise, but it is Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) that is mandated to regulate them because it is the body that issues the operating licenses,” says Tony Achidria, the senior communications officer at the National Environment Management Authority.

But it seems like KCCA lets many entities abuse their licenses and be disruptive. In February, Dorothy Kisaka, the executive director of KCCA, hosted over 1,000 Kampala bar owners to address the increasing noise pollution in the city.

She noted that most complaints to city authorities concerned “noise pollution, from operations of the bars and people of faith within the five zones of the city,” KCCA said in a news release.

Churches and street preachers seem to get away with noise pollution because people are afraid of inflaming religious sentiments.

In February, Hudu Hussein, the Resident City Commissioner of Kampala city, issued a 30-day ultimatum to street preachers. “Our good pastors, we love you so much but I am giving you an amnesty of 30 days to evacuate the streets. We want a more serious city. All pastors, vendors, beggars and other groups should leave the city,” Hussein said.

His decree got various reactions, with some people supporting him, and others condemning him. Preachers warned Hussein over his hard line he had taken.

Less than a month later, Mr Hussein was transferred from the city to Yumbe, 520km north east of Kampala, in a reshuffle announced by President Yoweri Museveni in March.

Away from the preachers, most Kampala shop owners now place loudspeakers in front of their shops advertising their range of products – exacerbating the cacophony already created by unrelenting motor vehicle horns and sirens that characterise Kampala streets.

The noise makers include more sirens from VIPs than ambulances, police and fire trucks as well as hooting from the thousands of commuter taxis and boda bodas.

Such sleep disruption can lead to sleep disorders while over-exposure to noise pollution can lead to hearing loss.

A recent report by the WHO estimated that up to 1.1 billon people aged between 12 and 35 around the world are at risk of hearing loss due to the noise pollution that now characterise many of the world’s metropolises.

According to Achidria, the major contaminants are dust from unpaved roads, use of wood fuel, burning of domestic solid waste and motor vehicle emissions.

He added that industries contribute the least pollution because they are regularly monitored, and that his organisation was ramping up monitoring across the city to collect enough data that will be used to sensitise the public.

Besides noise and air pollution, increasing water pollution also continues to threaten lives in Kampala, with the biggest offenders being people’s homes because of poor waste management.

“Again, industries don’t pose a serious problem in water pollution because they are few in number and are easily monitored. Monitoring at domestic level is difficult because the homes are way too many,” Mr Achidria said.

The National Water and Sewerage Corporation, mandated to distribute water and manage sewage in the country, says it spends hefty sums of money on treating water to make it fit for human consumption hence the high price of a unit of water, now at Ush4,300 ($1.1). This follows an increase in the past three months.

Still, researchers have found the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the water. The contamination is due to poor waste management and badly-designed pit latrines and release of waste into streams that flow to Lake Victoria.

The poor waste disposal poses a big risk of cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery breaking out in communities that rely on water from these sources, and Kampala has had many outbreaks of cholera in the recent past.

SOURCE

Early Sunday morning, a booming voice off the speaker of a church about 100 metres from my house in Kampala’s Kawempe suburb, wakes me up and keeps me awake all […]

Continue reading "Kampala reels under burden of unbearable noise and air pollution"

Uproar over proposal by African leaders to invest in fossil fuels

Climate lobbyists have faulted African leaders over their retrogressive proposal on investment in fossil fuels despite scientists warning that countries should move away from the production and use of the fuels.  Fossil fuels are made from plants and animals that decompose to form natural gas, petroleum and coal.

Scientists have persistently warned that the production of such fuels contributes to greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, which are responsible for the changing climate. This call on investments was done during a meeting held in July by Africa’s technical committee on energy in their 41st Ordinary session, which adopted the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition.

Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, said such investments push for favourable outcomes in energy and infrastructure. “This is an important and major step forward in ensuring and confirming Africa’s right for a differentiated path towards the goal of universal access to energy, ensuring energy security for our continent and strengthening its resilience, while at the same time acting responsibly towards our planet by improving the energy mix,” he said.

The leaders suggested that natural gas, green and low carbon hydrogen and nuclear energy will play a crucial role in expanding modern energy access in the short to medium term while enhancing the uptake of renewables in the long term for low carbon and climate-resilient trajectory.

Read: ADOW: Why continent should lead the Green Revolution

The damning proposal comes at the backdrop of the backing of the European Union’s recent vote in favour of a new rule that will consider fossil gas and nuclear projects “green,” making them eligible for lost-cost loans and subsidies.

The climate activists now warn that this plan would distract from the clear need for renewable energy such as the use of solar, and embracing fossil fuels, while also shifting dangerous nuclear technologies shunned by Europeans on African soil.

Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, said in a joint statement from the lobbyists that African leaders should be maximising this potential and harnessing the abundant wind and sun, which will help boost energy access and tackle climate change. “Africa is blessed with an abundance of wind, solar and other clean renewable energies.  What Africa does not need is to be shackled with expensive fossil fuel infrastructure, which will be obsolete in a few years as the climate crisis worsens,” said Mr Adow.

This new call is ahead of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), a global climate change meeting that will be held in November in Egypt.

Mr Adow added: “It would be a shameful betrayal of African people, already on the front line of the climate crisis, if African leaders use this November’s COP27 climate summit on African soil to lock Africa into a fossil fuel-based future. Africa does not need the dirty energy of the past, it needs forward-looking leadership that can take advantage of the clean energy of the present and future.”

Dr Sixbert Mwanga, the coordinator of Climate Action Network Africa, urges leaders to transfer those resources to renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal, which are safer for the planet. “At COP27, we call for the African Union and African leaders to announce the utilisation of these sources for the benefit of our people and leave aside fossil fuel development for export.”

Read: ATELA: What agenda will an African champion bring to COP27?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brings together science experts on climate change, warned in its latest report that human activities such as fossil fuel production and use adversely affect our climate. Lorraine Chiponda, Africa Coal Network Coordinator, reiterated this, saying the world needs to cut carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate impacts.

“The globe already has seen the temperature rise and we will exceed 1.5ºC by 2030 and suffer an increase in intensity and frequency of climate disasters. The prospect that African leaders are presenting and pushing for gas developments and investment is overwhelming and reckless given the climate impacts that threaten the lives of millions of people in Africa having seen worsening droughts and hunger, recurring floods and cyclones,” she said.

“We have seen in the past the acceleration of gas projects in Africa is another colonial and modern Scramble and Partition of Africa amongst energy corporations and rich countries. Fossil fuel projects have neither solved energy poverty in Africa where 600 million still live in energy poverty nor brought any socio-economic justice to Africans. We shall continue to strengthen calls for a people’s just transition away from fossil fuels,” she added.

One of the contested fossil fuel projects in Africa is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP), which will be in Uganda and Tanzania. Coordinator #StopEACOP Omar Elmawi said it is time for Africa to invest in green energy that supports and meets African needs and not extract oil and gas for Europe’s needs as we leave all the impacts and destruction to be faced by the African people.

Joab Okanda of the Pan Africa Senior Advocacy Advisor, Christian Aid feels that Africa is being shortchanged by its own leaders. “The African Union is in danger of falling for the con of African gas at a time when other countries are investing in renewables, which will be what powers development and progress in coming decades. It would be the ultimate betrayal of African people if their leaders missed the opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower by locking us into a doomed experiment with fossil fuels that is hurting Africa through climate breakdown.”

SOURCE

Climate lobbyists have faulted African leaders over their retrogressive proposal on investment in fossil fuels despite scientists warning that countries should move away from the production and use of the […]

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Rotavirus childhood vaccine shortage hits Kenya, Tanzania

Supplies of a vaccine to prevent the deadly rotavirus infection in children have either run out in Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Cameroon or are close to doing so, officials close to the roll-out told Reuters, after disruptions at drugmaker GSK.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 200,000 children die each year of the highly contagious infection, which is the leading cause globally of severe, dehydrating gastroenteritis in children under the age of five. 

Officials in Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Cameroon had no immediate response to requests for comment from Reuters.

GSK (GSK.L) confirmed that there is a shortfall of around 4 million doses of its Rotarix vaccine this year, with a drop to 42 million from an expected 46 million. The British drug maker had already cut its agreed deliveries by 10 million a year for the period 2022-2028, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said.

GSK acknowledged the fall in supply and said it was pursuing plans to address the deficit. “GSK communicated to Gavi earlier this year on manufacturing challenges leading to an unplanned, short-term drop in Rotarix production for 2022, for which priority mitigation plans are fully in place,” a GSK spokesperson told Reuters.

GSK did not give any further details on the manufacturing issues or what plans were in place. Gavi said that as well as the drop in Rotarix supplies in 2022, there will also be delays in delivery.

A source close to negotiations between the two parties said they understood the delays were due to staff absences during the COVID-19 pandemic. GSK did not give further details.

Immunization blow

The supply problems are a blow as national health services scramble to regain ground lost on routine childhood immunizations during the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF, the children’s aid agency within the United Nations, said COVID-19 disruptions represented the biggest step backward in a generation for childhood immunizations.

“It’s beyond the normal… and in the environment where countries are already struggling, It’s a really unfortunate time,” Andrew Jones, chief of the vaccine centre at UNICEF’s supply division, said about the rotavirus shortage. “There will be kids missed,” he added in an interview.

UNICEF works with Gavi to help supply rotavirus vaccines to poorer countries, alongside national governments. Both organizations said they were attempting to switch in vaccines made by other manufacturers, or from countries with spare doses.

Rotarix is given in two oral doses to infants from 6 weeks of age. A second dose should be given at least 4 weeks after the first, and no later than 24 weeks, adding to the time pressure on inoculations.

Gavi said there were also delays with another rotavirus vaccine, Rotavac, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, which were related to “regulatory procedures”, although the problem is not as significant. However, Bharat Biotech had no immediate comment.

SOURCE

Supplies of a vaccine to prevent the deadly rotavirus infection in children have either run out in Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Cameroon or are close to doing so, officials close […]

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Death toll from Uganda floods rises to 21, many more ‘feared dead’

The death toll in the weekend flooding triggered by heavy rains in eastern Uganda has risen to 21, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) said Monday.

Esther Davinia Anyakun, Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said seven of the dead were found in Mbale District, while three were found in Kapchorwa late Sunday.

URCS spokesperson Irene Nakasiita said 11 more bodies were retrieved from the River Nabiyonga on Monday morning, which brings the number of dead to 21.

“The rains have caused a lot of havoc that is beyond individual and community capacity. We ask the general public to leave all the potential waterways both in hills and valleys, landslide-prone areas; we don’t want to lose more lives,” the minister said.

The URCS said heavy rains had displaced thousands of people, and more than 1,000 households had been affected in neighbouring districts, while four others had been put on high alert.

The country’s meteorological department warned about the northern, eastern and midwestern parts receiving heavy rainfall in August two days before the incident occurred.

n Sunday, police and the military were called in to help in the search and rescue operations in Mbale, where stranded residents could only watch helplessly as their belongings were washed away by the floodwaters.

Mbale City resident commissioner Ahamada Waashaki on Sunday told AFP that “many more people are missing and feared dead.”

“There is a lot of destruction, roads cut off, buildings submerged as a result of heavy rain that started last night until this morning,” he said.

Rivers burst their banks

He said the situation deteriorated after the Nabuyonga and Namatala rivers burst their banks, causing flooding across most parts of the city.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja visited the scene of the disaster in Mbale, which lies about 300 kilometres (180 miles) northeast of the capital Kampala.

“Police and military marine forces will be coming to help in the rescue and search for dead bodies as we provide relief to the affected population,” her office said.

Floating bodies

Two local reporters told AFP they had seen bodies floating in the muddy brown floodwaters before being removed by police.

Several cars were also washed away, along with household goods and personal items as residents moved to higher ground for safety.

“In the past we experienced flooding but not the level of lives lost and destruction of property seen this time,” Waashaki said.

Nabbanja suggested environmental damage caused by human activity was to blame.

“I believe this disaster would have been avoided if people did not encroach on river banks,” she said in video shared by her office.

Source

The death toll in the weekend flooding triggered by heavy rains in eastern Uganda has risen to 21, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) said Monday. Esther Davinia Anyakun, Minister […]

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Congo auctions 30 oil blocks amid environmentalists warning

Licensing rights for 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo went up for auction on Thursday, opening parts of the world’s second-biggest rainforest to drilling that could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

President Felix Tshisekedi presided over the launch of bidding at a ceremony in the capital Kinshasa. Attendees included representatives from France’s TotalEnergies and several domestic companies, although spokeswoman from the French oil giant said the company would not participate in bidding.

“The launch of the tendering process… speaks to our desire to put our resource potential at the service of our country,” President Tshisekedi said, arguing that fossil fuel production would boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is in a context where fossil fuels including crude oil and gas are at the centre of global issues of peace and stability because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”

The President said modern drilling methods and tight regulation would minimise the ecological impact and denied that Congo was going back on commitments to protect its forests.

But environmental activists said drilling in the designated areas would inevitably have steep consequences. Several of the proposed oil blocks overlap with peatlands, swampy areas that hold billions of tones of carbon.

Simon Lewis, a leading researcher on Congo’s peatlands, estimated this month that drilling in the blocks proposed by the government could release up to 5.8 billion of tonnes of carbon, more than 14 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.

“In a zone where there are peatlands, any industrial exploitation means the explosion of a carbon bomb,” said Irène Wabiwa Betoko, who leads Greenpeace’s Congo Basin project.

Read: Greenpeace opposes DRC oil and gas project

Two of the other oil blocks overlap with Virunga National Park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas on the borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

Hydrocarbons Minister Didier Budimbu said bids to participate in production-sharing contracts with the government would be accepted over the next six months for oil blocks and three months for gas blocks.

Asked on Tuesday whether Congo might forego drilling in exchange for compensation from richer countries, presidential adviser Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu was skeptical.

He cited the example of Ecuador, which requested $3.6 billion in 2007 to offset revenue lost by not drilling in its Yasuni National Park. The initiative was scrapped in 2013 after it brought in less than four percent of the requested amount. Drilling began three years later.

In addition to 27 oil blocks, the rights to extract methane gas from three blocks in Lake Kivu are up for auction.

Vincent Rouget, the Africa director at Control Risks, a London-based consultancy, said Congo’s government was hoping to take advantage of high oil prices and fresh Western interest in alternatives to Russian fuel.

“But the combination of environmental risks, regulatory uncertainty in the sector, the huge logistical challenges of highly remote exploration, and on top of it all Congo’s higher political risk premium, will likely make many majors unwilling to commit,” Rouget said.

Previous efforts by Congolese governments to boost output beyond the roughly 25,000 barrels per day it has long produced along its Atlantic coast have run into these same challenges.

Tshisekedi’s government says Congo has 22 billion barrels of crude reserves and it is targeting production of 200,000 barrels per day.

But even if investment does pour in, critics say there is no guarantee it will benefit the Congolese people.

Congo is already a mining powerhouse, producing large amounts of copper, cobalt, gold, and diamonds, yet it remains deeply impoverished, due largely to corruption and misgovernance.

Two of the blocks on auction near Lake Albert in the east were stripped from Israeli investor Dan Gertler last year. Gertler is under US sanctions for alleged corruption in Congo’s mining sector. He denies any wrongdoing.

Gertler was in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony, a Reuters reporter said.

Source

Licensing rights for 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo went up for auction on Thursday, opening parts of the world’s second-biggest rainforest to drilling that […]

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