Monthly Archives: November 2012


MAKO – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today signed an accord with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to resume a full-scale HIV program including delivery of life-saving HIV treatment to tens of thousands of people in Mali.

Under the accord, the Global Fund approved funding for EUR 58 Million (US$75 million) for HIV screening, prevention and treatment in Mali over the next three years.  Some 50,000 people in Mali are currently living with HIV.

“The signing of this agreement involving the Global Fund, the UN Development Programme and Mali brings hope for many of our citizens who can now say they have not been forgotten,” Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Tiéman Coulibaly said.

The program targets key populations at higher risk and one of its priorities is to intensify efforts to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child and support more systematic voluntary screening of pregnant women.

The Global Fund and its partners took steps to restore confidence in grant management in Mali after mismanagement of funds was discovered.

As a temporary measure, the scope of the Global Fund’s grant was reduced in 2011 to funding of essential services to ensure continuity of treatment for 25,288 people in Mali who were receiving antiretroviral therapy with Global Fund support. Under the arrangement, it was also possible to start new patients on treatment and the total number on treatment has now risen to 30,000.

UNDP was asked by the Mali Country Coordinating Mechanism to take over managing the HIV program grant.

The Global Fund has since 2011 scaled up mechanisms for management and oversight of grants, while UNDP has further strengthened safeguards against fraud and expanded access by the Global Fund to UNDP internal audits of programs financed by the Global Fund.

“The new funding to expand HIV programs in Mali is a major step forward and underscores the Global Fund’s commitment to support life-saving work in the country particularly at a time when the humanitarian situation requires special attention.  More than 30,000 people in Mali now get regular treatment and another 20,000 people rely on quality care. We expect these numbers to increase,” said Mark Edington, Head of the Global Fund’s Grant Management division.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Mali, Aurélien A. Agbénonci, welcomed the new partnership and said it would be consistent with the country’s national development strategy.

“We also place this intervention in the context of a larger vision and long-term investment in capacity-building, to encourage a national response strategy less dependent on foreign aid in the long-run and therefore more sustainable,” Mr Agbénonci said.

The Global Fund, an innovative public-private partnership, has played a key role in the global response to the three pandemic diseases through a range of partnerships, including with the United Nations. It is the largest international channel of support for work on these diseases, which disproportionately affect the world’s least developed countries.

UNDP acts as Principal Recipient for about one-tenth of the Global Fund’s overall portfolio, mainly in uniquely challenging environments such as in countries emerging from crises.

UNDP’s partnership with the Global Fund has brought treatment to more than 26 million cases of malaria and 700,000 cases of tuberculosis from Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to Liberia, Belarus, Haiti, and Tajikistan.

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries. To date, programs supported by the Global Fund are providing AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.

The Global Fund has been funding programs in Mali since the December 2003 and has disbursed approximately US$ 90 Million, to provide ARV treatment to 30’000 patients, to detect and treat 17’000 smear positive TB patients and to distribute 720’000 LLINs to population in Mali. In the coming months, the Global Fund expects to sign one Malaria and one TB grant.

A decade ago, virtually no one living with HIV in developing countries had access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Now more than 8 million people do.

UNDP works with countries to understand and respond to the development dimensions of HIV and health, and promotes ownership of the response effort by the government and the people, to make it sustainable.

Courtesy AllAfrica News


Nigeria: Kano Partners Dangote, Bill Gates Foundations On Polio

Kano State Government has signed an agreement with Bill Gates and Dangote Foundations respectively, in a bid to tackle the scourge of polio meningitis in the state.

Speaking at the ceremony Tuesday at the Government House, Kano, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, said the state government would continue to work towards improving healthcare and enhance routine immunisation.

Kwankwaso, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, said the problem of resistance among some parents would be address by the state government as well ensure total immunisation of all eligible children in the state.

He said the goal was to wipe out polio virus to avoid its spread to other parts of the country.

On its part, the representative of Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation, Mr. Jeffery Raikes, said it had become imperative for the state government and the Foundation to partner in the fight against polio.

Tied to a rope because she is disabled

Tied to a rope because she is disabled

Although she is 14 years of age, *Lisa cannot eat by herself or talk. She does not play with other children either, and needs help with basic activities. Therefore, her parents tie her to a tree because they feel it is the only way to keep her safe.

Lisa, 14, spends her day tied to a tree near her parents’ home in Nateete, Uganda with a rope. The rope is fastened onto her right leg. When she is not tied there, the rope remains. The tree is now known as Lisa’s tree.

This is not another case of the nodding disease. Lisa is deaf and mute. Her parents think tying her to the tree is the best way to manage her. While there, she keeps on moving around it. From time to time, she picks anything on the ground and puts it in her mouth. Her sisters keep on removing leaves and sticks so she has nothing to put in her mouth. But that doesn’t deter her from searching for something else. She tries to go as far as her rope allows her and when she finds nothing, she continues moving around the tree and sits down when tired.

All this she does while making sounds similar to that of a goat bleating.

Perhaps the saddest part in this story is that this slender and tall teenager was not born with any abnormality.

“She was born normal and could talk and hear. But when she was two years old, she got malaria and got a seizure. Since then she lost her sense of hearing, talking and she sees only partially,” her mother *May Nakato, says.

She says that even when Lisa was older, she couldn’t sit like other children of her age. Someone advised them to take her to a traditional doctor who advised that a hole is dug and Lisa sit in it for a couple of hours a day with a blanket wrapped around her to keep her straight so as to strengthen her back. After three months, she could sit and even started walking. However, she still couldn’t see well, and when she walked, she kept on bumping and knocking whatever was in her way. That is when her parents started tying her onto a rope.

Nakato says, “I don’t know how the idea came to me. I was helpless when it occurred to me. It was a better solution because we couldn’t afford to take her to a school for the deaf and dumb which is the ideal and best solution.”

An attempt at getting medical help
The seizure 12 years ago was the start of the family’s trips to hospital. Lisa has since been in and out of the hospital. Sometimes she is put on drip. One time she needed a blood transfusion and once, had to be put on oxygen. Usually, she is discharged after staying in hospital for about a week.

The doctors recommended that she is taken to hospital every month for medication saying it would stop her from eating dirty things which the mother says was done for six months. But the parents say there was no change so the teenager continued to spend the day tied on to the tree which is dangerously near an electric pole.

One day a lady saw the child and told Nakato that what she was doing could get her arrested. Nakato acknowledged that and asked her to help them because they had run out of affordable options.

The lady advised her to take the child to Butabika Mental Health Hospital where other children like Lisa stay.

“When we reached there, I found that the children there are not in the same state as my daughter. Though deaf and dumb, they can play with balls, go for short and long calls without help. They also feed themselves and walk with a sense of direction,” says Nakato.

Unlike them, when Lisa is left to walk, she wanders around like a zombie, moving aimlessly and she usually gets lost. Even when she sees other children playing with objects like a ball, she doesn’t seem to have any interest. She doesn’t join in when urged to or even kick or touch the ball when it is given to her.

She urinates and passes stool on herself. When she is given food, she ends up throwing it all over the place because to feed, she scratches it like chicken wasting the food. So she has to be physically fed. But she drinks by herself without taking the cup off her mouth till it is empty and then she throws the cup.

Lisa was taken to Butabika for three days and was given medication. But she got a seizure one day so her father, decided to take her to Mulago Hospital where they were told to take her whenever she got a seizure.

Necessary evil
Though strange at first, the sight of a child tied on the rope is something the neighbours have gotten used to. Her parents have also made their peace with it. It is like a necessary evil. Nakato, a mother of four explains that she has to work to help her husband with financing the home so she can’t stay at home looking after Lisa.

In fact, when her siblings are at school, her mother locks her up inside the house because there is no one to watch over her. “Thankfully, I work nearby so when I leave in the morning, I go back at 10am to give her breakfast and bathe her. I return at 2pm to feed her and at 4pm Lisa is taken to her tree because then, her siblings are around to watch her.”

Though the family says they don’t have relatives with the disability and the rest of the children are normal, before Lisa, they had a child who was in the same state as their daughter. But unlike Lisa he could play, recognised things and when he walked he seemed to know where he was going. He too was tied to a tree during the day because, according to them, it was an easier way to manage him. Unfortunately, he got a seizure and passed on. When Nakato talks about him, it is with a pain in her voice. It explains the emptiness and helplessness with which she talks about Lisa’s state. “I wish we could afford to take her to a school for the deaf and dumb. I am sure it would help.”

Irene Nenduta, a neighbour tried to get help from African Network for Prevention and Protection of Children against Child Neglect and Abuse (ANPPCAN) but wasn’t able to go far. The officials say they think Lisa needs to be taken to a home for children like her but unfortunately ANPPCAN doesn’t know one such. The established ones require that some money is paid, so they are trying to find sponsorship for her.

Courtesy Saturday Monitor

Congo: M23 Rebels puts 200,000 children at risk


The arrival of M23 rebels in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on 20 November, has triggered widespread concern over the humanitarian ramifications in a region already beset by armed conflict, widespread displacement and attacks on civilians.

Fighting around the city led to the cancellation of a humanitarian assessment mission in North Kivu  Province – of which Goma is the capital – scheduled for 19 November.

Rebel spokesman Vianney Kazarama broadcast a message to the city telling residents to carry on with their normal activities, saying M23 was there for their security. He provided his own phone number and that of two intelligence officers for citizens to call if they had any concerns.

Kazarama also called on government soldiers and police to assemble at a stadium on 21 November for an identification process.

Goma resident Jean Baptiste Musabyimana told IRIN that M23 appeared to be in control of Goma. “We can see the M23 patrolling the main road that runs through our neighbourhood,” he said.

Another resident, Florentin Baruti, told IRIN that in Bwirere District, where fighting took place on 20 November,  most people were still indoors but that some young men were in the streets to see what was happening.

“It’s a relief that the fighting ended quite quickly,” said Baruti, “but we’re worried about the possibility of a counter-attack by the FARDC [government forces].”

One of the main concerns of humanitarian agencies in the region relates to the 60,000 residents of the Kanyarucinya camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the north of Goma shortly before M23 reached the outskirts of the town. The camp is one of five dotted around Goma, which have a combined population of around 95,000.

“One problem is that many displaced families were split up on Monday [19 November] as they tried to get away from the fighting,” said Tarik Riebl, Oxfam’s coordinator in Goma. “When we talk to people they say they don’t know where some of their family members are.”

He added: “For the moment food is one of the main needs, and another is non-food items, such as water containers and other household items, and shelter. There needs to be a distribution of these items.”

Displaced children at risk

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that displaced children now “face an increased risk of rape, abuse and recruitment.”

“What we are seeing now is that fighting between the rebel group and the army is displacing the displaced again, stretching the coping abilities of an already exhausted community,” Sebastian Albuja, the head of IDMC’s Africa department, said in a statement.

“Internally displaced children and specifically boys in North Kivu are at particular risk of being recruited by a variety of armed groups,” said Olivia Kalis, policy and advocacy adviseor for the NRC country office.

“IDPs are locking up or hiding their children, fearing attack and forced recruitment with girls and boys taken by armed actors,” she said.

Another NGO, World Vision, expressed similar concerns, putting the number of at-risk children in Goma alone at 200,000.

“Spontaneous camps for displaced families have been forming around Goma as communities flee to safety. Through its partners, World Vision is receiving reports that in the confusion, children are getting separated from parents – and the implications of this are devastating,” the agency said.

“We know from the recent practices of the groups involved in this latest fighting that unaccompanied children in this part of DRC are in immediate and real danger of forcible recruitment into armed groups,” said World Vision’s Dominic Keyzer, from the Rwandan border town of Gisenye.

Keyzer added that the violence had impeded humanitarian response and that World Vision has had to suspend some life-saving programmes in eastern DRC.

Widening insecurity

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said the government’s “capitulation to the M23 could send shockwaves throughout the Kivus and relaunch open warfare between the DRC and Rwanda” – which has been accused of backing the rebel movement, a charge it denies.

The ICG also warned that the fall of Goma might lead to the settling of scores “or even targeted extrajudicial executions against authorities and civil society activists who have taken a stance against the M23 since the beginning of the crisis”.

The neighbouring province of South Kivu “is also affected by the deteriorating security situation which threatens thousands of civilians and has led to the suspension or reduction of humanitarian activities in the area”, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“South Kivu has been severely affected by repeated clashes between various armed groups and between armed groups and the Congolese army since mid-October. Several villages have been attacked over the last few weeks, triggering the flight of more than 30,000 people, while more than 300 houses have been destroyed or burned in these attacks. The current violence, primarily in the Kalehe and Shabunda territories, has reportedly killed more than 160 people in the past 10 days and led to serious human rights violations. Inter-communal tensions have compounded the situation,” OCHA said.

There are more than 1.6 million IDPs in the two Kivu provinces.

Courtesy IRIN News

Africa: HIV/Aids Kills 7 Million Workers

Mr. Richson Nii Teye Appeynarh, Chief Executive (DCE) , has disclosed that from 1985 to date, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of seven million agricultural workers on the African continent alone.

He continued that it was estimated that the deadly disease could kill an additional 16 million farm workers in the next 20 years, if strong measures are not put in place to deal with the state of affairs.

He has, therefore, appealed Ghanaians to take advantage of the free volunteer services at all the health centers across the country, to know their HIV status, and also to live positively with our affected brothers and sisters.

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) annual report estimates that HIV/AIDS has killed seven (7) million agricultural workers/farmers in Africa since 1985, and could kill 16 million more in the next 20 years, if strong measures are not put in place to address the situation.

“Let us all try to know our HIV status and live positively with those affected. I will like to appeal to everybody to patronise the free volunteer service,” he stated.

Courtesy All Africa News


SOUTHERN AFRICA: Governments Failing to Adress Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, but new research reveals that governments’ attempts to address the disease have been inadequate. Access to cervical cancer screening services is minimal, few countries in the region have policies on the disease, and treatment remains a major challenge. 

The study, based on regional desktop research and field research in Namibia and Zambia by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), assessed the state of cervical cancer services in southern Africa, particularly in Namibia and Zambia, finding that many women access medical assistance only when they have advanced cervical cancer, which is more difficult to treat and can be extremely painful. 

“The failure to provide access to cervical cancer services results in the violation of fundamental rights and in the loss of countless lives. There is a serious and urgent need to improve services for cervical cancer in the southern Africa region,” the report warned. 

Guidance needed 

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in southern Africa may have contributed to the high number of cervical cancer deaths; women infected with HIV are more likely to develop cervical lesions that can become cancerous. 

But there is still a lack of clear and comprehensive national cervical cancer management guidelines and policies in the region. Neither Namibia nor Zambia has comprehensive guidelines on the management of the illness. Where guidance is available, it tends to be inadequate, focusing on screening, with limited guidance about other forms of prevention or treatments. 

“The piecemeal approach to addressing cervical cancer in national policies results in inconsistent commitment,” the report added. 

According to Nyasha Chingore, HIV project lawyer with SALC and the author of the report, Botswana is one of the few countries with a broad, accessible cervical cancer policy. As a result, more women in the country have access to Pap smear screenings – in which a sample of cervical cells is collected and checked for abnormalities. The number of screenings has increased from 5,000 per year before 2002 to 32,000 per year in 2009. 

Where there are no policies, or where policies are not easily accessible by health systems, women are not made aware of the services that are available to them. “With HIV, we all know that when you test positive, they must do a viral load test and CD4 count test… Everybody knows the policy. We have material in our support groups, we know the possible causes, mesothelioma explained well here, as well as other types of cancer. But with this cervix cancer thing, we don’t know what we are entitled to,” said a study participant. 

The report found “a significant amount of misinformation” in Namibia, where most of the young women interviewed reported being informed – incorrectly – by healthcare workers that contraceptives cause cervical cancer or are a risk factor for the illness. 

Stigma is also a major challenge. “It’s not an easy topic to talk about. You have to talk about sex, and you develop sores in places no one wants to talk about.” 

Access to screenings in Zambia is determined by geographical location, with few if any screening services available outside of the capital, Lusaka. While cervical cancer services seem to be generally available in Namibia, access is limited by factors such as the lack of prioritization of cervical cancer screening by health workers. 

Treatment and vaccines 

“The treatment of invasive cervical cancer continues to be a major challenge in the region due to the lack of surgical facilities, skilled providers, chemotherapy and radiotherapy services. In Namibia and Zambia, there is a dearth of treatment options, with hysterectomy being the most prevalent form of treatment. There are few treatment options available to women who want to preserve their fertility,” the report said. 

Because of structural problems, including inadequate laboratory facilities and personnel shortages, patients and health workers often choose treatment options without having proper diagnoses or adequate information, it added. 

Two vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer – are currently available, but the cost of the vaccines has made it difficult for countries to introduce vaccination campaigns. “Governments need to think about how to make vaccines easily available… Whether it’s through parallel importation or compulsory licensing, there are options, they just need to be explored,” 

So far, Zambia and Lesotho are the only countries in the region rolling out free HPV vaccination programmes, the report noted. 

In June 2011, Merck announced it would provide the vaccine Gardasil to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), for US$5 per dose, a reduction of nearly 70 percent. Eligibility for GAVI support, however, is determined by national income; while Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe are eligible, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland are not. 

SALC urges southern Africa governments to integrate cervical cancer screening into existing sexual and reproductive health services, to allocate adequate resources to the management of cervical cancer, and to establish cancer registries to assess the impact of cervical cancer screening programmes. 

Courtesy IRIN News

Africa: Diabetes – Ticking Time Bomb

It is estimated that more than 500 million people worldwide will have diabetes in 20 years’ time. As World Diabetes day was commemorated last week, people have been warned to take better care of their health by reducing their risk of getting diabetes.

About six million people in South Africa have diabetes and most of these people are unaware that they have this condition. Internationally, it is estimated that about 347 million people in the world have diabetes, up from 153 million 30 years ago. Experts in the medical field warn that the numbers will double in 20 years’ time if people do not actively take responsibility for their health.

“If things continue as they are the numbers of people with diabetes will go up by 50%. The current projection is about 550 million people in the world will have diabetes, but we think that things are probably going to change. By informing patients about decreasing diabetes, the chances of diabetes and the consequence of diabetes through better control, exercise and diet, hopefully those numbers will change significantly”, says Professor Gerald Brock from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Professor Block says unhealthy lifestyle is a major contributing factor to diabetes.

“This has become a trend. We are seeing increasing rates of diabetes and obesity in South Africa. It probably relies largely on decreasing exercise, higher rates of food consumption. Lack of physical exercise and diet are the two main drivers for the increasing rates of both adult and childhood obesity”, she says.

Diabetes is a chronic illness where the body cannot control its blood glucose levels properly. About 85% of the population with diabetes in the country has what is called Type 2 diabetes, meaning it is more of an acquired condition and it’s reversible.

“The Type 2 diabetic patient is typically over-weight, lacks physical exercise and the important message there is that it is something they can change by changing their diets and begin to exercise. Those people will no longer be diabetic. The insulin resistance or lack of the insulin doing its job in that individual is because they are not exercising, hence, they have obesity problems”, says Professor Block

Courtesy AllAfrica News