Daily Archives: February 23, 2017

Press Releases: Protecting Slave Related Sites and Antiquities

On February 27, cultural heritage professionals from Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and South Africa will gather in Charleston, South Carolina for a Department of State sponsored workshop on the protection of sites and antiquities associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Organized by the U.S. National Park Service, the workshop will focus on legal, national, community, and other strategies to protect this heritage from damage and loss due to vandalism, theft, and other threats.

The workshop is the first of two organized to support cultural heritage professionals from partner countries in their efforts to apply cultural preservation policies and best practices at slave trade sites, improve protection of sites associated with the slave trade, foster community engagement as a means of site protection, and support terrestrial and submerged resource survey and stewardship. This workshop supports the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

A second workshop focusing on historic and archaeological site management will take place in April 2017.

For press inquiries, contact ECA-Press@state.gov, or 202-632-6452.

&#39Time running out&#39 for 1.4 million children in &#39man-made&#39 crises in Africa, Yemen &#8211 UNICEF

21 February 2017 &#150 Almost 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition this year, as famine threatens in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, warned the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), urging prompt action to save them.

&#8220We can still save many lives. The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made,&#8221 said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release issued by the UN agency today.

&#8220Our common humanity demands faster action,&#8221 he underscored.

According to UNICEF, as many as 462,000 children in Yemen &#8211 where a conflict has been raging for the past two years &#8211 are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This figure has risen nearly 200 per cent since 2014.

Similarly, in conflict affected parts of northeast Nigeria, including Adamawa, Borno and Yobi, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition is expected to reach 450,000. According to a famine early warning system, the famine likely occurred in some previously inaccessible areas of Borno, and it is likely ongoing, and will continue, in other areas which remain beyond humanitarian reach.

Furthermore, in Somalia, droughts threaten an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict: almost half the population (6.2 million people) faces acute food insecurity and is in need of urgent relief, 185,000 among them children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. There are fears that the number could rise to 270,000 in the next few months.

In South Sudan, a famine was recently declared in parts of the country, adding to a humanitarian situation already complicated due to poverty and insecurity. Over 270,000 children are severely malnourished in the country and the total number of food insecure people across the country is expected to rise once the lean season sets in.

In its response, UNICEF, working with partners, has been providing therapeutic treatment to 220,000 severely malnourished children in Nigeria, over 200,000 in both South Sudan and Somalia, and 320,000 children in Yemen.

However, more action is urgently needed.

&#8220Time is running out,&#8221 said Mr. Lake. &#8220We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa.&#8221

Device rapidly, accurately, inexpensively detects Zika virus at airports, other sites

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ZikaDevice rapidly, accurately, inexpensively detects Zika virus at airports, other sites

Published 23 February 2017

About the size of a tablet, a portable device that could be used in a host of environments like a busy airport or even a remote location in South America, may hold the key to detecting the dreaded Zika virus accurately, rapidly and inexpensively using just a saliva sample. While scientists across the world are scrambling to find some sort of immunization, researchers are working to develop a diagnostic tool to reduce the impact of the outbreak until a vaccine is identified.

About the size of a tablet, a portable device that could be used in a host of environments like a busy airport or even a remote location in South America, may hold the key to detecting the dreaded Zika virus accurately, rapidly and inexpensively using just a saliva sample. While scientists across the world are scrambling to find some sort of immunization, researchers from Florida Atlantic University are working to develop a diagnostic tool to reduce the impact of the outbreak until a vaccine is identified.

“Most of the Zika cases in the United States and especially in Florida are travel related,” said Waseem Asghar, Ph.D., lead investigator and assistant professor at the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and in the Department of Biological Sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “We are working to develop a tool that can be used without expensive laboratory equipment and skilled technicians in various settings like an airport or a community health center to provide reassurance to expectant families and those concerned because of recent travel. For about $2 and within 15 minutes, we hope to accurately determine whether or not an individual has an active infection.”

FAUnotes that currently, patients are diagnosed by testing whether they have antibodies against the Zika virus in their bloodstream, however, the antibody test cannot discriminate accurately between the Zika virus and other flaviviruses such as Dengue, West Nile virus and Chikungunya. The more accurate method for detecting the virus is by looking for pieces of the viral genome in a patient’s blood sample using a test known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR is costly ($20,000+), bulky and requires highly skilled laboratory personnel to operate. Furthermore, results for PCR testing can take hours to yield results.

“Flaviviruses are found in mosquitoes and ticks that may infect people and cause a range of mild-to-fatal diseases,” said Asghar. “Because flavivirus antibodies cross-react with one another current tests cannot distinguish between them.”

This new device is based on technology that Asghar and colleagues developed to detect HIV. It uses inexpensive paper- or plastic-based materials, a cassette-sized container holding up to 12 samples at a time and a receptacle about the size of a tablet. These materials are easy to make, easy to use, and can easily and safely be disposed of by burning, providing an appealing strategy for developing an affordable tool for diagnosing the Zika virus in developing countries as well as low- and middle-income countries where there is limited laboratory infrastructure.

They are working to adapt their device to diagnose the Zika virus, and recently received a $199,280 one-year grant from the Florida Department of Health to establish proof-of-principle and then further test and commercialize this device.

“We would also like to thank FAU’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE) for providing seed grant support to develop a Zika test, which significantly contributed to the development of our current device prototype,” said Asghar.

Asghar’s collaborators on the grant are Massimo Caputi, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and associate professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, whose research is focused on identifying novel therapeutics for HIV; and Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, whose research is focused on infection of human and insect cells with flaviviruses and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

The Zika virus, transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, is especially dangerous for pregnant women, and is linked to several severe birth defects transferred to the fetus – including microcephaly – a condition in which a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth.

From 1 January 2015 to 15 February 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed 5,040 Zika virus cases reported in the United States, with 4,748 cases in travelers returning from affected areas. Florida has the highest cases of the Zika virus at 1,069 reported cases with 214 cases acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission and the majority from travelers returning from affected areas.

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News in Brief 23 February 2017 (AM)

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UNMISS chief David Shearer on his visit to Yambio on 22 February. Photo: UNMISS

Security essential to reinvigorating South Sudan “bread basket”

Improved security is essential to reinvigorating what has been called the bread basket of South Sudan, the  head of the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, David Shearer, has said.

Mr Shearer was making his first field trip to the town of Yambio in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan, an agricultural region which has typically provided a wide range of food products for the rest of the country.

Production has slowed because farmers are no longer able to plant crops due to ongoing insecurity and displacement.

Daniel Dickinson is the Spokesperson for UNMISS.

“Security is the key to getting famers back to their land,” Mr Shearer said after meeting Gbudwe State officials in Yambio. He said that security was also essential on the road network to allow trade and the distribution of agricultural products. He praised the State authorities for their commitment to boosting agricultural production and moving towards self-sufficiency.”

A famine has been recently declared in certain parts of South Sudan where, according to UN estimates, five million people desperately need food.

UNHCR opens new camp in Uganda for South Sudan refugees

A new camp has been opened in northern Uganda’s Arua district by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and its partners to host the thousands of refugees arriving from South Sudan.

More than one million people have been forced to flee the country to seek safety since a conflict erupted in 2013.

The new Imvepi settlement is expected to accommodate up to 110,000 new arrivals.

South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third after Syria and Afghanistan.

But, says UNHCR, it’s getting a lot less attention and funding.

Warring parties in CAR urged by UN to protect civilians

Parties to the conflict in the Ouaka and Haute Kotto provinces in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being urged by the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, to protect civilians and fulfil their human rights obligations.

Since the beginning of 2017, there have been deadly clashes between rival armed groups in these provinces, forcing civilians out of their homes.

This renewed violence has led to gross violations of international humanitarian law and breaches to the protection of civilians.

The violent conflict in CAR has affected nearly the entire population and has left some 2.3 million people, over half the population, in dire need of assistance.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 2’34″

EU Supports WFP Food Assistance And Air Operations In Sudan

KHARTOUM – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed two generous contributions totalling €8 million from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), enabling WFP to provide food assistance to refugees, nutritional support to mothers and children and continue operation of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in Sudan.

WFP will use the first contribution of €5.5 million to provide four months of much-needed food assistance to 31,000 refugees in Kassala State through cash-based transfers (food vouchers). WFP will also use part of the funds to provide five months of nutritional support to 86,600 children under five, and pregnant and nursing women, all of whom are at risk of malnutrition across Sudan.

The second contribution of more than €2.5 million will help WFP to continue to provide vital air services for the humanitarian community across Sudan. The WFP-operated UNHAS facilitates the movement of humanitarian workers to particularly remote and hard-to-reach locations across Darfur and in central and eastern Sudan.

“The humanitarian needs in Sudan are staggering. 5.8 million people, or 15 percent of the population, is in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of conflict, malnutrition, climate hazards or displacement,” said Sophie Battas, Head of Office in Sudan for ECHO.

“EU support to WFP will help humanitarian workers to reach the malnourished and uprooted populations across the country and alleviate their most pressing needs. The European Commission is committed to continue providing needs-based humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people in Sudan,” Battas said.

The EU has been one of WFP’s major donors in Sudan in recent years. Since 2012, the EU has contributed over €114 million (over US$140 million) in humanitarian aid to WFP operations in Sudan. These contributions enabled WFP to meet the food requirements of the most vulnerable groups in Sudan, especially those affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

“WFP is very grateful to the European Union for its continued support to our operations in Sudan,” said WFP Sudan Representative and Country Director Matthew Hollingworth. “These two contributions will allow us to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to vulnerable refugees, including young mothers and their children, while enabling us to continue to provide aviation services for the humanitarian community.

Sudan is one of WFP’s most complex operations, with recurring conflict, new and protracted displacement of people, insecurity, and crisis levels of malnutrition and food insecurity. WFP provides food assistance to vulnerable people in Darfur and other food insecure groups in the east and border areas to the south.

In 2017, WFP plans to assist 4.2 million vulnerable people in Sudan through a range of activities, including emergency food and cash-based transfers, nutritional support and resilience-building activities to support communities to become independent. This includes internally displaced people, refugees, El Niño-affected populations and host communities.

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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media @wfp_mena

For more information, please contact:
Abdulaziz Abdulmomin, WFP/Khartoum, Tel. +249 183248001 (ext. 2123), Mob. +249 912167055, email: Abdulaziz.abdulmomin@wfp.org