Mountain bongo makes a return to Mt Kenya

https://nation.africa/kenya/counties/meru/mountain-bongo-makes-a-return-to-mt-kenya-3386136?fbclid=IwAR2ac-rnCgnYA9HCCnIqNeVz2CMJ9VE1fRudky2Mh3SdPY8wuYGApHcfg4A

Monday, May 03, 2021

Mountain bongo
A mountain bongo at Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club hotel in Nyeri.File | Nation Media Group

By Gitonga Marete

The mountain bongo, described as beautiful and shy, is an endangered antelope whose population living in the wild globally is estimated at just 150.https://e3e7d7d535396d0846eb3c7b5442ea33.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

About 30 years ago, the animals used to roam the Mt Kenya forest habitat but due to hunting for game meat and trophy, the numbers got depleted.

In Kenya, the population of bongos living in the Aberdare forest and other conservancies is about 30.

But there is hope: The animals are being bred in zoos in Florida, US and this rare antelope is coming back home, thanks to a project initiated by the Meru county government in collaboration with other conservation stakeholders.

The county government has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mt Kenya Trust and two Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to form a trust that will spearhead the project.

Lewa Conservancy, which is offering technical assistance, has already carried out a feasibility study with findings showing that the project is viable, according to Mr John Kinoti, the community development manager.

“The study shows that once reintroduced, the bongo will not face many challenges since this used to be their home,” Mr Kinoti said in an interview.

Last Friday, deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu unveiled the Meru Bongo and Black Rhino Conservation Trust (MBBR-CT), which has been given the mandate to receive the first batch of bongos from a US-based conservation organisation and set up a sanctuary in Mt Kenya forest where the animals will be bred.

Mr Ntuchiu said the US organisation got its seed of the bongo from the habitant and the project is aimed at giving back to the community after their breeding efforts were successful.https://e3e7d7d535396d0846eb3c7b5442ea33.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“The conservationists identified the Mountain Bongo as faced with extinction and took a few to Florida for breeding. They are now bringing them back in this project that seeks to conserve the endangered animal,” he said.

Last year, governor Kiraitu Murungi launched the first Mountain Run in Africa to promote tourism, support conservation and help fund the establishment of a cancer institute with the mountain bongo and black rhino targeted in the conservation efforts.

The sanctuary is expected to attract tourists with the two CFAs – Kamulu and Ntimaka – benefitting from fees charged to tourists, thus providing members of the community with income.

County executive in charge of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives Maingi Mugambi said besides conservation, the project is expected to spur tourism growth in the county.

“This is a big step towards achieving world-class tourism standards and the ripple effects of this project will be felt by members of the community since the revenue generated from tourism activities will go to the CFAs which are owned by members of the community,” Mr Mugambi said.

How new discoveries in west Africa could rewrite pre-history

https://qz.com/africa/1996308/what-do-we-know-about-human-evolution/

Tourists visit the ruins of Kunta Kinte island in the Gambia River, near Jufureh, Albreda
Archaeology in West Africa could rewrite the textbooks on human evolution.

By Eleanor Scerri

Independent Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistoryApril 17, 2021

Our species, Homo sapiens, rose in Africa some 300,000 years ago. The objects that early humans made and used, known as the Middle Stone Age material culture, are found throughout much of Africa and include a vast range of innovations.

Among them are bow and arrow technology, specialized tool forms, the long-distance transport of objects such as marine shells and obsidianpersonal ornamentation, the use of pigmentswater storage, and art. Although it is possible that other ancestors of modern humans contributed to this material culture in Africa, some of the earliest Middle Stone Age stone tools have been found with the oldest Homo sapiens fossils found so far.

The textbook view is that by around 40,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age had largely ceased to exist in Africa. This was a milestone in the history of our species: the end of the first and longest lasting culture associated with humanity, and the foundation for all the subsequent innovations and material culture that defines us today.

Despite its central role in human history, we have little understanding of how the Middle Stone Age ended. Such an understanding could tell us how different groups were organized across the landscape, how they may have exchanged ideas and genes, and how these processes shaped the later stages of human evolution.

Unfortunately, vast swathes of Africa remain near complete blanks on the map when it comes to such deep prehistory, making it difficult to address these questions. Research has tended to focus on areas such as eastern Africa, where preservation is known to be high, understandably minimizing risks and maximizing gains. However, the emerging consensus that all of Africa played some role in human origins means that we can no longer afford to neglect vast regions of the continent if we want to reconstruct our evolution in a realistic framework.

For these reasons, my colleagues and I have been focusing on west Africa, one of the least well understood African regions for human evolution. And our recent work is validating earlier claims of a rich Middle Stone Age past.

New work in Senegal

In 2014, our work in Senegal led to the discovery of a site in the country’s north that suggested the Middle Stone Age ended there far more recently than the textbooks suggested. Several young dates in west Africa had been reported in the past, but the work was largely dismissed owing to problematic dating conducted before the present-day standards existed.

Dates from Ndiayène Pendao indicated that the site was around 12,000 years old. Yet the material culture was classically Middle Stone Age, without any Later Stone Age tools or production methods. In 2016 and 2018, we returned to the field to look for sites in different regions of Senegal and on different river systems, on tributaries of the Senegal and the Gambia. This is because sources of fresh water were critical to people in the past, just as they are to people today; river terraces also often offer excellent preservation conditions and are therefore good places to search for archaeological sites.

The site of Laminia on the Gambia had never been dated. We conducted a detailed assessment of its rock layers to obtain dating samples we could confidently link to the artifacts. The samples returned a date of 24,000 years ago for the site, which confirmed that a young Middle Stone Age was indeed present in the region.

The site of Saxomununya produced an even greater surprise. As the classically Middle Stone Age artifacts, such as retouched Levallois points, and ‘scrapers’, from this site were found upon and within a young terrace of the Falémé River, it was obvious that the site was relatively young. However, the date of 11,000 years ago took the youngest Middle Stone Age into the Holocene epoch, the period after the last major ice age. This was the first time such old material culture had been found in such recent times in Africa. It indicated that the results from Ndiayène Pendao were neither a fluke nor an error.

These results extend the last known occurrence of the Middle Stone Age by a staggering 20,000 years. At the same time, work by colleagues in Senegal also suggested an equally late first occurrence of the Later Stone Age at around 11,000 years—younger than in most other African regions.

Why did the Middle Stone Age last so long and why did the Later Stone Age arrive so late?

Population expansions

Part of the answer to the first question may lie in the fact that parts of west Africa appear to have been less affected by the extremes of repeated cycles of climate change. This may have created stable environmental conditions over a long period of time. As a result of such stability, a finely tuned toolkit that had worked well for millennia might not have needed to change, regardless of the social complexity of the people who made the tools.

The answer to the second question lies in the fact that this region of Africa was relatively isolated. To the north, it meets the Sahara Desert and to the east, there are the Central African rainforests, which were often cut off from the west African rainforests during periods of drought. However, around 15,000 years ago, there was a major increase in humidity and forest growth in central and western Africa. This may have linked different areas and provided corridors for dispersal of human populations. This may have spelled the end for humanity’s first and earliest cultural repertoire and initiated a new period of genetic and cultural mixing.

What is clear is that the long-held simple unilinear model of cultural change towards ‘modernity’ is not supported by the evidence. Groups of hunter-gatherers embedded in radically different technological traditions may have occupied neighboring regions of Africa for thousands of years, and sometimes shared the same regions. Long isolated regions, on the other hand, may have been important reservoirs of cultural and genetic diversity. This matches genetic studies and may have been a defining factor in the success of our species. Our findings are a reminder of the dangers of ignoring gaps on the map.

Countries in West Africa on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Guinea

By Stephanie Busari and Radina Gigova, CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/15/africa/ebola-guinea-west-africa-intl/index.html

Updated 11:49 AM ET, Mon February 15, 2021

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak in one of its regions on Sunday, after the West African nation confirmed at least seven cases of the disease, including three deaths, the country’s National Security and Health Agency (ANSS) said.Health officials in the southeastern N’Zerekore district said seven people who attended the funeral of a nurse tested positive for the disease and experienced symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. Three of them died following the February 1 funeral. It is unclear if the nurse, who worked at the local health center, died from Ebola.

Five dead in newest Ebola outbreak in Congo, UNICEF says

Five dead in newest Ebola outbreak in Congo, UNICEF saysThe World Health Organization (WHO) has pledged support for Guinea, helping to procure the Ebola vaccine which has helped control recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its teams are already on the ground also helping to ensure infection prevention and control in health facilities and other key locations as well as reaching out to communities.An Ebola treatment center will also be opened in the Gouecke region of N’Zerekore, where the outbreak was declared.Content by ShutterflyShow your love with your favorite memoriesWith the tech wizardry of 2021 and Shutterfly’s easy-to-use interface, you can give a gift that’s totally unique to the both of you.The Red Cross said in a statement that a network of more than 700 trained volunteers has been “activated as part of a first wave of response and the government has called on people to respect hygiene and prevention measures and to report signs of the disease to health authorities.”

N’Zerekore

Map data ©2021 GoogleTerms of UseThe world’s largest Ebola outbreak to date started in 2014 in Guinea and continued to 2016, spreading into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 of them died.close dialog

Do you want the news summarized each morning?We’ve got you.Sign Me UpBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.The current outbreak has again started in a border area of Guinea and the WHO says it is working with health authorities in Liberia and Sierra Leone to increase surveillance in border districts as well as improving the capacity to test for cases.”It’s a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease. However, banking on the expertise and experience built during the previous outbreak, health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.”WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing and treatment structures and to bring the overall response to full speed.”In a tweet, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “#Guinea has many years of experience battling #Ebola, with skilled incident managers and vaccinators… Government is taking action. One of the first steps will be ensuring community understands the risks and will join in response. Their role is crucial.”Countries in West Africa are on high alert and Nigeria says it is monitoring the situation and will issue a public health advisory to address concerns in Africa’s most populous nation.Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, is a severe disease that first spreads from wild animals to humans. Humans can be infected by other humans if they come in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons. Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die, though this has varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, according to WHO.New Ebola cases have also been reported this month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On February 7, WHO announced a new case of Ebola in Butembo, located in the country’s North Kivu province. WHO’s regional office for Africa said Saturday that a third Ebola case had been confirmed in the town of Katawa, near Butembo.The health agency said it is working with partners to provide essential medical supplies to support local health authorities. Vaccinations also commenced in the region on Monday.The DRC has faced several outbreaks of Ebola to date. In June 2020, DRC reported its eleventh Ebola outbreak. A total of 130 confirmed and probable cases were reported, as well as 55 deaths.

CNN’s Maria Fleet, Mia Alberti, Meera Senthilingam, Sharon Braithwaite and Nimi Princewill contributed to this report.

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Sudan declares state of emergency as record flooding kills 99 people

Floods caused by heavy seasonal rains have damaged more than 100,000 homes, says minister

A barricade against flood waters in Tuti island, where the Blue and White Nile merge in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
 A barricade against flood waters in Tuti island, where the Blue and White Nile merge in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan has declared a three-month state of emergency after flooding that has killed 99 people this year, according to the country’s state news agency.

The Sudanese minister of labour and social development said that in addition to the deaths, the floods had affected more than half a million people, injuring 46, and had damaged more than 100,000 homes.

Much of the flooding was triggered by heavy seasonal rains, mainly in neighbouring Ethiopia, which caused the Nile River to rise to nearly 17.5 metres (about 57ft) at the end of August – the highest level in 100 years, according to the authorities.

The rates of floods and rain for this year exceeded the records set in 1946 and 1988, with expectations of continued rising indicators, Lena el-Sheikh added.

The states of Khartoum, Blue Nile and River Nile are among the hardest-hit by the floods, while damage has also been reported in the Gezira, Gadarif, West Kordofan and South Darfur regions, according to the UN.

The UN said it was supporting the national response with emergency shelter and household supplies, together with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, food, health services and vector control.

The UN reported that it was able to respond quickly as supplies to meet the needs of 250,000 people had been pre-positioned before the rains started.

But with stocks “being depleted rapidly”, the UN is calling for wider support from the international community.

Good News: Cameroon cancels logging plan that threatened rare apes

AUGUST 12, 2020 / 9:54 AM / 2 DAYS AGO

FILE PHOTO: The eyes of a dominant male western lowland gorilla stare at a visitor at the primate sanctuary run by the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund in Mefou National Park, just outside the capital Yaounde, March 21, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly/File Photo

DAKAR (Reuters) – Cameroon has backtracked on a decision to allow industrial logging in one of the region’s least exploited rainforests, home to rare gorillas, tool-wielding chimpanzees and giant frogs.

The latest government decree overturns one signed in July that would have permitted timber extraction across 68,385 hectares (264 sq miles), or nearly half, of southwestern Cameroon’s Ebo forest, following an outcry from conservation groups and local communities.

Logging would have destroyed the habitat of a small population of gorillas that may be a new subspecies and threatened chimpanzees known for both cracking nuts and fishing for termites, according to Global Wildlife Conservation.

Without giving a reason for the U-turn, the office of Prime Minister Joseph Ngute said in a statement on Tuesday that he had been instructed by President Paul Biya to reverse the earlier decree allowing logging.

It also said Biya had ordered a delay to plans to reclassify a separate 65,000 hectares of Ebo, a move that could have opened it up to loggers.

Conservationists, researchers and local groups have repeatedly urged the Cameroonian government to suspend plans for the two long-term logging concessions in Ebo, which is also the ancestral home of more than 40 local communities.

On Wednesday, Greenpeace Africa greeted the authorities’ apparent change of heart with cautious relief.

“The government of Cameroon seems to have suspended logging plans,” it said in an emailed statement. “The fate of Ebo forest – the communities dependent on it and the wildlife that live in it – still remains unclear.”

Ebo’s mountain slopes and river valleys also host at least 12 plant species that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet as well as the endangered Goliath Frog, a shy, cat-sized amphibian that builds pools for its tadpoles out of rocks.

Coronavirus in DR Congo captured on camera

A collaborative online project is documenting the challenges facing the Democratic Republic of Congo as it tackles Covid-19, measles and Ebola in 2020.

Vendors and shoppers at Kituku market on the shores of Lake Kivu in GomaImage copyrightMOSES SAWASAWA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC

Congo in Conversation is a website that chronicles the country’s human, social and ecological challenges in the current health crisis.

A stream of articles, photo reports and videos will be uploaded to the site from journalists and photographers based in DR Congo, many of whom are Congolese.

The website was produced by Foundation Carmignac and the Canadian-British photographer Finbarr O’Reilly.

The Foundation Carmignac provides a grant each year to an individual who will produce work that focuses on topical issues such as human rights and the environment.

O’Reilly was awarded the 11th Carmignac Photojournalism Award. As part of the award, the photographer planned to produce a photo report on DR Congo in 2020.

But as borders closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, he and the Award team had to rethink how to report on the country. This led to the Congo in Conversation website.

A person wears Covid-19 protective overalls and maskImage copyrightJUSTIN MAKANGARA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionA member of the Covid-19 response wears protective equipment at the entrance to a building in the Gombe commune of DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. The responders were at the main entrance of the building to raise awareness among apartment residents about social distancing and to take the temperature of anyone entering or leaving the building, where there are around 75 families and offices.
A street scene showing shoppers in DR Congo's capital KinshasImage copyrightJUSTIN MAKANGARA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionA street scene in Kinshasa. Congolese authorities closed schools and shut down major commercial activities to enforce social distancing in a country where many people weren’t taking precautions and didn’t believe the virus was a threat to them during the early days of the pandemic.

Coordinating the project from London, O’Reilly is working with journalistic colleagues in cities in DR Congo to curate videos, photos and stories that will be shared on the website.

“For too long, stories from Africa have been told by outsiders and that has often reflected their kind of colonial attitude and reinforces a lot of the kind of infrastructural and racial biases that people can bring to storytelling,” says O’Reilly.

“Thankfully, that started to change over the last few years as more and more African journalists use platforms to tell their own stories in their own voices, and share their ideas and perspectives.”

Much of the country is under lockdown, but millions of Congolese rely on the informal economy to survive and live life on the margins with little to no social safety net.

A market in DR Congo's capital KinshasaImage copyrightJUSTIN MAKANGARA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionA market in DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa.

“Since the declaration of the first case of Covid-19 in the DR Congo, prejudices and false information have been circulating about the virus in the capital Kinshasa,” says Justin Makangara, one of the Congolese photographers.

“One of the most widespread beliefs is that Covid-19 is a ‘disease of the rich’.

“In the megalopolis of Kinshasa, several prejudices have developed, including the stigmatisation of certain minorities with statements such as ‘the Coronavirus is a punishment from God to the LGBT community’.

“Nevertheless, efforts are being made in the fight against the pandemic despite the socio-economic crisis the country is going through, with the production of masks made of wax fabrics and charities developing here and there to support the most vulnerable.”

Vendors and shoppers at Kituku market on the shores of Lake KivuImage copyrightMOSES SAWASAWA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionVendors and shoppers at Kituku market on the shores of Lake Kivu in Goma, eastern DR Congo (above and below). Many Congolese survive on their daily earnings and cannot afford to follow health advice on maintaining social distance.

Street vendors, traders and motorcycle-taxi drivers rely on what they earn for the day and frequently lack property or savings.

According to the UN, nearly half of all workers throughout the African continent could lose their jobs.

Vendors and shoppers at Kituku market on the shores of Lake KivuImage copyrightMOSES SAWASAWA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionVendors and shoppers at Kituku market on the shores of Lake Kivu.
Vendors at a street market in GomaImage copyrightLEY UWERA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionVendors at a street market in Goma.

“As a young Congolese photographer, I am proud to play an active role in the fight against this global pandemic,” said contributor Moses Sawasawa.

“[Congo in Conversation] provides an outlet for me to forget the precarious political situation that has affected my province for more than a decade and to prove to the whole world that, despite the war, young Congolese people possess many talents.

“To me, a positive of this pandemic is that I can truly show what the population is going through in this period of crisis as well as highlight the precarious economic and social situation my country is experiencing.”

Stores seen closed in the eveningImage copyrightJUSTIN MAKANGARA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionIt is Sunday, 5 April at 9.05pm. Gombe is preparing for its 14-day lockdown. The grocery stores and shops are already closed and this part of the busy city is empty of its regulars. Gombe is the administrative centre of Kinshasa, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in DR Congo.
An empty classroomImage copyrightJUSTIN MAKANGARA FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionAn empty classroom in Kinshasa after Congolese authorities closed schools.

Covid-19 is not the only outbreak of disease which DR Congo is currently grappling with.

Since January 2019, more than 6,500 children have died from measles in the country, and 335,000 others have been infected, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data.

Over the past 18 months, the country has been dealing with the second-worst Ebola epidemic in history – 3,453 cases and 2,273 deaths.

A Red Cross burial worker shows a man how to put on protective glovesImage copyrightFINBARR O’REILLY FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionA Red Cross burial worker shows a man how to put on protective gloves.

“If you take a look at the youth of the country, they are taking matters into their own hands,” says O’Reilly.

“They’re not accepting poor governance or human rights abuses that are very common.”

Neighbours and Red Cross burial workers in protective clothing gather outside a homeImage copyrightFINBARR O’REILLY FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionNeighbours and Red Cross burial workers in protective clothing gather outside the home of a family where an 11-month-old girl has died during Congo’s Ebola outbreak in the town of Rutshuru in North Kivu province.

“[The youth are] taking on roles that a government normally should, in terms of educating the population about health concerns and how to prevent catching Covid-19.

“And because of Congo’s experience with Ebola virus, it is in some ways quite well prepared for dealing with another viral problem.”

Neighbours and Red Cross burial workers in protective clothing gather outside a homeImage copyrightFINBARR O’REILLY FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionRed Cross workers prepare to bury the girl in Rutshuru.
The Red Cross burial workers carry a box containing the body of an 11-month-old girlImage copyrightFINBARR O’REILLY FOR FONDATION CARMIGNAC
Image captionThe coffin of the Ebola victim is carried away.

All photographs courtesy Congo in Conversation

Ebola kills Congolese girl who crossed into Uganda as death toll from outbreak nears 3,000

Kampala, Uganda — A 9-year-old Congolese girl who tested positive for Ebola in neighboring Uganda has died, officials said Friday, as the World Health Organization said that the outbreak has neared 3,000 cases.

The young girl’s body will be repatriated with her mother back to Congo for a funeral, according to Dr. Eddy Kasenda, Ebola representative in the Congolese border town of Kasindi.

“We are finalizing the administrative formalities so that the body is repatriated and buried here in Congo, her native country,” said Kasenda. “We are collaborating with the health services of neighboring Uganda and we will strengthen the sanitary measures here in Kasindi.”

A Ugandan official at the hospital where the girl had been in isolation confirmed her death overnight. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The girl, who was traveling with her mother, was identified at a border screening Wednesday as a possible Ebola patient and isolated.

Although cases of cross-border contamination have been rare, this case highlights the risk of Ebola spreading across the border into neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. Borders in the region are often porous, and many people traveling at night use bush paths to cross over.

Because the 9-year-old Ebola victim passed through an official entry point, Ugandan health authorities believe she had no contact with any Ugandan.

Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo since August 2018. The disease is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

WHO said Friday that cases have reached 3,000 in Congo, with 1,893 confirmed deaths and some 900 survivors. An average of 80 people per week are sickened by the virus, which has infected most people in Congo’s North Kivu province.

The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo hasn’t shown signs of slowing down despite new treatments and vaccines given to more than 200,000 people in the region and the use of two therapeutic treatments being used as part of a clinical trial.

As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta repor

ted from the epicenter of the outbreak, the fight against it has been hugely complicated by a raging conflict in the region between rebel groups and the government, and resistance from wary residents who don’t trust the vaccine or public health workers.

Some in these communities have even staged attacks against health workers.

In June, a family of Congolese with some sick family members crossed into Uganda via a bush path.

Two of them later died of Ebola, and the others were transferred back to Congo.

Uganda has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and hemorrhagic fevers since 2000.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will travel this weekend to Congo with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and senior officials, including Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

On Friday he called on partners to increase their presence in the field.

“Our commitment to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that we will work alongside them to stop the Ebola outbreak,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  “Our commitment also means strengthening the health systems to give them all the other things they need. Building strong systems is what will protect people, communities and the world.”

Experts blame infectious diseases on disruption of ecosystem

Medical experts have attributed the re-occurrence of Emerging Infectious diseases (EIDs) to the inability of the government to control the disruption of the eco system through human activities.

According to them, inadequate funding of health care research and environmental impact studies together with government’s inability to regulate the way people destroy the environment have led to the increasing cases of outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens.

The experts stated this during the 5th African Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity in Abuja organized by Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET).

The Principal Investigator, GET, Prof Akin Abayomi, noted that Nigeria and Africa in general have been destroying the ecosystem through the destruction of forests, causing  animals to move out  into  human communities.

Read Also: SEC trains judges, others on commodity trading ecosystem

He said the interaction between animals and humans is increasing due to population expansion and destruction of the ecosystem, thereby forcing animals out of forests.

He said the consequence of this is the increasing frequency and range of EIDs: ebola, lassa, yellow fever, monkey pox, cholera, bird flu and meningitis, adding that shrinking natural resources is creating human competition for water leading to demographic conflict.

The don stressed the need for government to spend more on health care delivery research and the creation of awareness, lamenting that there is a lag between what the government should be spending and what is being spent.

The Chief Operating Officer, GET, Dr Dotun Babadoye, lamented that the impact of changing climate and increasing security challenges in Africa are impacting on the emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threat on the continent.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Professor Chile Ihekweazu, pointed out that with the nation’s exponential growth rate of 2.8 per cent, including the internal and external migration coupled with poverty and lack of education are all responsible for the spread of infectious diseases.

Rwanda strives to stop Ebola from spreading from DR Congo

Health ministers of both countries have met to agree to a plan of action to counter the epidemic that has killed at least 1,800 people.

by

Rwanda is taking emergency measures to try and stop the Ebola virus from spreading across the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since the latest outbreak was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a year ago, the disease has killed at least 1,800 people.

The health ministers of both countries have met to agree to a plan of action to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reports from the Rwandan border city of Gisenyi.

What the Ebola emergency means, what it doesn’t mean, and what’s next

Finally, the World Health Organization has declared the world’s latest Ebola outbreak a global health emergency. But what, exactly, does that mean?

The decision this week by the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to designate the long-running Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern generated a flood of news coverage.

Some global health experts have been vociferously insisting for months now that a PHEIC (pronounced FAKE or PHEEK) needed to be declared. They say it could improve the outbreak response and speed an end to the crisis.

What is a PHEIC?

Sometimes it’s easiest to define something by talking about what it’s not. That’s definitely the case when trying to describe a PHEIC.

Despite the fact the name combines “emergency” and “international,” a PHEIC isn’t necessarily a true global emergency. It can be — say, if a new disease began to spread globally or another flu pandemic started.

But in the case of the latest Ebola outbreak, the reality is people in Indianapolis and Istanbul, Shanghai and Sydney are at no greater risk today than they were before the PHEIC was declared. The declaration is not the WHO’s way of sending up a flare to warn that Ebola will be spreading around the globe from northeastern DRC.

This event is a crisis in the affected region of DRC and a real risk to neighboring countries. Governments around the world need to be paying more attention to it, but the risk of global spread is low

So that’s what it isn’t. But what is it? 

A PHEIC is defined as “an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to other countries through international spread and that potentially requires a coordinated international response.” In short, it’s a tool the WHO’s member states have given the global health agency to help it deal with difficult transmissible disease situations.

It was created when the International Health Regulations — a treaty designed to prevent and control the international spread of disease — were updated after the 2003 SARS outbreak.

(If you don’t remember SARS, it was a disease that spread rapidly from China to other parts of Southeast Asia and also to Canada, sickening more than 8,000 people and killing about 800. It was completely unknown and alarming. But scientists and public health authorities figured out quite quickly how to control SARS and, except for a few cases the following year, it hasn’t been seen since.)

The goal of the IHR is to keep the world safe from transmissible diseases like this by requiring countries to report dangerous outbreaks so their neighbors can be on the lookout for cases and prepare to respond if needed.

A PHEIC gives the WHO some temporary powers it can wield in a crisis. For instance, it can share information about what’s happening with other countries, even without the consent of the affected nation.

WHO’s director-general can also issue what are known as temporary recommendations; those typically take the form of instructions to other countries (and indirectly, companies) not to penalize the affected nation by closing borders, restricting airline flights, blocking importation of goods or suspending visas issued to people from the affected countries.

Wouldn’t you want to stop travel and commerce from a disease-affected country to prevent spread?

Here’s the thing: Countries that know they’re going to take a financial hit or be ostracized internationally are less likely to fess up when they’re dealing with a dangerous disease.

You don’t want to penalize a country that’s been forthcoming. But you also don’t want to make it harder to move people and goods into or out of the affected area. The WHO needs to send in teams of experts, of health workers who can assist in an outbreak response. Doctors Without Borders and the other NGOs working on a response need to be able to ship in equipment. If air travel is cut off or reduced during a health emergency, it impedes the world’s ability to control the disease.

Are there any downsides to declaring a PHEIC?

It was designed to help but experience has shown a PHEIC can be a double-edge sword. There have been real concerns that declaring a PHEIC in this case could hurt the economy of the region, which could further inflame the tensions between people in the affected region and the people trying to extinguish this outbreak.

What about those temporary recommendations? Don’t countries have to follow the instructions of the WHO director-general?

In a word: No. The WHO is not the world’s health police. The director-general can advise, urge, exhort, or even condemn countries. But at the end of the day, countries are sovereign and will do what they think is best for their citizens.

During the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016, many countries stopped issuing visas to citizens of the affected countries. The WHO publicly challenged a few to explain their actions. In at least one case, that led to an angry call to the director-general at the time, Margaret Chan. The country that made that angry call, Canada, did not change its visa policy.

And most airlines stopped flying to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the countries at the heart of that outbreak. To this day there’s a deep well of gratitude in the global health community for Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Maroc, which heroically maintained flights into the region.

How often have PHEICs been declared?

Far less often than you’d think. For instance, an emergency committee of experts set up to assess the threat posed by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome met 10 times and decided at each meeting that MERS did not warrant declaring a public health emergency of international concern.

Is the disease a threat to some people in a few Arabian Peninsula countries? Yes. More than that? Not so far. The committee held firm even when a South Korean businessman who got sick in the Middle East went home and ignited a major outbreak — nearly 200 cases — in Seoul.

Likewise a large and dangerous yellow fever outbreak in Angola that moved into DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, in 2016 — an outbreak that nearly tapped out the global supply of yellow fever vaccine — was not declared a PHEIC.

There had been four PHEICs declared prior to this week’s addition of the DRC Ebola outbreak. The first time the tool was used was during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the first flu pandemic in 41 years. The West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016 was a PHEIC, as was the 2017 Zika virus outbreak in Latin America.

The other PHEIC was different from all the rest. It wasn’t a response to the emergence of a new disease, or one like Ebola that breaks out of nature occasionally to infect people. In 2014 the polio eradication campaign was floundering, and a decision was made to declare wild polio transmission a public health emergency of international concern. (That PHEIC remains in place five years later.)

The idea was to raise awareness of the issue at higher levels within governments around the world; that is what PHEICs are intended to do.

That, it’s hoped, is what will result from declaring the North Kivu-Ituri Ebola outbreak a PHEIC — that governments around the world, with their purses and emergency response expertise, will start paying more attention to this long-running crisis.