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International community pledges more than five billion dollars to help recovery of Ebola-affected countries
July 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

,United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Karoma, Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Guinea President Alpha Conde and World Bank Group President Jim Kim pose for photographs after meeting about the ongoing fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings April 17, 2015 in Washington, DC. The World Bank announced Friday that it would provide an additional US$650 million over the next year to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to recover from the social, economic and health impact of the Ebola crisis.Pic Credit Chip Somodevilla,Getty Immages ,United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Karoma, Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Guinea President Alpha Conde and World Bank Group President Jim Kim pose for photographs after meeting about the ongoing fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings April 17, 2015 in Washington, DC. The World Bank announced Friday that it would provide an additional US$650 million over the next year to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to recover from the social, economic and health impact of the Ebola crisis.Pic Credit Chip Somodevilla,Getty Immages[/caption] The international community has pledged more than five billion dollars to support Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in their efforts to recover from the devastating effects of Ebola, at a high level United Nations Conference in New York today (Friday).   Opening the International Ebola Recovery Conference United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Together, let us jumpstart a robust recovery process over the next two years, and usher in a better future for generations to come.”   The Secretary-General was joined by the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the Secretary-General of the Mano River Union, who were seeking international support as well as financial commitments for their national and regional recovery strategies over the next two years.   Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, who chaired the Conference, said: “We have seen a very encouraging response today. The preliminary figure for funds announced today amount to $3.4 billion, taking the total resources pledged for the recovery of the Ebola-affected countries to around five billion dollars. The whole spirit of optimism around the conference and the willingness of partners to see this as a long-term endeavor is hugely encouraging.”   Dr. David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, said: “This is a very promising moment. The amount pledged represents a tremendous springboard for recovery. Everyone today has stressed that the partnership we have for the response to the outbreak must be sustained in to the period of recovery. The world is going to stand by these countries as they recover and help them get back on the track of equitable economic and social development.”   The United Nations organized the International Ebola Recovery Conference in partnership with the African Union, European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. A day of technical consultation on the recovery strategies on Thursday 9 July was followed by the high level event on 10 July, convened by the Secretary-General, and attended by the Chairperson of the African Union, the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Secretary-General of the Mano River Union. *Source APO/UN]]>

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USAID Announces $266 Million to Support Recovery Efforts in Ebola-Affected Countries
July 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Alfonso Lenhardt Alfonso Lenhardt[/caption] WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt announced the U.S. Government’s plans to provide an additional $266 million to help West African countries address critical gaps caused by the Ebola outbreak at the International Ebola Recovery Conference today at the UN Headquarters in New York City.  The funds will help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to address secondary impacts of the crisis.   As case numbers continue to drop, and as response efforts continue, the U.S. has also begun to focus on helping countries in West Africa with critical recovery efforts, including improving food security, health systems and non-Ebola health services, governance and economic crisis mitigation, and innovation and communication technology.   When the first case of Ebola landed in the U.S., epidemiologists were predicting that the world might soon see a million and a half cases.  The U.S. Government responded by providing more than $2 billion for response efforts, including supporting 10,000 civilian responders, providing personal protective equipment, funding and training 1,500 healthcare workers, setting up laboratories, supporting epidemiological surveillance and disease tracing, and launching a massive social messaging and education campaign to inform communities about practices to protect themselves against infection. This campaign has resulted in significant progress with near eradication in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.  Currently, there are less than fifty active cases in the three Ebola affected countries, and USAID is continuing to work to ensure that the number goes down.   In his speech at today’s conference, Acting USAID Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt recognized the remarkable progress we have made, stating, “As we continue on the road to zero cases, we are here to support the people of West Africa as they begin the long process of rebuilding and restoring their livelihoods.” *Source USAID]]>

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Veolia wins contract to improve Guinea Conakry electricity grid
June 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Mr. Mohamed Diaré (Minister of State, Minister of Economy and Finance) , Mr.Cheick Taliby Sylla (Minister of Energy and Hydraulics) Mr. Mohamed Diaré (Minister of State, Minister of Economy and Finance) , Mr.Cheick Taliby Sylla (Minister of Energy and Hydraulics)[/caption] Veolia has won a four-year performance contract for a value of EUR11.3 Million to provide electricity management services to Electricité de Guinée (EDG).  This contract, awarded to Veolia through its subsidiary Veolia Africa, follows the Guinea Conakry’s government strategy to support the recovery of the electricity market through an ambitious modernization plan launched in 2012. Within the framework of this contract, Veolia will improve the management of facilities, the efficiency of the energy distribution network and the expansion of the network within the country. Key specific areas will be covered: customer relationship management, technical performance, planning – operations & maintenance of installations, financial stewardship, human resources management, procurement and inventory management. Veolia will provide EDG with experienced operational staff to oversee operations and with experts to bring complementary expertise to specific projects, such as IT systems, and improvement of the operational performance. Veolia and EDG staff will work together to co-manage the public company based on key performance indicators to ensure in full transparency the implementation of this strategic project. This project demonstrates the willingness of the Guinea Conakry authorities to develop, improve and strengthen the capacities and the quality of energy infrastructures in the country. [caption id="attachment_18868" align="alignright" width="300"]Elan Cusiac-Barr (Senior Investment officer, IFC World Bank Group) , Aicha Farida Boubakary (Investment analyst, IFC World Bank Group) , François Laforêt , Patrice Fonlladosa , Mohamed Diaré (Minister of State, Minister of Economy and Finance), Cheick Taliby Sylla (Minister of Energy and Hydraulics), Betrand Cochery (French Ambassador in Guinea and Sierra Leone) Elan Cusiac-Barr (Senior Investment officer, IFC World Bank Group) , Aicha Farida Boubakary (Investment analyst, IFC World Bank Group) , François Laforêt , Patrice Fonlladosa , Mohamed Diaré (Minister of State, Minister of Economy and Finance), Cheick Taliby Sylla (Minister of Energy and Hydraulics), Betrand Cochery (French Ambassador in Guinea and Sierra Leone)[/caption] “This contract is a milestone in Veolia’s development in Africa and reinforces its leadership position in the management of electricity’s production and distribution in the continent. We are committed to support the Guinea Conakry in its challenge to respond to increasing electricity demand and to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.” says Patrice Fonlladosa, Chairman and CEO Africa & Middle East at Veolia. Veolia group is the global leader in optimized resource management. With over 179,000 employees* worldwide, the Group designs and provides water, waste and energy management solutions that contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. Through its three complementary business activities, Veolia helps to develop access to resources, preserve available resources, and to replenish them. In 2014, the Veolia group supplied 96 million people with drinking water and 60 million people with wastewater service, produced 52 million megawatt hours of energy and converted 31 million metric tons of waste into new materials and energy. Veolia Environnement (listed on Paris Euronext: VIE) recorded consolidated revenue of €24.4 billion* in 2014. *AMA]]>

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Across Guinea with Ambassador Mamady Conde
June 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

Guinea is on back on the rails says Ambassador Mamady Conde Guinea is on back on the rails says Ambassador Mamady Conde[/caption] He may not have been in Washington for many years, but Guinea’s Ambassador Mamady Conde certainly stands out as one of the most dynamic and media friendly envoys from Africa. He responds at short notice to media enquiries and is totally at ease talking off the cuff about his country, Guinea, which is digging its way out from unfortunate political developments like a military coup and the outbreak of Ebola last year. When Pan African Visions expressed interest in doing an interview with Ambassador, he not only accepted without qualms but also indicated that with him, there were no taboo topics. On the recent visit of President Conde to the USA, Ambassador Conde described it as very fruitful. In Washington to discuss Ebola response in the Mano River Countries, President Conde was also received at the White House by President Obama alongside Liberian President Sirleaf Johnson and Sierra Leonean leader Ernest Bah Koroma. President Conde also met with numerous U.S Law Makers from both chambers of the US Congress and was guest of honor at the monthly get together of the Congressional Black Caucus. The President also met with personalities from the business community interested in knowing what opportunities abound in Guinea. Important discussions also took place between President Conde and authorities at the Department of Health and USAID which has been a very important ally in the fight against Ebola in Guinea. [caption id="attachment_18524" align="alignleft" width="300"]President Alpha Conde with the Rev Jesse Jackson and some members of the congressional Black Caucus. He was guest of honor at the monthly dinner of the Caucus President Alpha Conde with the Rev Jesse Jackson and some members of the congressional Black Caucus. He was guest of honor at the monthly dinner of the Caucus[/caption] Guinea is has steadily turned the tables in fighting the Ebola outbreak Ambassador Conde said. The number of cases have dwindled drastically and in the months ahead the odds are very high that Guinea will be Ebola free. Besides fighting Ebola, his country has also embarked on a vast overhaul of its health care system and infrastructure. With support from friendly countries like the USA and France, and important agencies like the Centers for Disease Control-CDC, Guinea is building laboratories, and a system that will make the country better equipped to handle any future outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases. While the support from the international community has been of tremendous help, much work is still needed according to Ambassador Conde. Though huge sums of money are regularly announced for Ebola relief programs, much of the money is not handled directly by the authorities in Guinea who have a better grasp of the situation and local realities. A discrepancy does exists between the funds generated by the international community for the fight against Ebola and what has actually be given to the government of Guinea to support its efforts fight against the virus. Ebola may have receded, but rebuilding affected communities is no easy task and it is for this reason that President Conde and other Mano River Countries have been urging the international community not to relent in their support. [caption id="attachment_18525" align="alignleft" width="620"]In this photo taken on Saturday, March 29, 2014, medical personnel at the emergency entrance of a hospital receive suspected Ebola virus patients in Conakry, Guinea.  AP . Besides fighting Ebola, Guinea is overhauling its health care system and infrastructure In this photo taken on Saturday, March 29, 2014, medical personnel at the emergency entrance of a hospital receive suspected Ebola virus patients in Conakry, Guinea. AP . Besides fighting Ebola, Guinea is overhauling its health care system and infrastructure[/caption] The impact of Ebola on economic development has been very significant but Guinea has weathered the storm and it is now time for economic projects that were stalled to take off again. One of such projects is Simandou, a project which provides access to one of the world’s largest reserves of Iron Ore. While the ambitious project is expected to usher in a new era of economic prosperity for Guinea, Ambassador Conde admitted that the outbreak of Ebola throw a spanner in the works of implementation. The project is expected to pick up again with the recession of Ebola. Guinea’s vast mineral resources have so far not served the development needs of its people. On his accession to power, the government of President Alpha Conde went the extra mile in fighting to cancel loop sided mining concessions that robbed Guineans blind. Simandou will be one of the first mining projects that is accompanied by a very ambitious development program accruing from it for the entire country. It will not only generate revenue and create jobs for Guineans, but also help in building the kind of transport infrastructure that links up the entire country. With the fortunes of the ambitious Simandou project tied to the mining giants Rio Tinto, which seems to be dragging its feet, Ambassador Conde was asked what will happen if Rio Tinto backs out. The government has a plan B he said. The quality of iron ore from Guinea ranks amongst the best in the world and there are many other partners who will gladly want to partner with the government of Guinea in the project should for some reasons Rio Tinto falters in its engagements. Even getting Guinea to the point where it is now has been a herculean task as the President himself said he inherited a country and not a state. President Conde toiled hard to turn around the moribund economy he found in place. The mining code was reformed and thanks to the efforts from his government, Guinea became eligible for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. [caption id="attachment_18527" align="alignright" width="594"]President Conde was received by US President Barack Obama to discuss Ebola relief efforts and efforts to create long term economic recovery .Pic Getty Images President Conde was received by US President Barack Obama to discuss Ebola relief efforts and efforts to create long term economic recovery .Pic Getty Images[/caption] As the first mandate of President Alpha Conde comes to an end, the opposition in Guinea has embarked on highly mediatized protest marches to force a change in the electoral calendar. Faulting President Conde for the electoral calendar is disingenuous said Ambassador Conde as he explains the false flags been raised by the opposition. The electoral Calendar is not drawn up by the President but by the independent electoral commission of Guinea. Local government officials whose mandate had long expired were in place when President Conde was elected in 2010. While in office, the legislative elections were organized and those leading the protests said nothing about local government elections. With the outbreak of the Ebola virus, it was impossible to hold local government elections. While the calendar indicates that the Presidential elections will take place before the local government elections, the opposition thinks it should be the reverse. Although the mandate of local governments have expired, having come thus far, that last thing that Guinea wants is a vacuum at the summit of the state reason why the option should be Presidential elections first so as to maintain stability Will President Conde seek a second term? Yes said the Ambassador who believes that if Guinea is back on the rails today, it is thanks to President Conde .The pride of Guineans has been restored and the country is in much more better shape than it was when he took over. The electricity problems in the capital city of Conakry have been resolved. The security situation in country has improved. President Conde has a solid development agenda for the country he said and it will do the country good if he is given a second mandate to complete the vast reform agenda that he started. The opposition to some of his reforms comes largely from people who cannot identify with the fact that things are changing in Guinea and certain practices which benefitted a privileged few to the detriment of the majority are been pushed aside. Those in opposition to President Conde thrived in a system of cronyism and corruption which ran Guinea to the brink. President Conde spent a life in politics fighting to make things better for Guineans and he is not sparing any effort to do that now that he has the opportunity. In the face of the protests from the opposition, President Conde has opted for dialogue. He met recently with the opposition leader to understand their demands. With the chaos that has erupted in other African countries over elections, there is hope in the Independent National Electoral Commission. Even with the Commission, the Ambassador points out differences that President Conde had with those in the opposition today over its composition and modus operandi. While President Conde wanted it to be completely made of independent personalities void of partisan affiliations, the approach finally adopted was that of those in the opposition which privileged the composition of the Commission to be made of representatives from political parties. The Commission has done well this far and there are hopes that it will continue to rise up to the challenge of organizing free and fair elections whose outcome will be accepted by all. IMG_6094Guinea has come a long way Ambassador Conde said and there is no way it is turning back to the ways of the past. It is part of the reason the President has to use all opportunities on international outings like the one that brought him to Washington recently to present the new and emerging Guinea to the world. All Guineans want is peace, there want stability, there want economic development and progress. The Guinean Envoy lauded the strong ties between his country and the USA.President Conde has visited the US multiple times and cooperation between the two countries has steadily grown since he took office. The interview could not end without a question on the difference between the government of former President Lansana Conte where Ambassador Conde served as Minister of Communication and Foreign Affairs and that of the current Government. While the Ambassador placed service to his compatriot overall, he thinks the management styles and visions of Conte and Conde are starkly different. Coming from the military, President Conte ran the affairs of the country with that mindset. His limited education was also a factor in the way he ran Guinea and there was very little room for dissent. President Conde on the other hand was a university professor and grew up in a democracy and braved consequences in the fight for democracy. It is with this background and mindset that he has used his reform and development oriented government to put Guinea back on track.  ]]>

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Dynamic US-Africa Partnership Lauded at African Day Celebrations in Washington,DC.
May 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC. Rev Jackson and Ambassador Teitelbaum in a group photo with African Ambassadors in Washington,DC.[/caption] In celebrations to mark the 2015 African Day  in Washington, DC,  dynamic ties between the USA –Africa hailed by the Ambassador of Egypt Mohamed Tawfik. Speaking as co-Chair of the celebrations organized by the African Ambassador’s group, the Egyptian Envoy cited the last US-Africa’s Leaders’ Summit and the support that Africa continues to receive from the US in multiple forms. “The celebration is about Africa’s success”, said Ambassador Tawfik as he enumerated a litany of positive developments taking place in the continent. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world he said, with life expectancy ticking up, and more children in school than at any other time. The continent is increasingly taking charge of its own security challenges and Egypt will be hosting a historic summit soon geared towards the creation of a broader Pan African free trade zone ,said Tawfik. In addition to Women serving as Presidents, and in parliament, Tawfik also cited the example of AU Chair Dlamini Zuma to highlight the progress made by women in the continent. Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs delivered the keynote speech in which he highlighted the important role women have always played in the history of Africa. [caption id="attachment_18381" align="alignright" width="586"]Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration Rev Jackson poses with members of the Ivorian dance troupe that animated the celebration[/caption] Celebrated under the theme “Women Empowerment & Development towards Achieving Africa Agenda 2063”, Ambassador Teitelbaum saluted the strides that have been made by the African Union and African countries. Africa’s biggest resource is its people Ambassador Teitelbaum and no country can get ahead if half of its population is left behind. Africa represents a growing a growing market and just this year alone, there have been some 316 million new cell phone subscribers reported ,Teitelbaum said. Programs like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, have been helpful in alleviating the health plight of women and children, said. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda who heads the African Ambassadors Group in Washington, DC, also spoke on the importance of placing women at the center of development. With Maureen Umeh of Fox TV as MC, the celebration had as special Guest the Rev Jesse Jackson ,Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.  Other guests from the African American Community included Melvin Foote from the Constituency for Africa, and Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher of the Washington Informer. Sponsored by Chevron, Coca Cola, and Exxon Mobile, guests were treated to an art exhibition and entertainment performance of folk dances from Egypt, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.      ]]>

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West African leaders to discuss presidential term limits
May 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Participants attend the 44th ECOWAS Summit at Felix Houphouet Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon Participants attend the 44th ECOWAS Summit at Felix Houphouet Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon[/caption]

ACCRA (Reuters) – West African leaders are due to discuss a proposal aimed at limiting presidential mandates to two terms at a regional summit on Tuesday, officials said.

The talks by members of West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc come as several long-standing African presidents are approaching legal term limits. Attempts to change the law, or circumvent it, have sparked unrest in Burundi and Burkina Faso.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the top United Nations official in West Africa, told Reuters that countries in the region without term limits would be encouraged to introduce them.

Togo and Gambia do not have term limits.

Another official with direct knowledge of the talks said leaders would be asked to commit to protecting clauses on term limits from any broader revisions of constitutions.

ECOWAS can suspend members who do not comply with regional measures.

*Yahoo/Reuters]]>

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BRVM Investment Days: West Africa’s financial centre meets the London Stock Exchange
April 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

The regional stock exchange for the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union has chosen the London Stock Exchange as the venue for the second round of “BRVM Investment Days” brvmThe Bourse régionale des valeurs mobilières (BRVM)  is to hold a high-level meeting at the London Stock Exchange on 28 April 2015. The conference, which will be attended, amongst others, by Ms Nialé Kaba, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Economy and Finance, will provide an opportunity to present the financial centre of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to international, and especially British, investors. The London Stock Exchange is Europe’s premier financial centre. “Following the success of the BRVM Investment Days in Paris in October 2014 , the British capital was the natural choice for the second round. The London Stock Exchange is developing cooperation with African finance and constitutes a real springboard for growth for the BRVM,” explains Gabriel Fal, Chairman of the BRVM’s Board of Directors. With market capitalisation having doubled in three years – standing at 7458 billion CFA francs (around USD 13.8 billion) on 31 December 2014 – and transaction volumes growing constantly, the BRVM is becoming a destination of choice for many international investors, eager to diversify their asset portfolio while simultaneously contributing to the development of African economies. “Along with Johannesburg, Lagos, Casablanca and Nairobi, our regional exchange embodies this new frontier of finance that offers safe investments with high returns,” says Edoh Kossi Amenounve, CEO of the BRVM. After a record 2013, which saw the BRVM 10 and BRVM Composite indices swell by 33.85% and 39.28% respectively, that growth was consolidated in 2014, as the BRVM 10 rose by 8.60% and the BRVM Composite by 11.23%. With two new entrants in recent months (Bank of Africa Senegal in December 2014 and Total Senegal in February 2015), the BRVM now has 39 listed companies. The last company to be floated on the exchange had been Bank of Africa Côte d’Ivoire back in April 2010. “If we add to that our inclusion in the S&P and MSCI international indices, we can see that the BRVM is now moving in a direction that is beneficial for everyone. The region’s companies are raising finance, while investors are increasing the value of savings in the UEMOA zone. Lastly, more and more citizens are becoming shareholders, which is the best way for our people to take ownership of our growth drivers and means of production,” says Edoh Kossi Amenounve. “To speed up this process, the BRVM has to attract international investors in search of emerging or pioneering financial centres. That is how we are going to deepen the market and increase its liquidity. To this end, the BRVM has brought itself into line with international standards: our market is monitored and regulated, and what is more, it is offering returns that you can’t find in the North at present,” explains Gabriel Fal. The role of the banking and finance sector in accelerating African growth, technological innovation and telecommunications as a driver of development, the rise of the middle class and the changing retail sector, and private and sovereign debt in the face of infrastructure financing challenges will be the main topics addressed at this second round of “BRVM Investment Days”. Top executives from several BRVM-listed companies (BMCE Bank, a shareholder in Bank of Africa, Ecobank, Orange, a shareholder in Sonatel, Total Senegal, Palmci, SAPH, and CFAO, a shareholder in CFAO Motors Côte d’Ivoire) will be taking part in this second round of “BRVM Investment Days”. Launched on 16 September 1998, the Bourse régionale des valeurs mobilières (BRVM) (http://www.brvm.org) is a regional stock exchange for the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA): Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. It is headquartered in Abidjan. The BRVM comprises 39 listed companies, the three biggest stocks being Sonatel, Ecobank and Solibra. The BRVM also offers extensive bond market activity (both private and sovereign). Since 1998, more than 280 transactions have been completed, raising 3887.1 billion CFA francs (USD 7.2 billion): 644,054 billion CFA francs (USD 1.2 billion) in capital transactions and 3243.55 billion CFA francs (USD 6 billion) in bond issues *APO/BRVM]]>

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Ebola outbreak 'over by August', UN suggests
March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Smitha Mundasad*

_81829766_dc893fec-f025-467b-93ee-861f8420aac6The Ebola outbreak in West Africa will be over by August, the head of the UN Ebola mission has told the BBC.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed admitted the UN had made mistakes in handling the crisis early on, sometimes acting “arrogantly”. A year after the outbreak was officially declared, the virus has killed more than 10,000 people. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres says a “global coalition of inaction” led to tragic consequences. Looking back over the year, the charity suggests its early calls for help were ignored by local governments and the World Health Organization. Most deaths occurred in the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The head of the UN Ebola response mission told the BBC, when the virus first struck, “there was probably a lack of knowledge and there was a certain degree of arrogance, but I think we are learning lessons. “We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer.”

‘Turned away’

The first person to succumb to the disease during this outbreak is thought to have been a toddler in a remote part of Guinea. He died in December 2013. Three months later the WHO officially announced an outbreak. And it was a further five months before the organisation declared it a public health emergency of international concern. At this point more than 1,000 people had lost their lives. Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator, told the BBC: “We were well aware this was something different in March and April last year and we did try to bring this to the attention of the WHO but also governments within the countries affected.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 21 March 2015

10,314

Deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected
(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)
  • 4,296 Liberia
  • 3,742 Sierra Leone
  • 2,261 Guinea
  • 8 Nigeria
    “And of course it was frustrating that we weren’t heard and that has probably led to the scale of the epidemic we see today.” The charity says it should also have used more of its own resources earlier in the crisis. The analysis, which includes dozens of interviews with MSF staff, says by the end of August 2014 treatment centres in Liberia where overwhelmed. In January 2015 at a rare emergency meeting, the WHO admitted it was too late to respond. Dr Margaret Chan, director general, said: “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us.”

Continued threat

But the organisation says it made it clear from the start “this was a very serious situation”. There are now proposals to build-up a rapid response team to react more swiftly to future threats. _81805830_ebola_weekly_cases_gra624_v2Case numbers are falling but MSF says the outbreak is not yet over. Overall cases have not declined significantly since January, the charity warns. Liberia recorded its first case in more than two weeks on Friday, dashing hopes the country would soon be declared virus-free. In Guinea, cases are rising again after a dip at the beginning of the year. Some patients in Sierra Leone are are not on lists of known Ebola contacts, suggesting chains of spread are going undetected. Dr Derek Gatherer, at Lancaster University, said: “In retrospect, it is now apparent that the delay from December to March was crucial in the dissemination of the virus to several locations in eastern Guinea and then onto the capital, Conakry, which remains one of the few areas with active transmission.” But until zero cases are recorded in all three worst-affected countries for a period of at least six weeks, the outbreak will not be officially declared over. *BBC]]>

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AfDB Board mulls sustained holistic approaches to defeat Ebola
February 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

indexExecutive Directors of the African Development Bank Group on Friday, February 13, 2015 in Abidjan discussed the imperative to eradicate the Ebola Virus Disease, which has affected nearly 23,000 and killed over 9,000 people in West Africa (mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia).   Reviewing the Bank’s efforts to contain the disease, the AfDB Board members observed that the disease has in effect exposed the weaknesses of healthcare and related systems in the countries concerned in particular and on the African continent as a whole.   Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks at Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku near the Ebola River (from which the disease derived its name) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.   Prior to 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 12 other occurrences and reoccurrences of the disease in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, South Africa, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville.   The current outbreak in West Africa is considered to be the largest and most complex of its kind. It can be traced back to a single case in December 2013 in Guinea, after which it spread across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia; and through one traveller to Nigeria, and to Senegal and Mali, where it was eventually contained with no new cases reported.   Although the disease was reported to have substantially declined toward the end of 2014, new outbreaks in previously unaffected areas have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the past two weeks. The reported resurgence of Ebola is an indication that counters measures are needed to be strengthened underscoring the need for a sector-wide strategy within and across countries to tackle the disease in the medium and long term.   Two presentations made by senior Bank staff provided a graphic picture of the Ebola situation in West Africa, its pervasive impact and the Bank’s leadership role in efforts to contain the disease.   The presentations also illustrated how the most active segment of the labour force, including women (who drive many economic sectors and who run the risk of being infected as primary care-givers), in the countries concerned are being “decimated”.   Agriculture and education are among the worst-hit areas, with economic losses estimated at US $113 million (5.1% of GDP) for Liberia; US $95 million (2.1% of GDP) for Sierra Leona and US $120 million (1.8% of GDP) for Guinea.   Several Board Members commended management and staff for leading the fight to contain Ebola by mobilising a total of US $223 million that complemented national and international efforts in addition to coordinating dialogues and strategies at national and global levels.   They urged management to leverage the AfDB’s convening power to bring other development partners together and coordinate actions that would help build structures to contain the disease definitively. *AFDB]]>

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1.3m back in school in Ebola-hit Guinea: UNICEF
February 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Frankie TAGGART* [caption id="attachment_16341" align="alignleft" width="300"]A Guinean student gets her temperature checked on January 19, 2015 outside the Oumou Diaby school in Conakry (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani) A Guinean student gets her temperature checked on January 19, 2015 outside the Oumou Diaby school in Conakry (AFP Photo/Cellou Binani)[/caption] Dakar (AFP) – More than 1.3 million children have returned to school in Guinea since the restart of lessons that were delayed for months by the Ebola crisis, the United Nations children’s fund said on Friday.

Classrooms opened for the first time on January 19 since Guinea announced the closures last summer alongside its neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone, in response to an outbreak which has killed around 9,250 people.

“In Guinea, where nearly all of the country’s more than 12,000 schools are now open, school attendance is at 85 percent of pre-Ebola attendance,” UNICEF said in a statement citing government data and its own findings.

The agency has been at the forefront of introducing safety measures to combat the spread of the virus, including children having their temperatures taken and washing their hands before going into classrooms.

Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

People caring for the sick or handling corpses are at highest risk, and the disease is best contained by limiting exposure through patient isolation and safe burials.

A drop in new cases in recent weeks had given rise to optimism that the worst was over, before the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the number of new Ebola cases rising for the second week running on Wednesday.

Transmission remains “widespread” in Guinea, which saw 65 new confirmed cases in the week to February 8, and in Sierra Leone, which reported 76, according to the WHO.

Liberia, which has recorded the most deaths and was hardest hit at the peak of the epidemic in September and October, is leading the recovery, reporting just three new confirmed cases in that same week.

– ‘Important lessons’ –

The Liberian government said on Thursday it would reopen schools next week after a 14-day delay designed to give teachers and parents more time to prepare, while Sierra Leone plans to do so at the end of March.

“We don’t expect all schools to reopen immediately,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa.

“Typically it can take up to a month before the majority of students are back in the classroom. Throughout that period education authorities will be working to ensure that conditions are as safe as possible.”

UNICEF said it had been working closely with the Liberian government and local communities to develop the safety protocols already employed in Guinea.

Teachers have been trained to implement and monitor the safety measures, while soap and other hygiene materials have been distributed and mass mobilisation campaigns on Ebola prevention have been conducted nationwide.

“Liberia has learned important lessons from the successful experience in Guinea, and Sierra Leone will build on the Liberia experience,” said Fontaine.

UNICEF and its partners are handing out more than 7,200 hygiene kits for over 4,000 Liberian schools and training 15,000 teachers and school administrators in monitoring of safety protocols.

The restart comes as the United States begins to withdraw a west African Ebola military mission, based mainly in Liberia, which peaked at 2,800 troops, leaving no more than 100 soldiers in the region by the end of April.

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the mission would give way to a civilian-led drive to “extinguish” the deadly virus, as he ordered home American troops.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Roughly $1.8 Billion in Ebola Relief Donations Haven't Made it to Africa
February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

By * [caption id="attachment_16172" align="alignleft" width="300"] A burial team wearing protective clothing, prepare to enter the home a person suspected of having died of the Ebola virus, in Freetown September 28, 2014. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters A burial team wearing protective clothing, prepare to enter the home a person suspected of having died of the Ebola virus, in Freetown September 28, 2014. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters[/caption]

Nearly 40 percent of the funding pledged to help fight the Ebola epidemic has not made it to its destination, according to research published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

Nations and individuals have pledged a combined $2.89 billion to Ebola relief since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern” in August 2014. But as of December 31, 2014, only $1.09 billion of that $2.89 billion has been actually disbursed.

“Had the resources reached the countries in a timely fashion the epidemic would not have reached the scale it did,” says Karen Grépin, an assistant professor of global health policy at New York University and author on the study. “It’s unlikely it would have gotten so far.”

According to Grépin, it is not unusual for donors to make big pledges and not always see them through. But that only covers part of the gap. The bigger problem, Grépin says, is the lack of an adequate and efficient system for soliciting funds and then disbursing them. She says this has been a latent problem at the WHO for years, but the scale of the Ebola epidemic—and, accordingly, the scale of the need—caught the world off guard.

“This was a new situation for everyone,” Grépin says. “What I found was that donors were quite generous, but the problem was delays. It took a very, very long time for donors to engage. WHO was not calling on donors to make pledges until late in the game.”

Much of the funding that did make it to countries battling Ebola did not arrive until months after the outbreak had become dire, the paper notes. It took until “at least mid-October” for the first $500 million to arrive, and the first $1 billion didn’t show up until December.

Estimating how much money to ask for also proved difficult: In August, when WHO began appealing to donors, the organization estimated $490 million would be required to stop the outbreak. Roughly six weeks later, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated $1 billion was needed. The latest estimate is $1.5 billion.

“Clearly, international leaders have found it challenging to estimate the financial requirements to tackle this rapidly spreading outbreak,” the paper reads.

Grépin’s research indicates that as of December 31, 2014, another $1.3 billion was tied up as “firm commitment” money, or money that has been pledged and is likely to be disbursed but hasn’t yet. The U.S., by far the biggest donor with $900 million pledged, had either funded or made a “firm committment” on 95 percent of its total pledges, according to the paper. The U.K., the second-biggest donor, pledged $307 million and had paid or made a “firm committment” on 98.4 percent of it by that time. The World Bank, meanwhile, pledged $230 million, but had only funded or made a “firm committment” on 51 percent. The paper notes that the World Bank and other groups have also granted loans to Ebola-stricken countries, which were not taken into account in these figures.

Grépin says enormous political will is needed to change the way the World Health Organization calls the international community into action during epidemics like these. Now, the WHO waits until it declares a public health emergency of international concern before it begins asking the international community to respond, she says. In the case of the Ebola epidemic, the WHO was first alerted to the outbreak in March, but it did not give it that designation until August. Grépin hopes a new mechanism will be put in place to start the cycle of soliciting humanitarian assistance sooner. In addition, the international community needs to see the current Ebola outbreak through to the end.

“Now that the epidemic is dying down, people are looking away,” Grépin says. “If we don’t pay attention to this, we’ll be doing it again in a couple years.” *Source Newsweek]]>

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World's largest Ebola unit dismantled as outbreak retreats
January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Zoom Dosso* [caption id="attachment_15964" align="alignleft" width="300"]A Doctors Without Borders agent prepares to burn pieces of a dismantled tent on January 27, 2015 after the first section of the ELWA III Ebola Management Center in Monrovia was decomissioned (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) A Doctors Without Borders agent prepares to burn pieces of a dismantled tent on January 27, 2015 after the first section of the ELWA III Ebola Management Center in Monrovia was decomissioned (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)[/caption] Monrovia (AFP) – A potent symbol of the nightmare enveloping west Africa at the height of the Ebola outbreak, the ELWA-3 treatment centre is being dismantled and incinerated bit by bit as the region emerges from catastrophe.

The largest Ebola unit ever built opened in the Liberian capital Monrovia with 120 beds on August 17 but was immediately overwhelmed, with staff forced to turn patients away at its gates, despite more than doubling its capacity.

Five months later to the day it registered no patients at all for the first time, and staff this week marked a drastic retreat of an epidemic which has killed thousands by dismantling and burning the first tent put up at the clinic.

“The number of cases has decreased significantly — we are down to five confirmed cases in Liberia,” said Duncan Bell, the field coordinator in Liberia for Medecins san Frontieres (MSF), the medical aid charity at the forefront of treating victims of the outbreak.

“In line with this development we think it was appropriate to reduce the treatment centre. Today we have 60 beds and at the end of February we hope to go down to 30 beds. This does not mean that we are closing ELWA-3 — we are just reducing the capacity.”

“We still have the capacity to scale up to 120 beds within 24 hours if the need arises,” he added, as staff carried wooden planks and canvas to a large fire nearby.

The worst outbreak of the virus in history has seen Liberia and its neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone register almost 9,000 deaths in a year.

– ‘Tremendous leap’ –

Soon after it opened, staff at ELWA-3 were struggling to screen new arrivals, care for admitted patients or safely remove dead bodies and transport them to the crematorium.

By the end of the year the centre had taken in 1,826 patients, 1,225 of whom tested positive for Ebola and 498 of whom survived.

But Liberia and its neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea have reported huge progress on stemming the spread of Ebola since the summer, when the joint tally was several hundred new infections a week.

Liberian Commerce Minister Axel Addy told reporters in Geneva on Monday that 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties had reported no new cases, adding: “We’ve made a tremendous leap.”

He said the crisis had cost Liberia $93 million (82 million euros) in lost revenue, with the key mining sector coming “to a grinding halt”.

Bell said the downsizing of ELWA-3’s capacity went hand in hand with a reduction in workers on the ground, noting that MSF staff had performed an “incredible job”.

MSF said in its latest crisis update on Monday it was treating just two patients in ELWA-3, a huge tented field clinic put up on the grounds of a missionary hospital.

Those were among just over 50 patients at MSF’s eight Ebola units across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The charity’s busiest Ebola management centre is currently the Prince of Wales centre in Freetown, with 30 patients as of January 24.

– ‘We cannot rest easy’ –

Children trickled back to school last week in Guinea, where the Ebola epidemic broke out in December 2013 and teaching is due to resume in neighbouring Liberia next week.

[caption id="attachment_15966" align="alignright" width="300"]Doctors Without Borders staff work to dismantle tents on January 27, 2015 after the first section of the ELWA III Ebola Management Center in Monrovia was decomissioned (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) Doctors Without Borders staff work to dismantle tents on January 27, 2015 after the first section of the ELWA III Ebola Management Center in Monrovia was decomissioned (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)[/caption]

Classrooms in both countries have been provided with health kits containing chlorine, thermometers and soap, while teams will monitor students to detect possible infections.

Mali, which along with Senegal and Nigeria had a minor Ebola scare, was able last week to declare itself Ebola-free after 42 days without any new cases.

Senegal and Nigeria had previously already done so.

“This decline is an opportunity to focus efforts on addressing the serious weaknesses that remain in the response,” said Brice de la Vingne, MSF Director of Operations.

“We are on the right track, but reaching zero cases will be difficult unless significant improvements are made in alerting new cases and tracing those who have been in contact with them.”

He warned that just a single new case could be enough “to reignite an outbreak”.

“Until everyone who has come into contact with Ebola has been identified, we cannot rest easy,” he said.

The African Union plans to launch an Ebola fund and disease control centre, officials in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa said on Wednesday, as aid agency Oxfam warned leaders needed to keep their promises to boost healthcare systems on the continent.

Oxfam called for a “massive post-Ebola Marshall Plan”, referring to the United States aid package to rebuild Europe after World War II.

*Source AFP/Yahoo  ]]>

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