Category Archives: governance

South Africa, Which Once Led On Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become A Roadblock

Advocates fear South Africa might turn against an LGBT rights resolution at the UN that it sponsored three years ago.

 

South Africa was once the essential nation to advancing LGBTI rights in international diplomacy. Now it has become a potential roadblock.

 

Back in 2011, South Africa sponsored a resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) that, for the first time, recognized LGBTI rights as human rights. Other nations, especially from Latin America, had been working to advance LGBTI rights in less high-profile ways for several years before, but South Africa’s leadership was critical to taking the effort to the level of a formal resolution. Such a proposal had to have at least one prominent African backer, its supporters believed. Otherwise, it would play into the hands of LGBTI rights opponents in Africa and other parts of the world that had once been colonized who argue that homosexuality was a Western perversion brought by colonial powers.

 

An updated version of the resolution was tabled Thursday at a Human Rights Council meeting underway in Geneva. It was sponsored by Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay. A vote is expected next week.

 

Not only is South Africa’s name not on it, but some LGBTI rights supporters tell BuzzFeed News that South Africa’s diplomats are behaving so strangely in negotiations that they worry the country could even turn against the resolution. A South African defection might not only help torpedo the proposal, it would also be a stunning symbolic reversal for a country that set the standard for protecting LGBTI rights. When South Africa adopted its first post-apartheid constitution in 1993, it became the world’s first nation to protect LGBTI rights in its fundamental rights declaration. This came out of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression, and it commanded even greater moral authority because it was rooted in the experience of fighting white supremacy.

 

So some LGBTI rights supporters are looking at South Africa’s reluctance to clearly support the new resolution as a fundamental betrayal.

 

“We currently have leadership that fails to represent the ethos of what the constitution says and the equality principles they have to uphold,” said Mmapeseka Steve Letsike, a lesbian activist who chairs the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum. “We have leadership going out of this country putting their personal beliefs before its own people. We have leaders that fail to protect their own.”

 

South Africa’s pullback on LGBTI rights internationally comes as homophobia has become an increasingly common political tool across Africa, framed as a form of standing up to the West. Nigeria and Uganda both passed sweeping bills criminalizing LGBTI rights advocacy this winter, the governments of The Gambia and Chad both have pending proposals to stiffen laws against homosexuality, and LGBTI people are being targeted by police from Zimbabwe to Egypt to Senegal.

 

“Silence in the context of the African Bloc suggests a kind of complicity with the homophobic rhetoric,” said Graeme Reid, a South African who directs Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program. “It speaks of a kind of misplaced solidarity … not aligning with the [LGBTI] people who are the victims of human rights abuse, but with the perpetrators under the rhetoric of supporting our ‘African brothers and sisters.’”

 

LGBTI rights supporters were also hopeful that some smaller African countries could be persuaded to abstain on the vote — a kind of soft yes — and one or two might even be convinced to back it. This could tip the balance if the vote is close. The 2011 resolution was a nail-biter, passing 23-19 with three abstentions. But that becomes very hard if South Africa can’t counterbalance conservative continental heavyweights that might be lobbying the smaller countries.

 

“As soon as [South Africa] pulls back, it gives countries like Nigeria and Egypt room to bully and push the smaller countries,” said an LGBTI rights advocate from another southern African country who asked to speak anonymously in order to avoid a backlash in negotiations. “We need South Africa to maintain the same position if not better” than in 2011.

 

It’s hard to see why this resolution is so important by reading the plain language — all it really does is order a bi-annual study of LGBTI rights by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But there are only a few places where language referring to LGBTI rights exists in any international agreements. This small resolution is a way of giving U.N. staff authority to work on LGBTI issues and means that it will be a regular focus of discussion in Geneva. And it will be a precedent that can be used to broaden the inclusion of LGBTI rights in other human rights agreements.

 

Most LGBTI rights supporters came into the negotiations that began last week assuming that South Africa would be supportive even if it no longer wanted its name on the resolution. Regional coalitions are very important in the U.N., and other major powers within the Africa bloc, especially Nigeria and Egypt, have been at the forefront of pushing anti-LGBTI policies. South Africa had taken a lot of heat for the 2011 resolution, and many LGBTI supporters might have understood if officials chose not to take a public role in support this year.

 

But they’ve withheld their support even in private discussions, say sources familiar with the negotiations. The head of South Africa’s Geneva delegation, Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, took the unusual step of coming personally to an informal meeting on Wednesday, something usually left to staff. But he said virtually nothing in the meeting, said a source in the room, which showed other nations that South Africa isn’t about to go to bat for the proposal.

 

This posture follows a move by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party to block a parliamentary motion to condemn anti-LGBTI legislation enacted by Uganda in February (which has since been struck down by the court). It also comes after a vote by South Africa during the June HRC session that stunned LGBTI rights supporters: South Africa joined with conservative nations on a procedural vote to exclude a sentence stating “various forms of the family exist” in an Egyptian-led resolution on the “Protection of the Family.” The resolution passed without this language, and LGBTI rights supporters were concerned that the language could be used as precedent for excluding families from protections under international law if they are not led by a heterosexual couple.

 

“In the room they’re being a little bit weird,” said a diplomat from a Western country working on the resolution, referring to South Africa’s behavior in the negotiations. But this isn’t entirely new. “They’ve been behaving weird for two or three years on this,” the diplomat said.

 

The diplomat attributed that more to a change in personnel than an intentional shift in policy: Jerry Matjila, who was South Africa’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council when work began on the 2011 resolution, has since returned to Pretoria to take a senior post in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. His replacement, Ambassador Minty, lacks his personal commitment to the issue, say sources who have worked with the delegation.

 

South Africa’s Geneva mission and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation in Pretoria did not respond to requests for comment.

 

But some South African activists see this dilution of South Africa’s commitment to LGBTI rights internationally as part of a larger trend in the country’s leadership. The late Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress embraced LGBTI rights as part of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression as they brought South Africa out of apartheid — Matjila is seen as part of that school. But that commitment is not as strong among the younger generation of leaders, most notably President Jacob Zuma, who called same-sex marriage “a disgrace to the nation and to God” around the time the unions won legal recognition in the country.

 

The shift doesn’t mean South Africa has done a 180 on LGBTI rights. Rather, it’s led to a kind of schizophrenia that is frustrating to LGBTI rights supporters. The lack of support for this resolution is all the more confusing because it comes at a time that there is a new commitment from the government to fighting anti-LGBTI hate crimes inside the country, spurred by a series of horrific rapes and murders of black lesbians.

 

“Domestically, there is a sense of a real commitment and energy and political will,” said Human Rights Watch’s Graeme Reid. But the international stance is incoherent — the Latin Americans only introduced the resolution at the last minute because South Africa wouldn’t let go of its ownership of the issue until just before the Human Rights Council session began earlier this month.

 

“There is an air of uncertainty about their position because they have been dragging their feet on this for the last three years, not moving on the resolution and not dropping it,” Reid said.

 

The resolution’s supporters are optimistic that they will have the votes to pass the resolution if it gets an up or down vote next week, and no one who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story said they thought it was possible that South Africa would vote against the resolution on the final vote. It could abstain on a final vote, a possibility that some of the resolution’s supporters fear is more likely as the negotiations wear on. Or it could vote for a procedural motion that would kill the resolution by denying an up or down vote — exactly what it did to keep the inclusive language out of the Protection of the Family resolution in June.

 

“It would be unacceptable, incomprehensible, and almost unconscionable for a relatively new democracy like South Africa to support shutting down debate at the UN’s human rights body [to affirm a principle] that’s in its own constitution,” said Marianne Møllman, program director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in an interview from Geneva.

 

By J. Lester Feder

19 September 2014

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/south-africa-which-once-led-on-promoting-lgbt-rights-abroad#2dmkbjy

17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex

Lies

Whether it’s the constant fretting over Miley Cyrus’ influence on school girls or the growing (and troubling) tradition of Purity Balls, it’s clear that society has a fascination with young women’s sexuality — especially when it comes to controlling it. But what are we actually teaching today’s girls about sex?

 

Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won’t die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn’t helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools’ sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is “done to them.”

 

Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. But first, we’re going to need to stop perpetuating the following 17 myths about female sexuality.

 

1. Virginity exists.

 

Therese Shechter’s 2013 documentary How To Lose Your Virginity asks a seemingly simple question: What is a virgin? The answer is actually pretty complicated. The common idea of virginity is focused on a heteronormative, male-centric definition of intercourse — that is, penis-in-vagina penetration. But this definition ignores LGBTQ couples, oral and anal sex, instances where it “didn’t go all the way in,” rape and emotional intimacy.

 

The cultural obsession with virginity is more about keeping girls pure than anything else, and because the term begins to crumble upon close inspection, it doesn’t have to carry such weight. There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.

 

2. Hymens are a sign of virginity.

 

Given that the entire notion of virginity is dubious at best, it’s not all that surprising that there is actually no medical way to tell if someone is a virgin or not. This includes a broken hymen. Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence, and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports. Some women aren’t born with one at all.

 

Despite the fact that more than half of women don’t bleed the first time they have penetrative sex, blood on the sheets has remained a signifier of losing one’s virginity throughout history. The persistence of this myth surrounding a basically irrelevant anatomical feature has even spawned a market for artificial hymens and reconstructive surgery to “restore” virginity. More disturbingly, girls around the world are often subject to degrading, invasive virginity “tests” to ensure their purity.

 

3. All women are born with vaginas.

 

Some items on this list focus on the anatomy of those assigned female at birth in an effort to illuminate issues that many girls don’t get to talk about enough, but the purpose is never to be exclusionary. Gender identity is different from biological sex, and trans women are women, period.

 

4. The first time is going to hurt — a lot.

 

Much of the pain young women are taught to expect during their first sexual experience actually comes from increased muscle tension due to nervousness. Blood usually comes from vaginal tissue tearing due to lack of lubrication and, ahem, inexperienced love making — not the hymen breaking. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really; maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.

 

5. If someone buys you something, you owe him or her sex.

 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a drink or a diamond necklace: You never “owe” someone sex. Ever.

 

6. Too much sex will stretch you out.

 

Nothing like the old “hot dog down a hallway” analogy to scare young women away from safe, consensual promiscuity. The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band, and unless you’re regularly getting down with fire hose, you should be fine.

 

Similarly, having a baby will not “ruin” your vagina. Many women report feeling different down there after childbirth (the post-baby healing process depends on a variety of factors like age, the size of the baby and your commitment to Kegels), but we should really be teaching girls to accept their differences as normal and natural — not as new-found flaws.

 

7. Women don’t think about sex very much.

 

Many sexologists have arrived at the same conclusion: Women want sex just as much as men. This isn’t some new trend, either; science is just learning to ask the right questions about female desire.

 

So why does this myth of the undersexed female persist? It certainly doesn’t help that women often are taught that thinking about sex is boyish or juvenile. Entertainment media also frequently likes to portray women as the more responsible party in a relationship (think: nagging wife, childish husband).

 

The flip side of this thinking is the idea that “real” men should always have a voracious sexual appetite. But the saying “men think about sex every seven seconds” is just not true. Society’s focus on young men’s libido has created a sort of caricature of male sexuality, one that treats an occasional lack of desire or displays of emotion as not being masculine enough. And that’s not fair to them, either.

 

8. Women don’t like casual sex.

 

Not only do women want sex, but as journalist Daniel Bergner points out in What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, their desire is “not, for the most part, sparked or sustained by emotional intimacy and safety.” This means that, contrary to popular belief, women can most definitely have sex without getting emotionally attached. Studies of sexual desire have actually shown that plenty of ladies want casual sex more than the average guy, and many guys want it less than the average lady.

 

Much of this desire appears to be socially conditioned, anyway: Gendered differences in desire have been shown to diminish over time with more progressive generations, in countries with more equitable distributions of power and when the perceived stigma of being slut-shamed is controlled for in female subjects.

 

Moral of the story? It’s a personal preference, and blanket generalizations aren’t helping anyone.

 

9. Boys buy the condoms.

 

You don’t need to depend on anyone else for your protection. Girls can be prepared, too.

 

10. “Frigid” wives make cheating husbands.

 

The myth of the frigid wife plays off outdated notions of women who are too uninterested in sex to keep their men satisfied. But instead of lazily blaming infidelity on gender stereotypes, let’s encourage a sense of personal responsibility. Besides, men deserve more than to be treated like animals who can’t control themselves.

 

11. You have to wax.

 

Despite ads that try to convince women life can only be fully enjoyed stubble-free, you do not have an obligation to do anything to your body that you don’t want to do. After all, hair removal is still an industry, designed like every other to exploit people’s insecurities to make the most money possible.

 

It’s working, too: Hair removal is a $2.1 billion industry in the U.S., and over the course of a lifetime the average woman will spend an estimated $10,000 on shaving products. You should do what works for you, whether or not that means buying in.

 

12. You can’t have sex on your period.

 

If it grosses you out, no pressure. (Seriously though, is period blood really that much grosser than regular sexy-time fluids?) But such an act is both physically possible and safe. In fact, sex during your period can improve menstrual cramps, and some women even report having a shorter period overall when they get busy during that time of the month. Be warned, however: It is still possible to get pregnant or spread an STI while on your period, so don’t forgo the condom.

 

13. Sex is supposed to hurt sometimes.

 

Sex is not supposed to hurt, but for many women, it does. If your muscles aren’t ready, things can get painful. It can take 20 minutes of foreplay for a woman’s vaginal muscles to relax enough to be truly ready for penetrative sex.

 

For some women, however, foreplay isn’t the issue at all. Conditions like vaginismus and vulvodynia are very real, albeit unfortunately not very well known. The result is that many women suffering from these conditions don’t realize that there is help available. If sex hurts, it’s worth finding a specialist who can talk you through your options.

 

14. Once you start having sex, you’re not allowed to say “stop.”

 

You can change your mind at any time during sex, and your partner must respect that. It doesn’t matter if blue balls are real or not. Know that your voice must be heard.

 

15. Women don’t watch porn.

 

The hatred many women feel towards porn is understandable, given that so much of it promotes unrealistic or downright unhealthy attitudes about female sexuality. The problem is, as the Kinsey Institute’s Debby Herbenick points out, “Most mainstream porn is made by men with other men in mind.”

 

This doesn’t mean that many women don’t enjoy porn, nor that there’s not a market for more female-friendly fare. Researchers have shown that men and women respond comparably to sexually explicit material, and that the increase in women’s brainwave activity when looking at erotic images is just as strong as the increase in men’s.

 

16. Sexual harassment is normal.

 

A disturbing new study concluded that many young women consider sexual harassment and violence to be part of everyday life. Girls shouldn’t have to think of this treatment as expected. Sexual violations of any kind are unacceptable, and the dismissive “boys being boys” defense is both ridiculous and damaging to all genders. Sorry, personal bodily autonomy is not up for debate.

 

17. Everybody’s doing it.

 

The average American loses his or her virginity, for lack of a better term, at age 17. Plenty of people don’t start having sex until later (or earlier) in life, and that’s okay, too. Some people don’t have much of an interest in sex at all. Being sex positive isn’t about encouraging everyone to have tons of sex all the time; it’s about understanding that sex should be safe, shame-free and above all, based on informed, personal choices.

 

By Julianne Ross

April 2014

Source: http://mic.com/articles/88029/17-lies-we-need-to-stop-teaching-girls-about-sex

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

Gambia’s President Jammeh asked to reject anti-gay law

Gambia President

Leading rights groups have called on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh not to approve tough new anti-gay legislation.

 

Homosexual acts are already illegal in The Gambia, but MPs passed a bill on 25 August imposing life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality”.

 

The bill promoted “state-sponsored homophobia”, the rights groups said.

 

Mr Jammeh is known for his strong opposition to gay rights. He has called gay people “vermin” and once threatened to behead them.

 

Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down a similar law last month on the grounds that it was passed by MPs without a quorum.

 

‘Deep fear’

Its ruling followed an outcry from rights groups and Western governments – US President Barack Obama described the legislation as “odious”.

 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the definition of “aggravated homosexuality” was vague in The Gambian bill.

 

Among those who could be given the life sentence were “repeat offenders” and people living with HIV who are suspected to be gay or lesbians, they said in a joint statement.

 

A person who had homosexual relations with a minor could also be convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”, Reuters news agency reports.

 

“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

 

Graeme Reid of HRW said it would “only heap further stigma on people who are already marginalised and living in a climate of deep fear and hate in Gambia”.

 

Under current laws, homosexual acts are already punishable by up to 14 years in prison in The Gambia.

 

Mr Jammeh has 30 days from the date the bill was passed to sign it into law or return it to parliament for further review.

 

The Gambia is a popular tourist destination, famous for its beaches.

 

By BBC News Africa

10 September 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29145397

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

LGBT Visibility in Africa Also Brings Backlash

homosexuality.jpg4

Eighteen-year-old Gift Makau enjoyed playing and refereeing football games in her neighbourhood in the North West Province of South Africa. She had come out to her parents as a lesbian and had never been heckled by her community, according to her cousin.

 

On Aug. 15 she was found by her mother in a back alley, where she had been raped, tortured and killed.

Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHLRC), said that Gift’s murder was part of a disturbing trend in which gender-nonconforming individuals are targeted for so-called corrective rape.

 

“Corrective rape is really the attempt of the society to try to punish the person for acting outside the norm,” Mohamed said.

 

In the past 10 years in South Africa, 31 lesbians have been reported killed as the result of corrective rape, she said.  A charity called Luleki Sizwe estimates that 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped a week in Cape Town alone.

 

Transgender, gay or effeminate men are also the subject of corrective rape, but they are less likely to be murdered and are less likely to report it.

If this is happening in South Africa, the only mainland African country to allow legal same-sex marriage, what is it like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) elsewhere on the continent?

 

“The type of brutality that you see happening to lesbians and to homosexuals in parts of Africa is just beyond comprehension,” Mohamed told IPS. “It’s like your worst horror movie, and even worse than that.”

 

More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalising consensual same-sex acts, according to IGLHRC.

 

“Overall what we’ve seen is a fairly bleak picture that’s emerging,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

 

Africa is seeing “an intensification of the political use of homophobia,” he said.

 

Nigeria and Uganda made headlines in early 2014 when they signed anti-homosexuality bills that handed out long prison sentences for being homosexual or for refusing to turn in a known homosexual.

 

On Aug. 1, Uganda’s law was declared unconstitutional on procedural grounds by its supreme court, but Shehnilla Mohamed expects that it will be back on the table again once international attention shifts away.

 

Long-time African leaders who wish to extend their stay in office often try to whip up anti-homosexuality sentiment.

 

“Homophobia becomes both a ruse and a distraction from other real substantive issues, whether those are economic or political,” Graeme Reid said.

Chalwe Mwansa, a Zambian activist and IGHLRC fellow, told IPS that in his country, politicians equate cases of pedophilia and incest with homosexuality, fabricating sensational stories to inflame the public. This strategy diverts attention away from problems with unemployment, poverty, health and education.

 

Some leaders also claim that homosexuality is an un-African, Western imposition. Mohamed believes it is the exact opposite.

 

Homosexuality “existed in a lot of the African cultures and a lot of the African traditions,” she told IPS. “It was quite an accepted pattern.”

 

Same-sex relationships did not begin to develop a negative connotation until after colonisation brought Western religion, she said.

 

In an environment of antipathy, LGBT individuals have few places to turn to for help. The police station is often not a sanctuary for those who have been raped.

 

Mohamed recently spoke to a transgender man in South Africa who was accosted in the lobby of his block of apartments by a group of men who thought he was a woman. When they found out he was a man they raped and “beat him so badly that he was totally unrecognisable,” she said.

 

The man ended up contracting HIV/AIDS.

 

In South Africa, after being raped, a person is supposed to report it to the police and receive a free post-exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours to minimise the risk of transmission. However, this man was too afraid to go into the station, knowing that the police would most likely feel that he had deserved it.

 

The problem is even worse in countries like Nigeria that have criminalised homosexuality. According to Michael Ighodaro, a fellow at IGLHRC from Nigeria, after its anti-homosexuality bill was passed in January, 90 percent of gay men who were on medications stopped going to clinics to receive them, out of fear that they would be arrested.

 

Even at home, LGBT individuals in Africa face an uphill struggle. Anti-homosexuality laws do have a current of support throughout society. LGBT people often fear ostracisation by their families, so hide their sexual or gender identity.

 

The increased prominence of LGBT issues in national debates in Africa in the past decade has inspired a bit of a backlash.

 

Njeri Gateru, a legal officer at the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya, says that Kenya lies in a tricky balance. Society does not actively persecute LGBT individuals if they outwardly conform to sexual and gender norms, but “problems would arise if people marched in the streets or there was an article in the press.”

 

“We cannot continue to live in a balance where we are muzzled and we are comfortable being muzzled,” Gateru said at a HRW event in New York.

 

Religion plays a significant role in the lack of acceptance of gender non-conforming groups in Africa.

 

IGLHRC’s Mohamed said that even “people with master’s degrees, who are highly educated, who work in white collar jobs will say ‘God does not like this.’”

 

“I think pointing out that LGBTI people are human beings, are God’s creation just like everybody else is really something that we’ll keep on pushing,” she said.

 

According to Gateru, even when churches open their doors to LGBT groups, they sometimes do it for the wrong reasons.

 

A year or so ago, a group of Kenyan evangelical leaders announced that they were going to stop turning LGBT individuals away from churches because, in their words, ‘Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.’

 

The churches are “welcoming you to change you or to pray for you so you can change, which is really not what we want,” said Gateru. “But I think it’s a very tiny step.”

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly and consistently criticised discrimination against LGBT groups and condemned new anti-homosexuality laws.

 

Activist groups welcome the support of prominent religious leaders such as Tutu, and are planning a conference in February to bring together pastors, imams and rabbis to discuss LGBT issues and religion in Africa.

 

In general, LGBT activist organisations have their work cut out for them.

 

LGBT advocacy groups “most of the time are working undercover, are working underground, or if they are registered and are working as an NGO, are constantly being harassed by the authorities or by society,” Mohamed said.

 

IGLHRC was founded in 1990, and helps local LGBT advocacy groups around the world fight for their rights through grant making and work on the ground.

 

“What we really need is to mainstream homosexual rights, LGBTI rights into the basic human rights discourse,” said Mohamed.

 

During August’s U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, IGLHRC urged the U.S. to hold African leaders to account.

 

Depending on the country, the U.S. does have an ability to advance human rights through external pressure. Mohamed speculated that the striking down of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill just days before the summit was a public relations stunt by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, since he wanted a warm reception by the White House.

 

Nigeria, the other country to introduce a new law in 2014, is more difficult to influence than Uganda, according to Michael Ighodaro. Because of its oil wealth, the Nigerian government would not care if the United States were to pull funding.

 

The U.S.-African summit, since it was focused on business, offered an opportunity for LGBT advocacy groups to point out the economic costs of sidelining an entire sector of the population.

 

Mohamed said that LGBT individuals are often “too scared to apply for certain jobs because of how they would be treated. If they did apply they probably would never get the jobs because of the stigmas attached.”

 

Despite the difficult journey to come, supporters of LGBT rights in Africa can look back to see that some progress has been made.

 

HRW’s Reid said that the LGBT movement was practically invisible in Africa just 20 years ago.

 

“In a sense this very vocal reaction against LGBT visibility can also be seen as a measure of the strength and growth of a movement over the last two decades,” he said.

 

Things may get a little tougher before they get better, Njeri Gateru told IPS, but “history is on our side.”

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2014 (IPS) 

Edited by Kitty Stapp

By Joel Jaeger

10 Septermber 2014

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash/

Ebola death toll reaches 2,288, says World Health Organization

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 2,288 people, with half of them dying in the last three weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Ebola 1

It said that 47% of the deaths and 49% of the total 4,269 cases had come in the 21 days leading up to 6 September.

The health agency warned that thousands more cases could occur in Liberia, which has had the most fatalities.

The outbreak, which was first reported in Guinea in March this year, has also spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, eight people have died out of 21 cases, while one case of Ebola has been confirmed in Senegal, the WHO said in its latest update.

ebola 2

'Latter-day plague'

On Monday, the agency called on organisations combating the outbreak in Liberia to scale up efforts to control the outbreak "three-to-four fold".

Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

However, the WHO says conventional means of controlling the outbreak, which include avoiding close physical contact with those infected and wearing personal protective equipment, were not working well in Liberia.

ebola 3

The reason for this remains unclear; however, experts say it could be linked to burial practices, which can include touching the body and eating a meal near it.

There are also not enough beds to treat Ebola patients, particularly in the capital Monrovia, with many people told to go back home, where they may spread the virus.

Sophie-Jane Madden, of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the BBC that health workers at the largest treatment centre in Monrovia were completely overwhelmed: "Our teams are every day turning away people who are desperately seeking healthcare."

ebola 4

Meanwhile, the US says it will help the African Union mobilise 100 African health workers to the region and contribute an additional $10m (£6.2m) in funds to deal with the outbreak.

The announcement comes as a fourth US aid worker infected with the deadly virus was transported to a hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

The identity of the aid worker has not yet been revealed.

Two other aid workers who were treated at the same hospital have since recovered from an Ebola infection.

Separately on Tuesday, the UN's envoy in Liberia said at least 80 Liberian health workers had died from Ebola, according to the Associated Press.

Karin Landgren described the outbreak as a "latter-day plague" that was growing exponentially. She added that health workers were operating without proper protective equipment, training or pay, in comments to the UN Security Council.

By BBC News Africa

9 September 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29131065

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

Experimental Ebola Vaccine

Ebola

Monkeys that got a booster shot following a regular vaccine shot showed “durable” immunity, the new research published in the journal Nature Medicine said.

In the end of August, after animal trials the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said that the new vaccine will be tested on humans starting with early September.

If approved, “this vaccine will be beneficial for populations at acute risk during natural outbreaks or others with a potential risk of occupational exposure,” said the study’s authors.

The results of the human trials are estimated to be completed by the end of 2014.

The new study said that vaccine provides “durable protection” against Zaire Ebola virus, which took the lives of 1,841 of the 3,685 people infected in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to World Health Organization (WHO) numbers.

The vaccine delivers traces of Ebola virus. The material is non-infectious and helps the cells build an immune response against the disease.

Four lab monkeys were given one shot of the vaccine and reported to have been immune to the virus five weeks later. But the effects of the vaccine wore off over a longer period of time. After 10 months, only two of the monkeys still had immunity.

At the same time, the monkeys that received a single shot, followed by a booster vaccine recorded long-term immunity.

The human trials will be conducted among the individuals not infected with the Ebola virus and researches will be observing if the vaccine triggers the appropriate immune response.

On Friday Sierra Leone announced it will implement a four-day “lockdown” across the country in an attempt to contain the spread of Ebola.

The move came as the World Health Organization stated that the virus has so far claimed over 2,000 lives in Africa.

By RT News

8 September 2014

Source: http://rt.com/news/185840-ebola-vaccine-human-trials/

Southern Africa: Gender violence still hinders women’s freedom

GenderLinks

It seems incongruous that we celebrate Women's Month, yet stories of conflict and gender based violence (GBV) flood today's headlines. Whether it is the abduction of girls in Nigeria, the unending trial of Oscar Pistorius or the young woman raped and murdered last over the weekend because of her sexuality- the horrific immediacy of violence is all too apparent. Yet the majority of cases go unreported, unnoticed and justice is not served. It is also evident in conflict and post-conflict situations where rape is often used as a weapon of war. While everyone is vulnerable to violence, women and girls remain disproportionately affected.

 

While we honour the women who marched against the Apartheid pass laws in 1956 and the efforts of many individuals who have toiled towards improving the status of women, we also need to take a moment to reflect as we take stock of what we have achieved. This is particularly important at this time as we fast approach the 2015 deadline for the SADC Gender Protocol on Gender and Development target of halving GBV. We need to face up to the reality that twenty years into democracy, South Africa and the entire Southern African region remain a far cry from this ‘dream.'

 

GBV no doubt weakens the efforts toward all goals set out in the SADC Gender Protocol Studies by Gender Links in six countries of the SADC region reveal that GBV is pervasive, with the highest prevalence reported in Zambia, where 89% of women from the Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa and Mazubuka experienced violence in their lifetime. Meanwhile 86% of women in Lesotho, 68% of women in Zimbabwe, 67% of women in Botswana, 50% of women in South Africa (Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal) and 24% of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV.

 

Men on the other hand are affirming their hand in this violence: from 73% men in Zambia to 22% men in Mauritius reported perpetration of violence at least once in their life time. The studies further show that there is serious under-reporting of violence across the region, and the scourge thrives in this culture of silence and denial.

 

Studies also show that GBV is inextricably linked to gender inequalities. In the SADC region it is embedded in the patriarchal social system which perpetuates the subordination of women. According to a GL attitudes survey, while both men and women claim to believe in equal treatment between women and men, it is shocking and rather infuriating to learn that on average more than three quarters of men believe that a woman should obey her husband.

 

More saddening is the fact that equal proportions of women affirm this assertion.

 

Women and girls are expected to subservient at all stages of their life cycle and this comes with a hefty price tag- unequal access to all rights whether in the economy, in education and in the health sector- to name just a few. A study undertaken by Swedish International Development corporation Agency (SIDA) Zimbabwe revealed that responding to GBV costs about $2 billion in that country alone. That money could invested in more productive areas, such as infrastructure, business development, or education. The higher productivity that would result, from building a school rather than a jail, for instance, cannot be overemphasised. This underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift to a more preventive approach. Although SADC generally enjoys peace, acts of conflict and related violence have been reported especially during elections and amid the widespread scramble for resources such as land water and jobs.

 

Thirteen SADC Heads of State signed a Protocol committing their countries to integrating gender firmly into their agendas, repealing and reforming all laws and changing social practices which subject women to discrimination. Linked to this is the obligation that all laws on violence against women (VAW) provide for the comprehensive testing, treatment and care of survivors of sexual offences which shall include emergency contraception, access to post exposure prophylaxis at all health facilities to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and preventing the onset of sexually transmitted infections. In line with international and continental instruments, the Protocol also commits member states during times of armed and other forms of conflict to take necessary steps to prevent and eliminate incidences of human rights abuses, especially of women and children, and ensure that the perpetrators of such abuses are brought to justice.

 

However, it is most unlikely that the target of enacting such legislative measures will be met by 2015, let alone that of halving GBV. One major shortfall in the current Protocol targets is the lack of specific indicators to measure governments' progress. Countries need to ensure that interventions designed to combat violence are based on accurate empirical data. This requires not just the compilation of accurate information, but also of indicators that make the data accessible for non-specialist decision makers and allow public scrutiny of interventions. There is a glaring policy gap in regards to the magnitude of sexual violence in conflict settings. Women in peace and security decision making are relatively few while crimes perpetrated during conflict are seldom viewed with a gender lens yet women often bear the brunt of political instability.

 

To date, 13 SADC countries have enacted laws on domestic violence and on sexual harassment. Eleven have laws on sexual assault and specific laws on human trafficking. While this is relatively commendable, a consistent pattern observed in many settings in Africa is that of robust policy formulation coupled by weak patterns of implementation, resulting in relatively weak knowledge of and use of services. It is one thing formulating and readjusting legislature and another for the legislature to effectively bring positive change in the lives of the beneficiaries. Studies undertaken in different settings globally have recorded that knowledge of VAW laws is generally low, more so among the women, the intended beneficiaries.

 

There has been a positive shift towards a victim empowerment approach with several governments and NGOs up-scaling support towards survivors of GBV. Fourteen countries now offer accessible, affordable and specialised services including legal aid to survivors of GBV. Thirteen countries offer places of safety to the survivors. However, the number of available structures in the region is outnumbered by the survivors. Places of safety and legal aid, where available, continue to be mainly offered through local NGOs. Generally governments have not committed sufficient resources towards these services.

 

Now is the time for all to take a step back and re-strategise regarding tackling GBV in the region. We need to put our heads together and work towards strengthening the post-2015 agenda as far as eliminating GBV is concerned. The existing targets need strengthening and we also need to review and add other relevant realistic targets accompanied by indicators that cover all forms of GBV including female genital mutilations and hate crimes towards the minority groups. Governments need to spearhead these efforts rather than leave it to NGOs.

 

Linda Musariri Chipatiso is Gender Link's Senior Researcher and Advocacy Officer. This Article is part of the Gender Links News Service Women's Month Special series, offering fresh views on everyday news.

 

By Linda Musariri Chipatiso

22 August 2014

Source: http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/southern-africa-gender-violence-still-hinders-womens-freedom-2014-08-22