Daily Archives: May 23, 2018

Two Patients Dead After Fleeing Ebola Ward in Congo

Two infected patients who fled from an Ebola treatment center in a Congo city of 1.2 million people later died, an aid group said Wednesday while asserting that “forced hospitalization is not the solution to this epidemic.”

As the number of suspected Ebola cases continued to rise, experts emphasized that more community engagement is needed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Three patients left of their own accord from the isolation zone of the Wangata hospital in Mbandaka city between Sunday and Tuesday, said Henry Gray, emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres.

One patient had been about to be discharged, he said.

“The two others were helped to leave the hospital by their families in the middle of the night on Monday. One of the men died at home and his body was brought back to the hospital for safe burial with the help of the MSF teams; the other was brought back to the hospital yesterday morning and he died during the night,” Gray said in a statement.

Hospital staff made every effort to convince the patients and their families not to leave and to continue treatment, Gray said.

Three Ebola deaths have been confirmed since Congo’s health ministry announced the current outbreak of the often lethal hemorrhagic fever on May 8. It was not immediately clear if the two deaths reported by MSF were confirmed Ebola ones.

Congo’s health ministry on Wednesday announced six new suspected cases in the rural Iboko health zone in the country’s northwest and two in Wangata. There are now 28 confirmed Ebola cases, 21 probable ones and nine suspected. Overall the death toll stands at 27.

“We’re on the epidemiological knife’s edge of this response. The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we’re going to be able to keep it under control,” Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization emergencies chief, told a World Health Assembly session Wednesday.

Worrying factors include the spread of confirmed cases to Mbandaka city and the fact that five health workers have been infected, signaling “a potential for further amplification,” he said. Front-line workers are especially at risk of contracting the virus, which spreads in contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, including the dead.

Finally, Salama said, the outbreak has “three or four separate epicenters,” making it more challenging to contain. “It’s really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak. It’s documenting how people are getting infected and therefore managing to control the transmission,” he said.

“We are following three separate chains of transmission,” he said. “One associated with a funeral that took place in a neighboring town of Bikoro; one associated with a visit to a health care facility more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) away in the small village of Iboko and one where we’re still gathering data on that’s related to a church ceremony.”

WHO is accelerating efforts with nine countries neighboring Congo to try to prevent the Ebola outbreak from spreading beyond the border.

The top two priorities are Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo near the epicenter of the outbreak, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s director for Africa, told the WHA session. The other countries are Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and, to a lesser extent, Uganda.

WHO began vaccinations this week and is using a “ring vaccination” approach, targeting the contacts of people infected or suspected of infection and then the contacts of those people. More than 600 contacts have been identified, WHO said.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.

The UK on Wednesday pledged another 5 million pounds ($6.6 million) to help combat the outbreak.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said simply: “We are watching it around the clock, 24-7.”

Source: Voice of America

South African Provincial Premier Steps Down After Anti-Graft Protests

South Africa’s leader of the North West province, Supra Mahumapelo, said Wednesday he will go on early retirement after weeks of protests against his leadership.

The protests over corruption and poor public services were some of the first signs of public discord since President Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February.

Earlier this month, South Africa’s national government took over the running of the troubled province in an effort to restore calm.

“I think it will be better for one to go on early retirement,” Mahumapelo told a news conference at the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in downtown Johannesburg.

Mahumapelo, a Zuma loyalist and senior figure within the ANC, said he had taken the decision to step down to dispel fears that he could seek to influence investigations into mismanagement in the North West.

Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on rooting out the corruption associated with Zuma’s nine years in power.

Source: Voice of America

Hit by Wild Weather, Kenya’s Herders Fire Up a Hot New Crop: Chili Peppers

In this arid stretch of Kajiado County, where worsening heat and drought have been tough on livestock farmers, Arnold Ole Kapurua is experimenting with a hot new crop: chilis.

Ole Kapurua, 29, a farmer and agronomist, now grows two acres of the fiery pods and is training other farmers to do the same as a way to protect their incomes in the face of harsher weather linked to climate change.

“With time we realized that we weren’t making good money as our livestock income stagnated,” he said. “During drought we lost our herds to hunger and diseases while during the rainy season we lost some to floods making us live on a lean budget.”

But after a bit of research, “I realized that chilis had climate friendly features,” he said.

While some farmers still rely entirely on livestock in the region, a growing number are now concentrating their energy on farming chili, which can be grown with limited amounts of water, said Samuel Ole Kangangi, another new chili farmer.

Over the last five years, more than 100 farmers in the region have begun growing chili, most after trying other crops, including maize and beans, that didn’t cope as well with drought and brought in little money, the farmers said.

Well-managed chili farms can produce an ongoing harvest over six months, with an acre of land producing up to two tons of peppers a week, Ole Kapurua said.

That level of harvest can bring as much as 80,000 Kenyan shillings ($800) a season, he said.

“That cannot be compared to livestock rearing as one cannot afford to be selling a cow every week, thus making chili farming a better option,” said the farmer.

Solomon Simingor, another farmer in Kajiado County, said a farmer with at least two acres of land can earn as much as three times more with chili than with cattle, in his experience.

To provide enough water to keep their plants irrigated, farmers in the region are turning to building small dams to catch water in the rainy season.

Mulch around the plants usually grass or plastic also helps hold onto limited water and keep down weeds.

Kenyan farmers have been growing and exporting chilies to Britain, Germany, Norway and France for about 10 years. Chili is also sold in local markets and supplied to supermarkets.

Many of the new farmers also have turned to eating the vitamin-rich peppers at home often fried with onions and meat in a dietary change for families in the region.

Now, “when children are asked to fetch vegetables from the farm, they also fetch chili as to them it is part and parcel of their diet,” Ole Kapurua said.

Paul Rangenga, a chili farming expert who has been advising farmers on taking up the crop and who runs a produce company, said he believes chlli can provide a workable alternative for herders dealing with worsening drought stress.

“Chili farming is a long-term form of investment and the risks involved are minimal, as the crops are drought resistant and well adapted to arid regions,” he said.

Source: Voice of America

Parliament on lack of adequate support to Abalimi Agricultural Cooperatives

Small Business Development Committee dissappointed by lack of adequate support to Abalimi Agricultural Cooperatives

The Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development has expressed disappointment at the lack of adequate support by department to the 12 Abalimi Agricultural Cooperatives which are the cooperatives’ pilot project in KwaZulu-Natal.

The committee understands that although the Abalimi cooperatives were initially funded R350 000 each by the department through its Cooperatives Incentive Scheme (CIS), the funds were insufficient to get them off the ground.

Subsequently, the committee has been briefed that Minister Lindiwe Zulu intervened in the interest of the cooperatives, but officials within the department defied her executive order.

We are appalled by this information and expects a report on the consequences faced by officials who are suspected to be the culprits. The funding of these cooperatives is in line with the ‘pro-poor’ agenda of the governing party in this country and that programme cannot be hamstrung by officials, said Ms Ruth Bhengu, the Chairperson of the committee.

The committee further instructed the department to populate a database of all failed cooperatives that it funded and ascertain the reasons for such failures.

Source: Government of South Africa

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu on intensifying audit support for municipalities

AG findings call for audit support for municipalities to be intensified

The Auditor General South Africa (AGSA)’s 2016/17 Audit Outcomes call for the ongoing Municipal Audit Support Program (MASP) to be intensified to improve accountability systems in troubled municipalities.

This is after the AG found that of the approximately R350 Billion total expenditure budget of 257 municipalities, 3,5% or R12,2 Billion of it was irregular expenditure mainly due to non-compliance with supply chain management regulations. In the majority, instances of non-compliance goods or services were received, however these were not necessarily at the best value for money.

In the 2015/16 Audit Outcomes, the AG recognised the MASP by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) as an intervention that was assisting municipalities that obtained adverse audit opinions, disclaimers of audit opinions and those with audits that were not finalized by the legislated deadline.

However, SALGA is concerned by the latest findings that show regressions reflected in the quality of financial statements, quality of performance reporting, the financial health of municipalities and increases in unauthorized, irregular and fruitless or wasteful expenditure.

Hence, the AG’s proposed amendments to the Public Audit Act which will also drive or incentivise consequence management where this is lacking at municipalities is welcomed. In a bid to intensify audit support, SALGA will be identifying appropriate capacity building interventions to enhance the capacity of municipalities to exercise strong accountability and consequence management.

Since the launch of the MASP in 2014, SALGA has provided hands-on support to selected municipalities in the form of assisting with financial accounting assistance, preparation of annual financial statements and providing technical reviews and guidance. In addition transversal support has been provided to all red zone municipalities through training in Councillor Capacity Building, Annual Financial Statements, Asset Management, Revenue Management, Revenue Enhancement, Debt Management as well as Internal Audit and Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) Workshops.

During the 2016/17 audit cycle SALGA is very pleased that amongst the 43 municipalities that was supported across the country, was the six municipalities that improved from a disclaimer or adverse opinion. These included Sundays River Valley and Inxuba Yethemba in the Eastern Cape, Mpofana in KwaZulu Natal, Emalahleni in Mpumalanga, Mafikeng in the North West, and Ga-Segonyana in the Northern Cape. Furthermore, through the MASP, the Prince Albert Municipality in the Western Cape also improved from an unqualified audit opinion with findings to a clean audit.

SALGA is committed to continue working with all key stakeholders, such as the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National and Provincial Treasuries, as well as municipalities to intensify audit support interventions for troubled municipalities in Leadership, Governance, Financial Management and Institutional Capacity, which are the four pillars of MASP.

SALGA also congratulates all the municipalities that performed well in the latest audit, and commends the AG for its continuing efforts in strengthening accountability and highlighting the state of local government in managing the public purse.

Source: Government of South Africa