Category Archives: Commitments

African Union to immediately receive close to USD 18.5 Million direct support to its Ebola operation ASEOWA

AU-FLAG2

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia–08 September 2014: The African Union and partners met Monday on the side lines of the emergency meeting of the African Union Executive Council to announce pledges by the African Union Partners Group (AUPG) to the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak (Operation ASEOWA).

 

The United States Government announced USD10 million and the European Union 5 million euros to be made available immediately to support the African Union Operation to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Republic of China last week announced USD 2 million to ASEOWA.

 

The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, expressed gratitude to partners for the generous response to support the African Union operation ASEOWA and for all the concerted efforts to respond rapidly to the outbreak.

 

“The focus should be on containing the epidemic to make sure that it does not spread further, improve the capacity of health facilities, which have been overstretched and monitor contacts and manage the confirmed cases”, the AUC Deputy Chairperson said.

 

The African Union this week received the assessment report from the mission that it sent to the affected countries which will inform its path breaking response.

 

“The United States is absolutely committed to working with the international community to increase response efforts in West Africa and help bring this outbreak under control”, said Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety, adding “We commend the AU for sending an assessment team and welcome its findings and we urge the AU to ensure that its mission is working through its operations on the ground and in accord with WHO Ebola response roadmap”.

 

The ASEOWA operation aims at filling the existing gap in international efforts and will work with the African Humanitarian Action in mobilising medical and public health volunteers across the continent and will compliment ongoing efforts by various humanitarian actors who are already on the ground.

 

The African Union made a historic decision end of August by declaring Ebola a threat to peace and security in Africa invoking article 6 (f) relating to its mandate with regard to humanitarian action and disaster management at its 450th meeting. The meeting authorised the immediate deployment of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission to tackle the emergency situation caused by the Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about USD600 million is needed to put the epidemic under control.

 

Click here to read: African Union’s Executive Council Urges Lifting of Travel Restrictions Related to Ebola Outbreak

Click here to read: ASEOWA Pledge

Click here to read: African Union Urges Member States to Find Collective Response to Ebola Outbreak and Show Solidarity with Affected Countries

Ebola: How bad can it get?

How bad can it get 1

This isn't just the worst single Ebola outbreak in history, it has now killed more than all the others combined.

 

Healthcare workers are visibly struggling, the response to the outbreak has been damned as "lethally inadequate" and the situation is showing signs of getting considerably worse.

 

The outbreak has been running all year, but the latest in a stream of worrying statistics shows 40% of all the deaths have been in just the past three weeks.

 

So what can we expect in the months, and possibly years, to come?

 

Taking off

 

Crystal-ball gazing can be a dangerous affair, particularly as this is uncharted territory.

 

Previous outbreaks have been rapidly contained, affecting just dozens of people; this one has already infected more than 3,900.

 

But the first clues are in the current data.

 

Dr Christopher Dye, the director of strategy in the office of the director general at the World Health Organization, has the difficult challenge of predicting what will happen next.

 

He told the BBC: "We're quite worried, I have to say, about the latest data we've just gathered."

How bad can it get 2

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the outbreak was raging in Liberia especially close to the epicentre of the outbreak in Lofa County and in the capital Monrovia.

 

However, the two other countries primarily hit by the outbreak, Sierra Leone and Guinea, had been relatively stable. Numbers of new cases were not falling, but they were not soaring either.

 

That is no longer true, with a surge in cases everywhere except some parts of rural Sierra Leone in the districts of Kenema and Kailahun.

 

"In most other areas, cases and deaths appear to be rising. That came as a shock to me," said Dr Dye.

 

Cumulative deaths – up to 5 September

How bad can it get 3

Only going up

 

The stories of healthcare workers being stretched beyond breaking point are countless.

 

A lack of basic protective gear such as gloves has been widely reported.

 

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has an isolation facility with 160 beds in Monrovia. But it says the queues are growing and they need another 800 beds to deal with the number of people who are already sick.

 

This is not a scenario for containing an epidemic, but fuelling one.

 

Dr Dye's tentative forecasts are grim: "At the moment we're seeing about 500 new cases each week. Those numbers appear to be increasing.

 

"I've just projected about five weeks into the future and if current trends persist we would be seeing not hundreds of cases per week, but thousands of cases per week and that is terribly disturbing.

 

"The situation is bad and we have to prepare for it getting worse."

 

The World Health Organization is using an educated guess of 20,000 cases before the end, in order to plan the scale of the response.

 

But the true potential of the outbreak is unknown and the WHO figure has been described to me as optimistic by some scientists.

 

International spread?

How bad can it get 4

The outbreak started in Gueckedou in Guinea, on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

But it has spread significantly with the WHO reporting that "for the first time since the outbreak began" that the majority of cases in the past week were outside of that epicentre with the capital cities becoming major centres of Ebola.

 

Additionally one person took the infection to Nigeria, where it has since spread in a small cluster and there has been an isolated case in Senegal.

 

Prof Simon Hay, from the University of Oxford, will publish his scientific analysis of the changing face of Ebola outbreaks in the next week.

 

He warns that as the total number of cases increases, so does the risk of international spread.

 

He told me: "I think you're going to have more and more of these individual cases seeding into new areas, continued flows into Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, and all the countries in between, so I'm not very optimistic at the moment that we're containing this epidemic."

How bad can it get 5

There is always the risk that one of these cases could arrive in Europe or North America.

 

However, richer countries have the facilities to prevent an isolated case becoming an uncontrolled outbreak.

 

The worry is that other African countries with poor resources would not cope and find themselves in a similar situation to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

"Nigeria is the one I look at with great concern. If things started to get out of control in Nigeria I really think that, because of its connectedness and size, that could be quite alarming," said Prof Hay.

 

End game?

 

It is also unclear when this outbreak will be over.

 

Officially the World Health Organization is saying the outbreak can be contained in six to nine months. But that is based on getting the resources to tackle the outbreak, which are currently stretched too thinly to contain Ebola as it stands.

 

There have been nearly 4,000 cases so far, cases are increasing exponentially and there is a potentially vulnerable population in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in excess of 20 million.

 

Prof Neil Ferguson, the director of the UK Medical Research Council's centre for outbreak analysis and modelling at Imperial College London, is providing data analysis for the World Health Organization.

 

He is convinced that the three countries will eventually get on top of the outbreak, but not without help from the rest of the world.

 

"The authorities are completely overwhelmed. All the trends are the epidemic is increasing, it's still growing exponentially, so there's certainly no reason for optimism.

 

"It is hard to make a long-term prognosis, but this is certainly something we'll be dealing with in 2015.

 

"I can well imagine that unless there is a ramp-up of the response on the ground, we'll have flare-ups of cases for several months and possibly years."

 

It is certainly a timeframe that could see an experimental Ebola vaccine, which began safety testing this week, being used on the front line.

 

If the early trials are successful then healthcare workers could be vaccinated in November this year.

 

Here forever

 

But there are is also a fear being raised by some virologists that Ebola may never be contained.

 

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, describes the situation as "desperate".

 

His concern is that the virus is being given its first major opportunity to adapt to thrive in people, due to the large number of human-to-human transmissions of the virus during this outbreak of unprecedented scale.

How bad can it get 7

Ebola is thought to come from fruit bats; humans are not its preferred host.

 

But like HIV and influenza, Ebola's genetic code is a strand of RNA. Think of RNA as the less stable cousin of DNA, which is where we keep our genetic information.

 

It means Ebola virus has a high rate of mutation and with mutation comes the possibility of adapting.

 

Prof Ball argues: "It is increasing exponentially and the fatality rate seems to be decreasing, but why?

 

"Is it better medical care, earlier intervention or is the virus adapting to humans and becoming less pathogenic? As a virologist that's what I think is happening."

 

There is a relationship between how deadly a virus is and how easily it spreads. Generally speaking if a virus is less likely to kill you, then you are more likely to spread it – although smallpox was a notable exception.

 

Prof Ball said "it really wouldn't surprise me" if Ebola adapted, the death rate fell to around 5% and the outbreak never really ended.

 

"It is like HIV, which has been knocking away at human-to-human transmission for hundreds of years before eventually finding the right combo of beneficial mutations to spread through human populations."

 

Collateral damage

How bad can it get 8

It is also easy to focus just on Ebola when the outbreak is having a much wider impact on these countries.

 

The malaria season, which is generally in September and October in West Africa, is now starting.

 

This will present a number of issues. Will there be capacity to treat patients with malaria? Will people infected with malaria seek treatment if the nearest hospital is rammed with suspected Ebola cases? How will healthcare workers cope when malaria and Ebola both present with similar symptoms.

 

And that nervousness about the safety of Ebola-rife hospitals could damage care yet further. Will pregnant women go to hospital to give birth or stay at home where any complications could be more deadly.

 

The collateral damage from Ebola is unlikely to be assessed until after the outbreak.

 

No matter where you look there is not much cause for optimism.

 

The biggest unknown in all of this is when there will be sufficient resources to properly tackle the outbreak.

 

Prof Neil Ferguson concludes: "This summer has there have been many globally important news stories in Ukraine and the Middle East, but what we see unfolding in West Africa is a catastrophe to the population, killing thousands in the region now and we're seeing a breakdown of the fragile healthcare system.

 

"So I think it needs to move up the political agenda rather more rapidly than it has."

 

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

How bad can it get 9

·         Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage

·         Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva

·         Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%

·         Incubation period is two to 21 days

·         There is no proven vaccine or cure

·         Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

·         Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

 

By James Gallagher

6 September 2014

Source: www.bbc.com/news/health-29060239

Premature School Resumption Involving Up to 80 million Children, Adolescents, Students & Teachers is High-Risk Strategy – For Children, Parents, Nigeria & ECOWAS.

Ebola

Has the Nigerian Ministry of Education taken a high-risk decision to bring forward re-opening of primary and secondary schools before the country’s Ebola outbreak is certifiably over?

The evidence indicates that this may be so.

Two full incubation periods (21 days x 2 / 42 days) without cases is the global health standard for declaring an Ebola outbreak over in a particular location.

Going by the official Ministry of Health Ebola update (of 1st September) – “the total number of cases of EVD in Nigeria stands at sixteen (16); the number of contacts under surveillance in Lagos stands at 72 while in Port Harcourt, the total number of contacts under surveillance stands at 199” – i.e. for a minimum of 21 days.  The update further confirmed that “No contact in Port Harcourt has completed the 21 day observation period”. The Ministry of Health has also warned that it is likely there will be more confirmed cases of Ebola

Yet – on the 5th of September, the Ministry of Education announced that it has reversed its earlier decision (of 26th August) to postpone schools resumption till the 13th of October – and announced that schools would now re-open sooner – on the 22nd of September.

This negated a key pillar of the 26 August announcement that the Minister of Education and Commissioners of Education from the 36 states of the federation “will meet on 23rd September to review the situation in all states”.

What has prompted this apparently hasty review?

Would it not have been much safer – to wait for some time after the outcomes of the minimum 21 day incubation period covering the last batch of persons placed under surveillance – before reviewing the date for school resumption?

There Is Far Too Much At Stake For Questions Not To Be Asked.

Moving millions of children and adolescents within and across 36 states before the Ebola outbreak is fully under control may turn out to be an unwise decision.

The percentage of Nigerian population under 15 years of age is estimated at 44.23%, and although not every child is in school, this reflects in the country’s school population.

The total population of students in Nigeria surpasses the combined population of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where the current Ebola epidemic has been declared by experts as out of control:  Pre-primary (ages 3 to 5) – population of Nigerian students is estimated at 15.9 million; Primary (ages 6 to 11) 27.04 million; Secondary (ages 12 to 17) 21.8 million; and Tertiary (ages 18 years and above) 15.3 million.

The populations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are: 11.4 million; 4.1 million; and 5.9 million respectively.

Throwing about 80 million Nigerian children, adolescents, and young adults – (across an estimated 100,000 or more schools) into a potential Ebola mix, at a time when an abundance of caution is crucial – can hardly be described as a low, or even medium risk strategy.

If the Ministry of Education strategy goes horribly wrong – all the hard work of the Lagos, Rivers State and Federal Ministry of Health in containing the outbreak could be undone, with serious consequences for Nigeria, ECOWAS and all of Africa.

Is the Call for Caution Misplaced?

The evidence from Liberia and Sierra Leone where there have been riots, disruption to food production, manufacturing, mining, education, retail; and announcements of nationwide lock downs suggests not.

To quote the Deputy director of US Centre for Disease Controls National Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases:

“If there was no cases identified after today, we would still be committed to waiting 42 days from today to declare the outbreak fully over.  The concern is that the outbreak can be reseeded much like a forest fire, with sparks from one tree reseeding it.  That is clearly what happened in Liberia".

Liberia was a situation they did not have any new cases for more than 21 days in the first wave of the outbreak and they were reseeded by cases coming across the border.  Until we can identify and interrupt every chain of transmission, we will not be able to control the outbreak.”

Some Luck, Courage, Sacrifice and Efforts of Health Officials Have So Far Contained the Ebola Outbreak in Nigeria

In Nigeria, all 18 cases (so far) in the transmission chain are linked to a single person who travelled from Liberia to Lagos on 20 July. A combination of circumstances, incredible courage by two brave women – a doctor and nurse (now dead from Ebola) –  that identified the index case and restrained him – and round the clock work by health officials and partners has so far ensured that – the transmission chain has been traceable and contained.

Among the contacts of the index case, one person knowingly evaded surveillance and travelled to Port Harcourt (to seek private treatment) triggering another chain of transmission, which killed the doctor that treated him. The doctor in turn infected his wife (also a doctor) and she helped alert the authorities. The involvement of health workers affected, and their ability to recognise the situation, has so far been key to halting a disaster in the making.

If there is an Ebola outbreak in Nigeria’s massive 80 million strong school population after the 22nd of September, can the health system cope with tracing, containment and treatment?  The evidence indicates that the answer is a resounding NO. To put this in context Nigeria has only 4.1 doctors per 10,000 of the population (an estimated 58,363 doctors) – way below the 23 per 10,000 required for successful primary health care interventions.

And if schools shut down again after a new outbreak involving children and adolescents – and millions of students are reshuffled back home including across 36 states – what happens?

The Question Then Has To Be Asked – Why Has the Ministry of Education Reversed Its Earlier Decision Re-Open Schools In October?

Even basic disease prevention in Nigerian schools is a challenge as majority of schools are notorious for their lack of water and sanitation facilities, including lack of personal hygiene facilities for female students

The Ministry of Education directive that – “at least two (2) staff in each school, both Public and Private, are trained by appropriate health workers on how to handle any suspected case of Ebola” by 15th September – is ill informedEven doctors with 6 – 7 years of training cannot identify Ebola just by looking at patients with early symptoms that could be anything from Malaria to Typhoid fever. (See appendix to Editorial for questions about the precautionary measures directed by the Ministry of Education)

The WHO listed Ebola symptoms include: fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat – followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function. To these the Nigerian Ministry of Information Facebook page has ominously added “red eyes, cold, depression and confusion” – as symptoms of Ebola.  The potential for chaos when schools resume can only be imagined.

Importantly, the WHO underlines that other diseases to be ruled out before a diagnosis of Ebola can be made include: malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, and hepatitis to mention a few. How can a teacher with 3 weeks ‘Ebola training’ and no diagnostic equipment on site manage this? And if they suspect it is Ebola what do they do? There is no effective states or national ambulance service to call.

Even without Ebola, a look at some annual and cumulative health indicators for children, adolescents and young adults in Nigeria demonstrates the country's healthcare system is already inadequate, with successive Ministers of Health struggling to perform miracles with insufficient resources

  • Distribution of causes of death in children under 5 years include: Malaria – 20%; Acute Respiratory Infections – 16%; Diarrhoea – 10%; HIV/AIDS – 3%; Measles – 1%.
  • Only 31% of children under 5 years with Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) symptoms are taken to health facilities.
  • Only 38.1% of children under 5 years with diarrhoea receive oral rehydration therapy (ORT).
  • Only 41.9% of children under 5 years with fever received treatment with any anti malarial.
  • Only 18% of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral for preventing mother to child transmission.
  • Number of children living with HIV – 400,000.
  • Polio vaccination coverage – 59%
  • Measles cases – 6,447

Some other overall annual or cumulative health indicators for the general population – indicative of capacity to deal with Ebola outbreak:

  • Malaria cases = 2,087,086 (2.08 million) / Malaria Deaths = 7,734
  • People living with TB- 270,000 / TB Deaths, 27,000
  • People living with HIV – 3,200,000 (3.2 million) / Treatment Coverage 20%

Nigeria’s HIV indicators are especially significant given that men who have recovered from Ebola can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.  As immune systems are  critical to survival of Ebola; sexual and reproductive health education and commodities are crucial for adolescents and young adults .

If the health care system is unable to cope as illustrated above in ‘normal times’, how can teachers be expected to manage an Ebola outbreak?

The federal government and the Ministry of Education need to re-consider the announcement to re-open schools on the 22nd of September – and to do this before the 22nd – especially if more cases of Ebola are detected.

No one hopes for the worst – but even as we hope for the best – we must make every effort, and take every precaution to prevent the worst. Ebola is currently a disease with no treatment and no vaccine.

If the Ministry of Education and government maintain the decision to re-open schools by the 22nd of September especially if there are more confirmed Ebola cases – the 21 days (Ebola incubation period) following September 22nd 2014 will be the most tension soaked and longest 21 days in Nigeria’s health and education history.

While schools cannot remain closed indefinitely, and we cannot rule out a separate Ebola outbreak in the future – The situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone demonstrates that waiting 21 to 42 days could make the difference between complete chaos, and a resolution of the present Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.

Statement Ends: For further information contact kindly contact us through email: media[a]afri-dev.net

 

Appendix:

Excerpts And Questions Arising – From Initial Ministry Of Education Announcement Postponing Schools Resumption Till 13th Of October

“All Primary and Secondary schools, both Public and Private are to remain closed until Monday 13thOctober, 2014 which is the new school resumption date for all schools throughout the Federation.  This is to ensure that adequate preventive measures are put in place before the students report back to school.”

“All Summer Classes currently being conducted by some private schools should be suspended with immediate effect until 13th October, 2014.”

“All Private Primary and Secondary Schools must comply with the directives given under these preventive measures”

“All Tertiary Institutions are advised to suspend exchange of staff and students programs, visits and major International seminars and workshops until further notice.  They are also to monitor the movement of foreign students in their campuses.  They are to liaise with appropriate Government Health Institutions to organize and ensure effective sensitization program for all their teaching and non-teaching staff”

“The Minister of Education and all State Commissioners of Education will meet again on 23rd September, 2014 to review the situation in all States.”

The New Announcement of 5th September Negating This Previous One and Re-directing Schools to Re-open By 22nd September Raises Many Questions.

  • What changed in the 10 days since the earlier announcement was made?
  • Have all the precautionary conditions announce by the Minister of Education been met?
  • Where those conditions adequate in the first instance?

Key Amongst The Precautionary Conditions Announced Where?

1). “ All State Ministries of Education are to immediately organize and ensure that at least two (2) staff in each school, both Public and Private, are trained by appropriate health workers on how to handle any suspected case of Ebola – and also embark on immediate sensitization of all Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff in all schools on preventive measures. This training of staff must be concluded not later than 15th September, 2014.”

  • Has this training been concluded? Even if concluded is it sufficient?

2). “All State Ministries of Education should establish a Working and Monitoring Team for effective supervision of school activities before and after opening of schools.”

  • Have these monitoring teams been put in place?
  • What is the composition of these teams?
  • What is their mandate and how will the monitoring be carried out?
  • Are they empowered to make recommendations for school closure?

3). “Each State Ministry of Education should appoint a designated [Ebola] Desk Officer not later than 1st September, 2014, who should also receive appropriate training and who must report on daily basis to the Honourable Commissioner on situation in the schools.  The names of such Desk Officers, their phone numbers and e-mail addresses should be communicated to the Headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Education not later than 1st September, 2014.”

  • Have these desk officers been appointed?
  • Who has been designated to train them?
  • What is the composition of this training?
  • Has the training been accomplished?
  • Could any such training have been done in 6 days (between 26th August and 1st September)?
  • Have their details been forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Education as of the 1st of September?

4). “All Primary and Secondary schools, both Public and Private should be provided with a minimum of two (2) appropriate/recommended Temperature Measuring Equipment by the State Ministries of Education.  The State Ministries should determine the number of such equipment required and forward same to the Federal Ministry of Education not later than 1st September, 2014.  The Federal Ministry of Education will liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure that appropriate equipment are procured.”

  • Have all the 36 state Ministries of education determined the number of temperature measuring equipment to be procured in each state?
  • Have the requests been forwarded to Federal Ministry of Education by the 1st of September?
  • Has the order for them been placed? Will these be supplied and be in place by the 22nd of September?
  • What about protective clothing?

i.e. WHO recommendation is that – “When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with Ebola, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).” Will these be provided in schools?

If the answer to any of these questions is No – then the Ministry of Education has failed even by the precautionary standards it set for itself.

Why take the risk of daily movement of a combined school population of about 80 million children, adolescents and young adults – including secondary school and higher education students that will travel within and between the 36 states of the country.

But Two Even Bigger And More Important Questions Should Be Answered.

  • Why has the government and the Ministry of Education decided that it is not necessary to wait for the two full incubation periods (21 days x 2 / 42 days) without cases – which is the global health standard for declaring an Ebola outbreak over in a particular location?
  • Is the decision to convert teachers to emergency health workers conditions appropriate?

Teachers are trained to teach, not be health workers. Should teaching staff be placed in the trenches to fight Ebola, or should health workers have been designated to assist schools?

The House of Representatives, the teaching unions and health workers unions and associations need to be brought into this discussion and unravel how and why this decision was taken, and if it should stand.

By Afri-Dev

Source: http://www.afri-dev.info/content/special-afri-devinfo-editorial

Three sex workers stage protest at Festival of Dangerous Ideas

AIDS Accountability International Sex workers

Three Sydney sex workers have staged a protest at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas over the representation of their profession in a panel discussion on the global sex industry called Women For Sale.

During a session that also discussed pornography, IVF and surrogacy, they handed out pamphlets to festival goers and posed with an A3 sign that read: “I am a sex worker. I am not for sale”.

This year’s festival has been beset with controversy, including the cancellation of a talk on “honour” killings and calls for a boycott over links to the government’s asylum seeker policy.

“This is a festival of dangerous ideology,” one of the workers, Jules Kim, told Guardian Australia. “Sex workers are not ‘women for sale’. The panel discusses sex workers, but the festival did not invite sex workers to be on the panel even though they are the experts in this field.”

Kim, who is the acting chief executive of the Australian sex workers’ organisation Scarlet Alliance, applied to festival organisers St James Ethics Centre to be included on the panel which featured four writers and journalists, but had her request denied.

However, at the beginning of the discussion journalist Elizabeth Pisani invited Kim to replace her on stage and she was allowed to take part.

Kim said of the festival organisers: “You would think they’d want an actual sex worker [on the panel], but somehow that’s not important because we’re seen as victims; voiceless and having no agency.”

The co-founder and co-curator of the festival, Simon Longstaff of the St James Ethics Centre, said the intention of the sex workers to contribute to the discussion was “entirely appropriate”.

“However, I think that their cause could have been advanced in a stronger direction if they had used slightly different means. For example, taking the opportunity to express their opinion and then withdrawing back into the audience would have made a clear statement without seeking to dominate an agenda which was always intended to cover a broader range of issues.

“That said, a festival of dangerous ideas is always going to have interesting an exciting moments for which no one could have possibly planned.

“In my opinion what needed to be represented was a broad spectrum of opinion, which included the opinions of sex workers in Elizabeth Pisani,who was able to articulate the opinions that sex workers hold.

“One of the conscious designs of the festival is that … there is opportunity for people to contribute in the Q&A and in that senses there was always an opportunity for sex workers or parents of sex workers or any part of the community to contribute to this discussion.”

The two other protesters, Zahra Stardust and Cameron Cox, said they were allowed to enter the panel only as audience members on condition they leave a bag carrying their sign and pamphlets at the entrance. Stardust said the festival was part of a “historical, structural, systemic problem”.

The advocate said lack of representation inevitably meant myths and misinformation harmful to the lives of sex workers would be reproduced. Those ideas would be used to justify the criminalisation of their work, and increase stigma and institutional discrimination.

She said among such myths were that all sex work is exploitation, all sex work is a result of human trafficking, sex work is an inherent form of violence against women, all sex workers are young, female and coerced, all clients are male, and that the criminalisation of sex work would end the sex industry.

The protesters said the panel – which overall was highly critical of sex work, emphasising its links to sexual slavery and human trafficking, and calling for the criminalisation of both sex work and its clients – failed to acknowledge the legitimacy of sex work.

Source:http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/aug/31/three-sex-workers-stage-protest-at-festival-of-dangerous-ideas

 

African Union to immediately deploy joint military and civil mission against Ebola

Directorate of Information and Communication

 

Press Release NO. 184/ 2014

 

African Union to immediately deploy joint military and civil mission against Ebola

 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia–21 August 2014: The Peace and Security Council of the African Union on Tuesday invoked Article 6(f) relating to its mandate with regard to humanitarian action and disaster management at its 450th meeting.  The Council authorised the immediate deployment of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission to tackle the emergency situation caused by the Ebola outbreak.

 

“Using the infrastructure of the Peace Support Operations, the African Union Commission is finalising the planning of the joint military and civilian mission code named Operation ASEOWA that could start deployment by the end of August 2014,” Said Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission.

 

The African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak (Operation ASEOWA) is expected to deploy civilian and military volunteers from across the continent to ensure that Ebola is put under control. The mission will comprise medical doctors, nurses and other medical and paramedical personnel. The operation is expected to run for six months with monthly rotation of volunteers. The operation will cost more than USD25 million and the US government and partners have pledged to support the African Union with a substantial part of this amount.

 

The operation aims at filling the existing gap in international efforts and will work with WHO, OCHA, US CDC, EU CDC and others agencies already on the ground.

 

For more information, visit http://www.africa-union.org

 

For further information contact

 

Wynne Musabayana | Deputy Head of Division | Information and Communication Directorate | African Union Commission | Tel: (251) 11 551 77 00 | Fax: (251) 11 551 78 44 | E-mail: MusabayanaW@africa-union.org | Web: www.au.int|Addis Ababa | Ethiopia

 

Tawanda Chisango | Social Affairs | African Union Commission |Tel: +251115182029 | E-mail: Chisangot@africa-union.org | Web:www.au.int |Addis Ababa | Ethiopia

 

About the African Union

 

The African Union spearheads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens.  AU Vision:to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa, at peacewith itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable,efficient and responsive Commission. Learn more at: http://www.au.int/en/

500 days and counting: Progress for girls and women means progress for all

August 18 marks 500 days remaining before the Millennium Development Goals expire at the end of 2015. Some countries are on track to meet those goals and some are not, and central to the difference is their relative levels of investment in women and girls.

The MDGs emerged from an historic summit of world leaders to mark the new millennium nearly 15 years ago. Since then, countries that worked to boost girls’ education, women’s rights and comprehensive maternal, sexual and reproductive health care saw benefits not just for gender equality and longer lives for women and children but in other areas as well — against poverty and hunger, against diseases including HIV and AIDS, and toward a more sustainable environment. Investment in girls and women turned out to be the most cost-effective way to advance on all the goals.

Women Deliver was organized to point out this connection. At three global conferences of activists and decision-makers from around the world — in London in 2007, in Washington, D.C. in 2010 and in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 — it provided statistics and case studies that proved the truth of its slogan, “Invest in women — it pays!” Every year brought more proof and better examples of investments in girls and women in which everybody won. So today, as the international community begins final MDG assessments and considers future plans, we are proud to announce that the next triennial Women Deliver conference will be held on May 17-19, 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Like the previous three gatherings, this one will bring together advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers and leaders of the private sector and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when women and girls become the focus of development efforts. It will document the great results around the world where investment in women rose.

The Women Deliver 2016 Conference will also be the first major global conference after the post-2015 development framework, so far called the Sustainable Development Goals, is decided. It will be a first chance for strategizing on ways to turn the MDG spurs for growth into the plowshares of a livable planet, to make startup programs sustainable over the long term, to bring pilot programs to national scale — in short, to firm up long-term support, ensure that girls and women are kept at the center of the new development plans from the beginning, and include them in operations and evaluations at every stage into the future.

Copenhagen was chosen because Denmark is a leader and champion for progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Danish International Development Agency has already launched a new Strategic Framework for Gender Equality, Rights and Diversity to assist women and girls in seizing opportunities and resources to take full control over their own lives. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark is fully in support of Women Deliver’s call for additional global commitment on behalf of girls and women.

The post-2015 development framework is being developed as we write, and Women Deliver is working  to ensure that decision makers prioritize maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially in countries where inequality prevails and where it would help development most.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone, for example, could lift up to 150 million people out of hunger. Investing $8.1 billion a year in voluntary family planning would reduce pregnancy-related deaths by 79,000 and newborn deaths by 1.1 million every year. Increasing girls’ school attendance by only 10 percent raises a country’s GDP by 3 percent. And eliminating barriers to employment for girls and women could raise labor productivity in some countries by 25 percent.

These are the facts of life in the 21st century. Imagine a world where no woman dies giving life, where no baby is born with HIV, where every girl can attend school and get a quality education, and where everybody has a chance to fulfill their potential. The post-2015 process can move us closer to that day — if it prioritizes the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.

In these last 500 days, Women Deliver will build on the momentum generated by our previous gatherings to see that it happens. We will insist that adolescents and young people, who predominate in most developing areas, should get special focus. We will make sure that women are present at the tables where decisions are made. And we will continue playing a critical role in fueling the global movement for maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We will see you all in Copenhagen!

Aug. 18, 2014, marks the 500-day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Join Devex, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, to raise awareness of the progress made through the MDGs and to rally to continue the momentum. Check out our Storify page and tweet us using #MDGmomentum.

By Jill Sheffield and Katja Iversen

18 August 2014

Source: https://www.devex.com/news/500-days-and-counting-progress-for-girls-and-women-means-progress-for-all-84064

Young people demand sexual and reproductive health rights

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The first time Alfred went to a HIV voluntary testing centre, the healthcare provider did not treat him well. As a gay man, his story is not so rare.

“He [healthcare worker] asked me are you a man or a woman? I answered I am a man. Then he asked me about my parents,” said Alfred, who lives on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

“He just looked at me and treated me as if I was a disgrace to my parents. I decided not to go to the health centre after that. Because I do not want to go to a place where I am judged based on my sexual orientation. I am gay and I have sex. So what? ”

Challenges for youth to accessing sexual and reproductive health

Key populations in the HIV epidemic, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people, have the same sexual and reproductive health rights as anyone else— the right to have sexual relations free from coercion, to have children and to protect themselves from infection.

Last week’s International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia was an opportunity for young people, especially youth from key populations, including young people living with HIV, to discuss the barriers and challenges they face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

During a session moderated by the Athena Network and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, one young panelist Violet Lindiwe, 23, from Malawi, said: “In my community, when you attend HIV testing and family planning, healthcare professionals are likely to judge you because they think you misbehaved and that’s why you are there.”

Myo Minn Htet, a young man from Indonesia, added: “Culture and religious beliefs make it very difficult to talk about sex and to go to sexual and reproductive health services. Moreover discrimination against young key populations make their access to these services more difficult.”

The legal age to attend health centres is also one of the barriers identified by young people. Annie Zamina from Malawi said: “In my country though the legal age to have sex is 16, you cannot go a clinic and ask for contraceptive pills without your parents’ approval. It seems that while the law says you’re old enough to have sex, you are still too young to use contraception or to protect yourself from HIV.”

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Young people vulnerable to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies

According to the UN, globally young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections. Each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV, and some 5 million young people aged 15–24 live with HIV.

Apart from HIV infection, poor access to sexual and reproductive health and sex education opens the door to many other consequences, such as unintended pregnancies and dropping out of school.

Violet said: “When you listen to me, you may think I have a PhD but in fact, I stopped school when I became pregnant. I have to care for me and my son now. And this is what happens to young women in my community when they get pregnant when still students.”

Integrated services

According to the World Health Organization, linking sexual and reproductive health with HIV services is an approach that has the potential to increase universal access to prevention, treatment, and care services.

This is what Link Up— a programme to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people—is trying to achieve. The project works with young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Uganda and is implemented by a consortium of organisations, including the International HIV/Aids Alliance, Global Youth Coalition against Aids, and the Athena Network.

Sexual and reproductive health rights

Reproductive rights only become tangible when reproductive health services that offer a high quality of care are made widely available. Availability includes both affordability and easy access, which also implies a range of services under one roof.

Like Alfred, Rebeccah, a young woman living with HIV from Zimbabwe, was also treated badly the first time she went to a clinic to receive counselling about contraception. She said: “The nurse said she was surprised I was still having sex considering my ‘condition’. And she told me I should abstain from sex since I am HIV positive. I cried a lot in her office and decided not to go to that clinic anymore.”

But Rebeccah, like many other young people, is now getting to grips with her rights. “As a young woman living with HIV, I am sexually active and I have the right to go a clinic for family planning services,” she said. “My status should not be an argument to be denied this service. And I really hope people should not use our status, our sexual orientation or sex work as argument to deny access to healthcare because we need, no, we demand access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.”

Nina Benedicte Kouassi is a member of the Key Correspondents network, which focuses on marginalised groups affected by HIV to report the health and human rights stories that matter to them. The network is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Feature image credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam/International HIV/AIDS Alliance

In-post image credit: Julie Mellin/GYCA

By Nina B. Kouassi

30 July 2014

Source: http://stayingalivefoundation.org/blog/2014/07/young-people-demand-their-sexual-and-reproductive-health-rights/

Urban population boom poses massive challenges for Africa and Asia

The UN predicts that two-thirds of the world will live in cities by 2050, with 90% of growth taking place in the global south

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Two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90% of the growth is predicted to take place.

The planet's urban population – which overtook the number of rural residents in 2010 – is likely to rise by about 2.5 billion to more than 6 billion people in less than 40 years, according to a UN report. Africa and Asia "will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and healthcare", it adds.

Future development targets should focus on creating inclusive cities with adequate infrastructure and services for all residents, said John Wilmoth, director of the UN's population division. "Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century," he said. "Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda."

The report says rapid urbanisation will bring opportunities for governments to improve access to important services. "Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a predominantly rural household," it says.

Africa is projected to experience a 16% rise in its urban population by 2050 – making it the most rapidly urbanising region on the planet – as the number of people living in its cities soars to 56%.

The report predicts there will be more than 40 megacities worldwide by 2050,each with a population of at least 10 million. Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo are predicted to remain the world's most populous cities in 2030, when each is projected to be home to more than 30 million people.

"Several decades ago most of the world's largest urban agglomerations were found in the more developed regions, but today's large cities are concentrated in the global south," the UN says. "The fastest growing urban agglomerations are medium-sized cities and cities with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, located in Asia and Africa."

The world's 3.4 billion-strong rural population will start to decline as urbanisation becomes more common, the report says. The UN projects that rural populations will increase in only a third of countries between 2014 and 2050, as states with large rural communities will take longer to urbanise. "In general, the pace of urbanisation tends to slow down as a population becomes more urbanised," the report says.

The UN cautions that sustainable urbanisation requires cities to generate better income and employment opportunities, and "expand the necessary infrastructure for water and sanitation, energy, transportation, information and communications; ensure equal access to services; reduce the number of people living in slums; and preserve the natural assets within the city and surrounding areas".

Urbanisation has historically taken place in wealthy countries, but such expansion is now happening most rapidly in upper-middle-income countries, where gross national income per capita is between $1,046 and $4,125.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/global-develop​ment/2014/jul/10/urban-population-growth-africa-asia-united-nations

Post-2015 Agenda: Organized Chaos or Hot Mess?

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Trouble as Goals Move Forward 

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The latest version of the zero draft report from the Open Working Group developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hit the internet late Monday evening. This is the final draft that member states will have a chance to respond to before the final report is produced and shared with the Secretary General prior to the United Nations General Assembly in September. It is fairly similar to the last draft in that it still has the same 17 goals, with small semantic differences. Overall, there are fewer targets, but both the targets and the process are becoming increasingly convoluted.

 

This draft misses the integration, aspiration, transformation and sustainability that were meant to drive the post-2015 agenda.  We see important targets missing in this lengthy draft, but we have yet to really see the difficult trade-offs that a final set of implementable goals would require.

 

How have sexual and reproductive health and rights fared?

 

Sexual and reproductive health has disappeared from the Health Goal. While a target on sexual and reproductive health was previously included under both the Health and Gender goals, it now only appears under the Gender goal as “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform for Action.” This is problematic for two reasons:

 

1.    Without SRH under the health goal, family planning is in jeopardy of not being recognized in this new development framework. SRHR is a major component of overall health not only for women and girls, but also for men and boys. It is therefore critical to be included within a discussion of health.

 

2.    The qualifier of ICPD and Beijing is unnecessary and weakens the human rights frame of the target. Nowhere else in the Open Working Group’s draft document is such a caveat introduced. As such, it undermines the principle of arriving at a forward-looking set of SDGs. There is no need to qualify universal access to sexual and reproductive health or reproductive rights. With a reference to ICPD and Beijing already in the introduction, we hope to see this qualifier removed.

 

What are other notable points?

 

  • It is good to see that in proposed Goal 6  (Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all), the following target remained: “By 2030, achieve adequate sanitation and hygiene for all, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls.” This is critical to mainstreamed access to reproductive health.
  •  
  • Comprehensive sexuality education also remains absent from the latest document and should be inserted, ideally under the education goal.
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  • Equity has been and will continue to be a prevailing narrative in the post-2015 agenda.

 

What’s next?

 

In New York for the Open Working Group session last week, you could see will, desire, and investment on the faces of delegates, civil society, co-chairs. But you could also see the fatigue. This has been a long and intensive exercise that has lasted nearly two years already. Now is the time point to put words down on paper and respond to drafts in order to rescue the jumbled mess that the draft goals have become.

 

The final round of informal discussions by the Open Working Group takes place July 14 to 18. The co-chairs (from Kenya and Hungary) will incorporate this final feedback from member states into a final report submitted to the Secretary General in August. A report will simultaneously be submitted by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. The Secretary General will then take these inputs, among others, and produce his own report, and full negotiations are expected to start in January 2015. The co-chairs of the post-2015 summit (September 21 to 23) are Denmark and Papua New Guinea.

 

By A. Tianna Scozzaro, Population and Climate Associate – 

3 July 2014

Source: http://www.populationaction.org/blog/2014/07/03/post-2015-agenda-organized-chaos-or-hot-mess/#sthash.VKfcdhBU.dpuf

UN warns some MDG targets may be missed

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There is a risk that Millennium Development Goals aimed at improving child and maternal mortality and expanding access to sanitation will be missed, the United Nations has warned.

 

With a little over a year to go to ensure the eight MDG targets are met, the UN this week issued a progress report, which showed that goals on poverty reduction, improving drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary schools had already been met.

 

Progress was also being made on MDGs covering hunger, debt relief and malaria, tuberculosis and HIV treatment.

 

‘However, some MDG targets related to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are slipping away from achievement by 2015, despite major progress,’ the UN said.

 

‘The report calls on all stakeholders to focus and intensify efforts on the areas where advances have been too slow or not reached all.’

 

More reliable statistics were needed for monitoring development, the report said. It noted that the number of member states submitting progress reports on HIV/Aids increased from 102 in 2004 to 186 in 2012, helping galavanise global efforts. Funding for HIV programmes more than tripled in this period and 9.5 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral treatment in 2012.

 

UN member states are currently considering a new set of development goals that can replace the MDGs in 2015. These are likely to be agreed in September next year.

 

UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon said: ‘Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs.

 

‘Tackling growing inequality, in rich and poor countries alike, has become the defining challenges of our times. Our post-2015 objectives must be to leave no one behind.’

By Vivienne Russell

9 July 2014

http://www.publicfinanceinternational.org/news/2014/07/un-warns-some-mdg-targets-may-be-missed/