Ebola: the elite vs the rest
September 7, 2014 | 1 Comments
The Ebola outbreak has revealed failures in our crises response systems. It has also revealed a disorder of priorities, with governments more interested in business and the elite than in services for the people. We have disaster capitalism on our hands.[caption id="attachment_11783" align="alignleft" width="300"] Riot police hold people back at the West Point slum in Monrovia, Liberia. The slum was quarantined following the Ebola outbreak, leading to protests from residents. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images[/caption]
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa evokes both sadness and introspection for many Africans. The loss of lives is due both to the fact that the virus is incurable as well as to poor health facilities in the areas directly affected. These factors have been compounded by the fact that the citizens affected have limited knowledge about how to prevent the disease.
In Liberia the forced quarantining of residents of some cities have led to demonstrations and riots [the quarantining of the West Point slum was lifted following protests]. President Johnson-Sirleaf has also had to fire government officials who fled their own country for fear of catching the dreaded virus. Elsewhere on the continent, governments have been trying to calm concerned and panicky citizens and reassure them that they are doing everything in their control to prevent any infected persons crossing borders.Globally there is a narrative that is familiar to many and largely purveyed through the media. This being: the projection of Africa as a place of disease and death. This is partly because the Ebola virus is killing many innocent souls but also because this is how the global West and East prefer to view our continent. It however does not end there. Africa also needs help in stemming the epidemic, and in providing both the medial personnel as well as medicines that are urgently required. So once again Africa is in sadly familiar territory wherein we are unable to respond to crisis that affect us not for lack of will but for lack of capacity and preparedness. The latter two stem largely from the fact that we do not have adequately contextualised knowledge production systems or governments that function conscientiously on behalf of the people they claim to lead.
In considering our lack of knowledge production as well utilisation capacity of the same, it is important to remember that this is not the first time Ebola has affected the continent. The first outbreak, which was officially recorded in then Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo, should have seen us learning from that experience and crafting the right responses. The truth of the matter is that we never took it seriously. Perhaps because Zaire was considered a Conradian backwater.
Where we fast-forward to recent years, the greatest challenge in combating the disease from an African perspective has largely resided in our continually poor medical knowledge and facility infrastructure. This state of affairs has been blamed largely on the lack of resources.
Sierra Leone to impose 4-day, countrywide anti-Ebola "lockdown"
September 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
FREETOWN (Reuters) – Sierra Leone will impose a four-day, countrywide “lockdown” starting Sept. 18, an escalation of efforts to halt the spread of Ebola across the West African country, a senior official in the president’s office said on Friday.
The move underscores the radical steps West African nations are being pushed to take, over six months into an outbreak that is the worst on record and shows no sign of easing having already killed over 2,100 people since March.
Citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes between Sept. 18-21 in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading further and allow health workers to identify cases in the early stages of the illness, said Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, a presidential adviser on the country’s Ebola task force.
“The aggressive approach is necessary to deal with the spread of Ebola once and for all,” he told Reuters. As of Friday, Sierra Leone has recorded 491 of the total of suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola deaths, according to U.N. figures.
Kargbo said 21,000 people would be recruited to enforce the lockdown. Thousands of police and soldiers have already been deployed to enforce the quarantining of towns in Sierra Leone’s worst-hit regions near the border with Guinea.
Organizations from across the world are rushing funds and equipment to West Africa, but Ebola is spreading faster than ever and experts say the lack of trained staff in weak health systems is a major obstacle to the response.
Joining efforts to improve the health of young women and girls in South Africa
September 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
The First Lady of South Africa, Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, pledged to improve the health of young women and girls in South Africa during a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 4 September at the President’s official residence.
Mr Sidibé acknowledged the First Lady’s role in lobbying for a price reduction for the human papillomavirus vaccine and ensuring better access to the vaccine in developing countries. The First Lady works extensively on health issues related to breast and cervical cancer and HIV, including prevention initiatives for young women and girls.
During his four-day visit to the country, Mr Sidibé also met with the South African Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, to discuss Africa’s response to the Ebola virus outbreak and the lessons African leaders can learn from the AIDS response. Mr Sidibé said that strengthening health systems and bridging the gap between health systems and the community are critical to addressing the outbreak effectively.
In a round-table dialogue with Mr Sidibé, members of the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum reiterated the need to form a stronger and strategic partnership with the Government of South Africa and the critical role that civil society plays in creating demand for the services that the government provides to respond to HIV and tuberculosis.
“We can build a hundred hospitals, but, if we don’t empower people with knowledge on healthy lifestyles and responsible behaviour, we won’t make progress.”
“In the absence of a cure or vaccine for Ebola, we need a deliberate and non-emotive response which learns lessons from AIDS in Africa.”
“We need to innovate on HIV prevention for young women and girls and find ways to reach them earlier with solutions like cash transfers and address intergenerational sex.”
“There is a serious need to focus on local initiatives in creating sustainability and coherence of strategies in South Africa. Civil society remains committed to the HIV response and we are encouraged by UNAIDS’ commitment in ensuring that communities access quality and competent health-care services.”
AfDB and WHO Sign US $60 Million MOU to Strengthen Ebola Response in West Africa
September 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, on Tuesday, August 26 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) cementing a US $60 million Bank grant to help strengthen West Africa’s public health systems in response to the Ebola crisis. The funds, which will be implemented by the WHO, will be used to help recruit and train health workers, purchase equipment and medicine, and ensure that the necessary logistics are in place at the local level to provide emergency health services to Ebola patients. As of Monday, 2,615 cases of Ebola have been recorded since March, resulting in 1,427 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. “The Ebola crisis has shown the weakness of our health systems. When we have vanquished Ebola, there will be other challenges, and we must be better prepared. This concerns us all: Ebola has no passport; it respects no borders,” said President Kaberuka. “It is a very dynamic epidemic. This is why – on top of this work with the WHO – the AfDB will invest an additional $150 million to assist its regional member governments through budget support operations in order to pay health workers, equip health centres, and create jobs.”“The ongoing Ebola Virus Disease outbreak is a bitter reminder to all African Governments and partners on the need to strengthen health infrastructure capacities in order to cope with disasters and epidemics. This MoU will cover the immediate response needs as well as help to strengthen the health systems capacity”, said Dr. Luis Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We are thankful that there are no cases in Côte d’Ivoire. However, we need to be aware that the country is at high risk. We have taken – and will take – every precaution,” said the Minister of Health and the Fight against HIV/AIDS for Côte d’Ivoire, Raymonde Goudou Coffie, who took part in the event. “In the long term we want to tackle the root causes of the epidemic and strengthen health systems in Africa, because it threatens the economic situation of countries,” said Kaberuka. “According to recent estimates, these countries may lose 1.5% of GDP due to this epidemic. Even if the WHO has not imposed any travel restrictions, private airlines have banned international travel to and from the affected countries, impacting tourism and trade.” Since April, the Bank has already disbursed $3 million to support regional Ebola response efforts. It has also made four emergency assistance grants of $ 1 million each to the Governments of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. As the largest donor so far, its total support package is worth some $210 million. *Source allafrica]]>
African Union to hold emergency meeting on Ebola
September 4, 2014 | 0 Comments
Health care workers wearing full body suits burn infected items at the Elwa hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Monrovia on August 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)[/caption]
Addis Ababa (AFP) – The African Union announced Wednesday it will hold an emergency meeting next week aimed at hammering out a continent-wide strategy to deal with the Ebola epidemic.
The AU’s Executive Council said next Monday’s meeting, to be held at the body’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, would also “deliberate on the suspension of flights, and maritime and border closures, as well as stigmatisation of the affected countries and their nationals”.
“The council’s emergency meeting has been necessitated by the need to have a common understanding of the Ebola Virus Disease and current status of the response and to come up with a collective continental approach, taking into account the socio-political and economic impact of the disease,” the AU said in a statement.
It said concerns had been raised by some member states that moves by other African nations to close borders and halt flights “could have serious socio-economic and cultural effects, and could ultimately lead to increased suffering”.
More than 1,900 people have died in the Ebola epidemic sweeping through West Africa, the head of the World Health Organisation said Wednesday.
The latest toll represents a significant increase from the 1,552 deaths and 3,069 cases reported by the Geneva-based organisation just days ago.
Human trial of experimental Ebola vaccine begins this week
September 3, 2014 | 0 Comments
Caleb Hellerman* [caption id="attachment_11607" align="alignleft" width="300"] A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer. To date, there have been 635 cases of haemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, most confirmed as Ebola. A total of 399 people have died, 280 of them in Guinea. AFP PHOTO / CELLOU BINANICELLOU BINANI/AFP/Getty Images[/caption] A highly anticipated test of an experimental Ebola vaccine will begin this week at the National Institutes of Health, amid mounting anxiety about the spread of the deadly virus in West Africa. After an expedited review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, researchers were given the green light to begin what’s called a human safety trial, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It will be the first test of this type of Ebola vaccine in humans. The experimental vaccine, developed by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the NIAID, will first be given to three healthy human volunteers to see if they suffer any adverse effects. If deemed safe, it will then be given to another small group of volunteers, aged 18 to 50, to see if it produces a strong immune response to the virus. All will be monitored closely for side effects. The vaccine will be administered to volunteers by an injection in the deltoid muscle of their arm, first in a lower dose, then later in a higher dose after the safety of the vaccine has been determined. Some of the preclinical studies that are normally done on these types of vaccines were waived by the FDA during the expedited review, Fauci said, so “we want to take extra special care that we go slowly with the dosing.” The vaccine did extremely well in earlier trials with chimpanzees, Fauci said. He noted that the method being used to prompt an immune response to Ebola cannot cause a healthy individual to become infected with the virus. Still, he said, “I have been fooled enough in my many years of experience… you really can’t predict what you will see (in humans).” According to the NIH, the vaccine will also be tested on healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom, Gambia and Mali, once details are finalized with health officials in those countries. CDC director raises Ebola alarm Trials cannot currently be done in the four countries affected by the recent outbreak — Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria — because the existing health care infrastructure wouldn’t support them, Fauci said. Gambia and Mali were selected because the NIH has “long-standing collaborative relationships” with researchers in those countries. According to the NIH, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also in talks with health officials from Nigeria about conducting part of the safety trial there. Funding from an international consortium formed to fight Ebola will enable GlaxoSmithKline to begin manufacturing up to 10,000 additional doses of the vaccine while clinical trials are ongoing, the pharmaceutical company said in a statement. These doses would be made available if the World Health Organization decides to allow emergency immunizations in high-risk communities. The GSK/NIAID vaccine is one of two leading candidate vaccines. The other was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed this month to NewLink Genetics, a company based in Iowa. According to the NIH, safety trials of that vaccine will start this fall. Earlier this month, the Canadian government shipped what it said was “800 to 1,000” doses of that vaccine to Liberia, at the government’s request. It’s not clear whether it has been given to health workers or anyone else there. Worth noting: In 2009, an earlier version of the vaccine was given to a lab worker in Germany after he thought he had pricked himself with a needle tainted with Ebola. He did not develop the disease. While there currently is no proven treatment for Ebola beyond supportive care, government agencies and small biotech firms have been scrambling to speed up development of several potential therapies and vaccines. A third vaccine, also developed by the NIH, was recently tested in primates and found to protect them from infection; it was given in combination with Depovax, an adjuvant that has been used with other vaccines and cancer therapies to boost the body’s immune response. While vaccines might be given to prevent infection among health workers or other people thought to be at high risk, development has also been sped up on drugs that might potentially be given to patients who already have the disease. The drug that’s received the most attention is ZMapp, which has been given to at least seven individuals in the current outbreak, including two American missionary medical workers, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly. The drug has never been formally tested in humans, and while the results in human patients are encouraging — five of the seven known to have received it are still alive — experts say there is too little data to say whether it played a role in their recoveries. Are myths making the Ebola outbreak worse? Earlier versions of ZMapp, which received backing from the U.S. and Canadian governments as well as from biotech firms, have shown some ability to protect rhesus macaque monkeys more than two days after they were infected with the virus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday a $24.9 million, 18-month contract with ZMapp’s manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, to accelerate the development of the medication. Mapp will make “a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies” to gauge how the drug works on people, the HHS department said in a news release. The various new steps “will contribute to increasing the amount of product potentially available to treat patients with Ebola.” Another drug, TKM-Ebola, has been tested for safety in a small number of humans. That trial was put on hold in January, after one volunteer developed moderate gastrointestinal side effects after receiving a high dose of the medication. Last month, the FDA modified the hold to a “partial clinical hold.” In effect, this means that Tekmira could potentially be allowed to give the drug to doctors or hospitals who request it, on an emergency basis. There’s no indication that the company has received any such requests. The vaccine going into trials this week is based on an adenovirus — a type of cold virus — that’s found in chimpanzees. The virus delivers genetic material derived from two species of Ebola virus, including the Zaire strain that’s responsible for the current outbreak. Those genes are meant to trigger the development of antibodies in the person who receives the vaccine, antibodies that can specifically defend against Ebola. Another trial, using a version of the GSK/NIAID vaccine that uses only the Zaire strain of Ebola, will be launched in October, according to the NIH. All participants in the trial will be evaluated nine times over a 48-week period. NIH expects to reveal the results of the trial by the end of the year. If it’s approved for widespread use, the first priority will be to give the vaccine to health care workers or lab workers who are fighting the spread of the virus, Fauci said. It will then be considered for people in the communities where outbreaks occur. *Source CNN ]]>
Africa Leaders Summit presents opportunity to intensify talks on funding for malaria
July 31, 2014 | 0 Comments
Immunization at a clinic in Nigeria[/caption] The African Leaders summit, being held in Washington on August 4-6, will seek to advance trade and investment opportunities between Africa and the United States. Fifty African countries have been invited to convene and discuss ways of stimulating growth and opportunities across the continent. The event, the largest any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, aims to forge stronger economic ties between the United States, Africa and other global markets. The theme of the summit is Investing in the Next Generation, with debate focusing on areas seen as critical drivers for economic growth, sustainable development, and security in the region. On the agenda are food security, leadership opportunities for African women in government and across civil society and health. The latter will see senior health policy makers, Ministers of Health and African leaders discuss current constraints to achieving shared health goals, including malaria. Economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries is predicted to increase but will inevitably be uneven (19 are designated fragile and conflict-affected countries, 11 low income, 13 middle and seven upper-middle income). The International Monetary Fund predicts that four of the world’s six fastest-growing economies in 2014 will be in sub-Saharan Africa. Many countries are already seeing an increase in income per capita, although not necessarily an increase in quality of life, where issues around governance, inequality and access to education and healthcare are yet to be addressed. To ensure sustainable economic growth, continued efforts are needed to improve access to healthcare delivery systems, in particular in lower income malaria-endemic countries. Progress around malaria prevention and control has been well documented. World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that between 2000 and 2012, estimated malaria mortality rates decreased by 42 percent worldwide and by 49 percent in the African Region. Deaths in children under five are estimated to have decreased by 48 percent globally and by 54 percent in the African Region. The African Union and Roll Back Malaria have supported national commitments to creating health policy frameworks and government investment in reducing malaria is having considerable success in some countries. Despite this, malaria continues to pose a major constraint to economic development and remains a critical issue in most sub-Saharan African countries. There were an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2012 (WHO), mostly in sub-Saharan Africa (90 percent) and in children under five. The facts are hard to argue with. A case of severe malaria can change the course of a child’s life: mortality rates from other health related causes are significantly higher and, for those who survive, 19 percent suffer serious neurological and cognitive conditions, including impaired vision, behavioural difficulties and epilepsy. And it doesn’t just affect children. In Nigeria, for example, malaria is the cause of 11 percent of maternal mortality. The loss of a mother substantially increases the risk of infant mortality, while malaria in pregnancy results in severe anaemia increasing obstetric risk and causes low birth weight. In a country where malaria is the leading cause of child deaths, gains made in reducing the impact of the disease will remain fragile without sustained political and financial commitment. Last year, during the Abuja Summit in Nigeria, African heads of state and Government committed to step up the mobilisation of domestic resources to ensure sustainable financing for health, including malaria. And it can’t come too soon. Since the 1930s, there have been 75 documented local resurgences of malaria, the majority linked to decreased funding. Although countries with higher mortality rates and lower national incomes have seen increased investment in malaria control, especially in Africa, domestic government investments across the region are highest in wealthier countries and lowest in countries where malaria mortality rates are high. Malaria control has proven to be a highly cost-effective public health strategy. Lives saved from malaria are estimated to account for 20 percent of all progress in reducing child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, resulting in less infant and maternal mortality, fewer days missed at school and work, and increased productivity. It is widely accepted that poor health can undermine economic growth while good health can enhance it. Continuing to develop new interventions and strategies to prevent and treat malaria, including drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, is crucial to maintaining progress and mitigate against the threat of drug and insecticide resistance. The African Leaders Summit offers a timely opportunity to address constraints to achieving shared health goals. For all 50 countries, discussion around intensifying malaria control and elimination efforts and should be high on the agenda. *Michelle Davis is Senior Communications Manager at Malaria Consortium ,an international NGO working in malaria, neglected tropical diseases and child health. Malaria Consortium works in Africa and Asia with communities, governments and non-government agencies, academic institutions and local and international organisations to ensure evidence-based delivery of effective services. www.malariaconsortium.org ]]>
Winner of African Story Challenge Focuses on the Health Toll on Miners
June 14, 2014 | 0 Comments
Journalists and media organizations in Africa often shy away from development stories, such as those on health and social justice, and instead opt to cover politics. Rebecca Davis, of South African daily online newspaper Daily Maverick, says African news organizations “feel [development] stories are boring or [that readers] have ‘poverty fatigue.’ ” But journalists like Davis are working to change that. Last month, her story “Coughing up for Gold,” which looked at the toll that mining has taken on the health of former South African mine workers, emerged the winner of a continent-wide reporting contest, the African Story Challenge. For her work, Davis wins an international reporting trip. The African Story Challenge is a project of the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, in partnership with the International Center for Journalists.Joseph Warungu, AMI’s content strategies director, developed the challenge during his ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship. Story ideas are selected to receive grants of up to US$20,000 to support journalists in producing comprehensive multimedia stories in three categories that are organized in cycles – agriculture and food security, disease prevention and treatment, and business and technology. Davis won in the disease prevention and treatment category. “The African Story Challenge reminded me of the importance of Africans telling their own stories,” Davis said in an interview about the making of “Coughing up for Gold.” She urged journalists to “always put a human face at the center of the story, and that’s how you draw your audience, no matter how dry the subject matter may seem at the outset.” More of her interview is published below with permission from the African Story Challenge: African Story Challenge: How would you describe your experience as an African Story Challenge Finalist and Winner? RD: The African Story Challenge has been a priceless opportunity for me. The training I received during the Story Camp in Lagos was particularly useful as I learned a lot on data journalism. Now I have some of the skills to make my own graphics. I work for a news organization that doesn’t have a lot of resources so anything we can do ourselves, we do. Above all, the financial support was invaluable. In this day and age, few organizations have the time or money to do such in-depth investigative reports. If we hadn’t received this grant from the African Media Initiative, we would not have been able to do this story. ASC: You had six weeks to produce “Coughing up for Gold.” How did you go about it? RD: In doing “Coughing up for Gold,” I wanted to look at the complex issue of silicosis amongst former miners whose plight has been neglected by government and other industry players. Silicosis has everything: it’s politics, money, race, sort of South Africa in a microcosm, and that’s why I found it such a fascinating issue. My cameraman, fixer and I travelled to the Eastern Cape, sometimes for many kilometers in very remote areas and into the mountains to find these ex-miners. We found them sick, and living in conditions of heartbreaking poverty. They couldn’t work due to the disease, and if they had been paid compensation, it was too little. They were welcoming and willing to talk to us, and it was quite humbling to experience their hospitality considering the hardship of their living conditions. It was very hard to get access to the mines themselves, but at short notice, we were able to visit Sibanye Gold, one of the biggest gold producers. We wanted to get a general feel of what mining conditions are like. We were able to speak to top mining officials there who obviously gave us a sanitized version, but it was still interesting to hear what the mines had to say about the situation. We carried out other interviews with mining experts from the chamber of mines and other officials who didn’t want to go on the record, who gave us interesting insights into exactly what the industry knows about the problem and what they are doing about it. One of our biggest coups in doing the project was finding two health experts attached to the national institute of occupational health, Dr. Jill Murray and Dr. Tony Davis who gave us an interview. They had been carrying out autopsies on former miners for years and years and were in the best position to cut through the PR waffle from the mines because they are the ones looking at the lungs of the miners, and can show you the graphs of how incidences of Silicosis and TB are rising year after year. Every journalist should be so lucky to find such knowledgeable interview subjects who aren’t scared, and are willing to talk at length and explain the subject to a layman. We finished off by interviewing the lawyers who’d been involved in taking up the compensation cases for a legal perspective. ASC: What has been the feedback from the story? RD: The feedback has been quite positive, even from people within the mining industry. We’ve had a couple of people come forward to say that though the story was hard hitting, it was essentially valid. The lawyers for the miners have asked to use part of the project, such as the videos, in their own documentation, which was quite heartening. I hope it can be of use to them in the fight for compensation. In general, a lot of people said that although they were aware the issue of silicosis existed, they hadn’t seen it in such a comprehensive package before, and “Coughing up for Gold” managed to inform them in that way, and that has been an incredibly worthwhile thing. The African Story Challenge reminded me of the importance of Africans telling their own stories. A lot of journalists and media organizations shy away from development stories and particularly those on health and social justice because they feel these stories are boring or have “poverty fatigue”. Part of what I’ve learnt from the African Story Challenge journey is to always put a human face at the center of the story, and that’s how you draw your audience, no matter how dry the subject matter may seem at the outset. *ICFJ .This story was also published on IJNet, which is produced by ICFJ.]]>
Sierra Leonean Healthcare Professionals in UK Want to Contribute to Home Country’s Health Sector
February 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals in the UK are keen to volunteer for short term assignments to fill acute healthcare staffing shortages in their country of origin. The finding emerged from a report: Mapping of Sierra Leonean Health Professionals in the United Kingdom, commissioned by IOM and produced by the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD). Report co-authors Moses Okech and Denise Awoonor-Renner interviewed over 100 Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, midwives, researchers, psychiatrists and health policy advisers. The report provides an overview of their location, educational, professional and employment profiles, and explores the extent of diaspora engagement from the UK. It also lays out some of the issues and challenges that need to be addressed to better harness Sierra Leonean healthcare diaspora skills. “What comes out strongly is that Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals are able, willing and ready to give to their country of origin. The policy framework and structures here (in the UK) and in Sierra Leone need to be improved to harness this passion and enthusiasm,” says Denise Awoonor-Renner. The report is the outcome of a year-long project by IOM exploring how acute human resources shortages in Sierra Leone’s healthcare system might be addressed through diaspora knowledge and skills transfer. “The Sierra Leonean government recognizes the important role that Sierra Leonean health professionals in the diaspora can play in improving healthcare in Sierra Leone. This report outlines some of the challenges and barriers that they face and suggests ways to overcome them,” said IOM Chief of Mission in the UK Clarissa Azkoul. Similar mapping exercises have also been undertaken in the US, Canada and Germany. *Source International Office of Migration (IOM)/APO ]]>
Senegal to host new company for Generic Drugs in Africa
January 28, 2014 | 0 Comments
Africa will soon have unbridled access to generic drugs for some of the most common ailments plaguing the continent with a daring move by some young Africans to set up a specialized company in Senegal. Led by Dr Ousmane Diouf, the project known as Sub-Saharan Generics intends to give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. Educated in some of the best Universities in Europe and with stints in prestigious pharmaceutical companies, the Team is not just out for business but also has the strong desire to give back to Africa. Herman Brodie. working as consultant for the project says it will manufacture “high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices.” Brodie says the interview has already been registered with a management team in place and there are expectations that with the right partners, production should start by 2015. First in your own word words can you give us a background into Sub-Saharan Generics? If you were a seasoned executive in the pharmaceutical industry and you wanted to give something back to your native Senegal, what would you do? If you had earned a Master’s Degree in Drug Design and a PhD in Organic & Medicinal Chemistry, what is the greatest contribution could you make, not only to your home country, but to the entire sub-Saharan region? Some might say support research towards a cure for HIV or some other cutting edge development, but Dr Ousmane Diouf would disagree. To help the maximum number of people using hard-to-come-by capital resources, it would be better to simply give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. The project Sub-Saharan Generics intends to do just that. It will manufacture high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices. Why the focus on the five diseases you have in mind and how prevalent are they in Africa? Generic drugs exist for all of these ailments and they can be manufactured cheaply. In the developed world they are so readily available most people take them for granted. In sub-Saharan Africa however, the cost is sometimes so prohibitive the sick often have to make the choice between buying food and buying essential medicines. Even when they are able to pay, supply disruptions sometimes mean treatments have to be delayed or interrupted. Alternatively, people rely on drugs from informal distribution channels, many of which are counterfeit and potentially dangerous. In 2000 it was estimated that some 7.5 million adults between the ages of 20 and 79 suffered from diabetes. This figure is much higher now of course and is set to double over the next 25 years. The prevalence of hypertension is also growing rapidly because of changing lifestyles and diets on the African continent. In the case of malaria, it is estimated that 90 percent of the annual 300 million acute cases worldwide, and the more than one million deaths, occur in Africa. Malaria is also responsible for a fifth of all child deaths on the continent, and approximately 200,000 newborns die each year because of infection during pregnancy. Similarly shocking are the numbers on tuberculosis: a quarter of the almost 10 million cases globally occur in Africa. Finally, who in the developed world can imagine not having access to basic painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin? So at what stage is Sub Saharan Generics now? Have you started producing the requisite medical products and if not, when should people expect to start using your drugs? S2G was registered as a limited company in Senegal in July 2013 and has already assembled a management team led by Dr Diouf. It is still in the process of raising capital from would-be investors, but already enjoys the support and endorsement of some key strategic actors including the country’s sovereign wealth fund and the Senegalese government. It has also acquired a plot of land at new industrial development just outside Dakar and will shortly begin construction of the manufacturing installation. Drug production is expected to begin in 2015. How different are your drugs expected to be from the ones that are produced by western pharmaceutical companies? No different. This is precisely the point. S2G drugs will be manufactured to the same exacting standards as those sold and consumed in Europe and in the US with respect to the cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products, and the World Health Organisation. What has been the reaction of the public to your initiatives? So far, only potential investors and key regional actors have been exposed to the project. The response, however, has been universally enthusiastic. Even investors who for reasons of geographical or sectorial constraints have not been able to commit capital to the project, have recognized the necessity and the merit of S2G’s ambitions. About your team or the brains behind this initiative, may we have an idea about the expertise you have or that is there to help in the success of the project? The management team is composed of experienced pharmaceutical industry professionals in the functions of R&D, finance, logistics, market research and technical analysis. Each member brings more than 20 years of experience to their respective domain and has been recruited from senior management positions. Collectively, they have considerable experience of drug design and production, and of construction and management of a drug production facility. Dr. Ousmane Diouf, Director of the Steering Committee and future President of the structure. Boumy Mr Gueye, Head of Buildings Design in compliance with cGMP and Site Director, Conakry, Guinea Mr Abdou Diagne, Business Analyst, Recruitment Officer, Human Resources Director and Chief Financial Officer Mr Cheikh Ahmadou Tidiane Diouf, Director Key Accounts, Project Manager Dr. Moustapha Diawara, Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jerome Theobald, Director of Strategy and Development Dr. Pierre-Yves Leroy, Technical and Scientific Director Dr. Birane Ba, Director of Marketing and Communications Mr Mamadou Sow, Chairman of the Supervisory Board In what way do you intend to strike a balance between the economic realities of the continent where many cannot afford drugs and profit incentives that drive business or at least to sustain your project? [caption id="attachment_8159" align="alignright" width="85"] Herman Brodie[/caption] The ‘economic realities’ you mention include severe poverty. Millions of people in the region live on less than one US-dollar per day. And even though, the vast majority of S2G’s output will be sold to the public sector, healthcare budgets are stretched in Africa in the same way as they are elsewhere in the world. The key, therefore, is to produce essential drugs more cheaply. In the price of a generic drug imported from a developed economy, labor probably accounts for up 80 per cent of the manufacturing costs. In Africa these labor costs are far lower, allowing for profitable production even with much lower retail prices. Also, we believe pharmaceutical companies need to be more intelligent with the packaging when operating in sub-Saharan Africa in order keep costs low. One way is to make sure that the package contains no more of the drug than the patient actually needs to consume. As unfortunate as it is, many African governments trivialize health issues, from budgets, to infrastructure, training of Doctors and so on, what is the situation like in Senegal where the project is located, what has been the response of the government? We do not believe this statement applies to Senegal. The current government has made the implementation of universal healthcare a major political goal. For under-5s and over-65s this is already a reality. Similarly, out of concern for public health, some drugs, like those for the treatment of tuberculosis, are already purchased centrally and distributed freely to the population. On the education front, the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar specializes in Pharmacology and is recognized in the West African region as a center of competence. Africa, well some parts of Africa are living through very exciting times and projects like yours are part of the reason people are growing increasingly confident, what does the continent need to get that break through, what needs to be to be done so that some of the genius of the Africans like you and others can be adequately put to the service of development? Africa simply needs more success stories. Who are some of the other partners that Sub Saharan Generics is working with? S2G already has the financial support of the sovereign wealth fund (FONSIS), the sovereign loan guarantee fund (FONGIP) as well as a number of domestic institutional investors. Among these are ASKIA Assurance Senegal and CNART Assurances (Compagnie Nationale d’Assurance et de Réassurance des Transporteurs), both insurance companies; and CSTT-AO (Compagnie Sénégalaise de Transport Transatlantique – Afrique de l’Ouest), a transport and logistics company. LOCAFRIQUE, a company that specializes in financing agricultural equipment, will support the venture in kind through the favorable conditions for leasing some of the equipment. The future suppliers of active ingredients for S2G’s drugs will include Navasep Synthesis (France), Axyntis (France), and Amyris (USA).]]>
Cameroon clamps down on illicit clinics
January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
Infections have rapidly fallen after aid groups and government ramped up treatment and prevention. In August, President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the outbreak a national emergency
© Otto Bakano/IRIN[/caption] Cameroon is cracking down on more than a thousand illegal clinics and medical training institutions that have sprung up mainly in the capital, Yaoundé, and the coastal city of Douala. Some clinics simply operate without a licence; others are run illegally from private homes. Some owners clandestinely use licences obtained under a so-called Common Initiative Group (CIG) – a government scheme to ease the establishment of not-for-profit self-help groups, which are exempt from taxation and need no proof of initial capital – to run clinics. More than 500 medical training centres and over 600 private clinics are set to be closed in a four-month operation launched in December 2013. “We have launched operations to bring order to the medical sector, which has gone out of control, with anybody now able to own a medical institution. Most of them lack the training, appropriate staff, equipment and infrastructure to operate either a medical training institution or a clinic,” said Biwole Sida, national health inspector at the Ministry of Health. Recently a patient with severe burns was brought to a private clinic in Yaoundé but had to be taken to a nearby government hospital because the clinic had been closed due to the crackdown. The clinic’s attendant arrived later and told IRIN that the facility actually still operates, though now only by phone-scheduled appointments. “Most patients come to the hospital at the verge of death after they have wasted time in small private clinics, which are not even equipped – be it technically or professionally – to handle emergency cases,” said Francois Penda, a medical officer at the government hospital where the burn patient was treated. “An accident like this is so complicated and requires very delicate [procedures] and sophisticated medical equipment. Any unprepared attempt on it will complicate the patient’s chances [of recovery],” said Penda. Costs But some private clinic operators say that the cost of medical care in government facilities is prohibitive. That is why most people prefer the small private health centres, they say. “The government hospitals cannot cater for all patients. They are usually crowded, making it difficult to receive proper treatment,” said Maxwel Fonyu, a laboratory technician and owner of small clinic in Yaoundé. “There are millions of people living in urban slums who depend on affordable medical care from private clinics found in their neighbourhoods. In my clinic for example, instead of asking for 5,000 francs [US$10] for a malaria test, like it is done in big hospitals, I only charge them 500 francs to conduct a malaria test [and to] prescribe and sell them medicines that are affordable and vital for their treatment,” Fonyu said. The proliferation of private clinics has, in part, resulted from a plethora of illegal medical training institutions. “There is a need to [better] regulate the whole sector in Cameroon. Most training institutions operate illicitly,” said Etienne Tsou of the Health Science Faculty at the Catholic University in Cameroon. Many of these private training institutions fail to provide formal instruction, he said. “I don’t see how a medical professional can be trained on the job and not through formal education. Most retired nurses and doctors think they are qualified to open their own centres and train others when they don’t have all what it takes,” Tsou said. Brain drain “The sector may lack qualified professionals, but putting the lives of innocent citizens in the hands of charlatans will lead to a bigger public health problem,” Tsou cautioned. “There are, however, many Cameroonians with good graduate diplomas, but their services are exported to countries where they are better paid.” According to the Ministry of Health, about 5,000 Cameroonian medical doctors are currently working abroad, with around 500 to 600 in the US alone. Tetanye Ekoe, the vice president of the National Order of Medical Doctors in Cameroon, said that out of the 4,200 medical doctors in Cameroon, only about half are actually practicing. About a thousand are on secondment to the Ministry of Health, where they mainly do administrative work. The rest are university lecturers or work with NGOs and the private sector. Bolstering training To improve the quality of health professionals, the government in 2013 carried out an evaluation of the 10 official medical training institutions. Four state universities and two private universities were then permitted to continue training. The government also introduced a national entrance examination for higher institutions under the supervision of the National Medical Council. For the first time in Cameroon, over 8,300 candidates sat for a common national university entrance examination in October last year, competing for 500 spots for medical doctors, 150 places for pharmacists and 150 places for dental surgeons. More than 500 medical students and some 5,000 nurses graduate every year in Cameroon, which has nearly twice the minimum health worker-to-patient ratio recommended by the World Health Organization, at 1.9 health workers per 10,000 (the sub-Saharan average is 1.3:10,000), according to a recent World Bank report * Source IRIN]]>
Government criticized as malaria deaths spike in Cameroon
November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
Doctors treating more than 12,000 victims of the disease say those who died in the past three weeks were mostly young children and pregnant women.
Heavy rains have flooded the region around Maroua, giving mosquitoes ideal breeding conditions.
“This is a severe and sudden epidemic. I see no end in sight,” Dr. Amos Ekane, a malaria specialist treating more than 2,000 victims in Maroua, told CNN.
Wednesday, a panel of Cameroonian journalists on state radio criticized the government for not spreading the news about the outbreak and not requesting international aid.
According to the Public Health Ministry, more than 12,000 people are seriously ill and have been admitted to hospitals. But there are fewer than 10 treatment centers are available to help those who’ve contracted the mosquito-borne illness, and thousands of children and women are forced to sleep in the open or in overcrowded rooms without mosquito nets.
“Three of my children have died here. Here is my wife lying helplessly with drips tied to this tree,” Abubakar Ardo Miro told CNN, pointing out the conditions at the overcrowded Maroua regional hospital.
“Only a few qualified physicians are available in the regional government hospital to handle malaria cases. This cannot yield a favorable result,” Ekane warned
The Cameroon Medical Council — a body governing the medical core in the West African nation — estimates a ratio of one doctor to every 40,000 patients. Less than 1,000 physicians currently work in the country, the council says, and toil under poor conditions and low wages.
“This is really a mess to the Cameroon government,” Tataw Eric Tano, a newspaper publisher in Cameroo, told CNN by phone.
The government footed the bill to transport thousands of voters to parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month, he said, but is not transporting dying patients to other areas with less-crowded hospitals.
Observers have criticized President Paul Biya of ignoring the mounting malaria death toll as he focuses on lavish preparations to celebrate his 31 years in the presidency November 6.
“Even the propaganda state radio CRTHealth experts blame the upsurge of malaria cases on the poor use of malaria nets that were distributed free of charge among nearly 9 million Cameroonians in 2010.V is talking against this,” said political analyst Prince Tanda.
But a dwindling economy and the scarcity of food has forced some families to use the nets for other purposes.
“There is no reason for me to sleep under this net while my children need food to eat,” Elias Mbengono, a local fisherman, told CNN as he demonstrated how he could use the nets to catch fish for his family.
Climate change researcher Kevin Enongene said recent heavy rains and flooding in Northern Cameroon have transformed villages into mosquito breeding grounds. Lake Chad continues to spill water over its banks and no levee has been created to stop the flood, Enongene said.
“This should be taken seriously,” he added.
Public health experts are now targeting the heads of families in a daily campaign to stave off the malaria epidemic in Maroua.
“Sleep under the mosquito bed net. Do not use them as fishing nets,” one campaign banner read.
But state public health officials are raising fears that the death toll could reach the thousands in the next few weeks if international support is not received soon.
More than 660,000 people around the world died from malaria in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.