Daily Archives: February 1, 2019

Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson urges South Africans to protect and conserve wetlands

Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Barbara Thomson calls on South Africans to protect and conserve our wetlands as South Africa Marks World Wetlands Day

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms Barbara Thomson has urged South Africans to take a step towards protection and conservation of wetlands as South Africa joins the global community in marking World Wetlands Day on Saturday 2 February 2019.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on 2 February, with an aim to heighten education and raise public awareness on the value of wetlands and their vital contribution to human wellness.

Our activities in commemoration of this all important day will focus on awareness raising campaigns in schools around the North West and Mpumalanga provinces. However, we call on every citizen throughout the country to desist from activities that would compromise the integrity of our wetlands. It is all our responsibility to preserve our natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations, said Deputy Minister Thomson.

This year’s celebrations take place under the theme: Wetlands and Climate Change. The theme demonstrates the importance of wetlands as the planet’s most effective carbon sinks or storage that signify unrealised potential for climate mitigation and adaptation. Climate change is seen as a major threat to the survival of species and integrity of ecosystems on a global scale.

The ultimate objective is attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), specifically Goal 13 which urges parties to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, through strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

Wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, as they provide a number of benefits, not only to the natural environment, but also to the people’s livelihoods. Such benefits include: reduction of flooding, replenish drinking water, filter waste, and provision of urban green spaces. These benefits become more crucial as the number of people living in cities continues to increase, says Deputy Minister Thomson.

Despite being high-value ecosystems wetlands make up only a small fraction of the country. Once considered valueless wastelands that needed to be converted to other uses in order to improve their usefulness to people, many governments around the world, including South Africa, were still providing farmers with incentives to convert their wetlands for agriculture as recently as the 1970s.

Wetland ecosystems are important habitats for flora and fauna and hence are of national and international importance for conservation. They deliver a number of critical ecological functions, which include the regulation of water regimes, and support a significant percentage of the world’s biodiversity.

However, Ramsar Convention has reported that wetland loss and degradation is a major concern, as it contributes to global warming by transforming these natural carbon sinks into emission sources. The burning and draining of peatlands accounts for a tenth of annual fossil fuel emissions – while wetland degradation contributes to nearly a quarter of global methane release.

The recent National Biodiversity Assessment indicates that wetlands are the most threatened ecosystems globally, despite the services they provide. Wetlands in South Africa have enormous economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits. It is however sad to note that, to date, we have lost an estimated 50% of wetlands in South Africa due to unsustainable use and poor land management.

This draws a clear picture of the precarious state of our wetland assets. Consequences of wetland loss include diminished water security, desertification, reduced food security, increased vulnerability to natural disasters, especially floods and droughts. With climate change predicted to change rainfall patterns, our wetlands will play a more important role than ever before in reducing the impacts of floods and droughts, said Deputy Minister Thomson.

In an efforts to address wetland loss and degradation, the Department of Environmental Affairs runs the Working for Wetlands programme implemented through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The initiative has since 2004 rehabilitated 1 400 wetlands (approximately 68 000 hectares), while providing 27 000 job and skills development opportunities.

The most significant factor that enabled the emergence of Working for Wetlands was the availability of government funds earmarked for employment creation and poverty reduction, through EPWP.

Thus, Working for Wetlands pursues its mandate of wetland rehabilitation and wise use in a manner that maximises employment creation, supports small emerging businesses, and transfers skills to its beneficiaries. In line with EPWP norms, the programme targets those groups most excluded from the mainstream economy, with particular emphasis on women, youth and people with disabilities.

All rehabilitation interventions therefore aim to improve the condition and functioning of the ecosystem, and address both causes and effects of degradation.

Source: Government of South Africa

Six months into DR Congo’s deadliest Ebola outbreak, top UN official praises ‘brave’ response effort

Brave UN teams and partners leading the fight against deadly Ebola disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) along with Government authorities and peacekeepers there, have been key in helping protect communities, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday, six months after the latest outbreak began.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, was speaking to journalists in Geneva, where she said that challenges persist in overcoming virus hotspots in the north-east of the country.

We have some 500 staff on the ground at the moment, the great majority from the DRC, and also from WHO offices across the African region. Some of these people have been fighting Ebola since the first 2018 outbreak began in the west of the DRC in May. These brave people and colleagues really do make us all proud.

To date, Ebola has claimed 461 lives in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and 258 people have recovered from the illness, which attacks the immune system, causing internal-bleeding and major organ damage, if unchecked.

Dr. Moeti said that although there have been successes in bringing the disease under control in Beni and Mangina, the outbreak continues to affect a wide geographical area. There has also been a rise in the number of reported cases, including in Katwa health zone.

In addition to nine treatment centres, WHO has traced more than 45,000 people who have come into contact with suspected Ebola sufferers.

More than 69,000 people have been vaccinated in DRC to date, including 21,000 health-workers and 16,000 children.

More than 30 million people have been screened at the country’s borders and vaccinations have also begun in neighbouring South Sudan and Uganda.

Insecurity remains one of the biggest obstacles stopping health-workers from reaching those at risk in the vast country, in an area where more than 100 armed groups operate.

The situation in North Kivu is actually relatively calm compared to the pre-election period, and obviously calm is a relative term in North Kivu and Ituri, there’s a constant threat of violence and attack from non-government forces, said Dr. Mike Ryan, Assistant Director-General for Emergencies at WHO.

But I would echo Dr. Moeti’s thanks to our colleagues in MONUSCO (the UN’s stabilization mission in DRC) and the Force Intervention Brigade who continue to provide active defence for Beni, Butembo and surrounding areas.

An additional obstacle to healthworkers is suspicion among communities. Despite the challenges, major advances are being made in tackling DRC’s worst Ebola outbreak, helped by a new therapy now being tested on patients with their consent.

This is the first time we’ve managed to deliver so many therapeutics with the higher standard of care into an integrated system for managing patients in a safe and dignified way, he said.

The results are encouraging in the sense anecdotally when you look at those results you are seeing on the face of it higher levels of survival, he said, adding that we have to be extremely careful, there are lots of biases there regarding the condition of the patient when they arrivebut we are certainly encouraged by the data we’re seeing.

Source: UN News Centre

ICC Appeals Chamber Places Conditions on Gbagbo’s Release

PARIS After seven years detained at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and ex-youth leader Charles Ble Goude are free men � but there’s a hitch.

Presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji read out the unanimous verdict of the five-judge appeals panel.

“The conditions set out in the written judgement are imposed to Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ble Goude upon their release to a state willing to accept them on its territory and willing and able to enforce the conditions.”

It’s a small victory for ICC prosecutors, after the court’s stunning acquittal of both Gbagbo and Ble Goude last month. Judges said the prosecution’s case was “exceptionally weak” in trying to link the men to election-related violence in Ivory Coast in 2010 and 2011 that left roughly 3,000 people dead.

Both ICC prosecutors and the chief lawyer for the victims, Paolina Massidda, had argued for the two men’s conditional release. Massidda warned they presented flight risks and said their unconditional release might impact victims’ safety.

“Victims remain very concerned about the possibility the commission of further crimes and attempts to compromise the integrity of the proceedings if the defendants are released without conditions,” Massidda said.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit unsuccessfully argued that conditional release went against the very principle of his client’s acquittal.

He said liberty is an essential human right, and Gbagbo should be freed since he was acquitted.

Last month’s acquittal has intensified criticism of the ICC, which has convicted only four people in nearly 20 years of operation. One of them � former Congolese vice-president Jean Pierre Bemba � was later acquitted on appeals.

Critics say the court is ineffective and overly focused on African cases. Supporters note the so-called “court of last resort” is probing other regions of the world � and say the court has insufficient means to realize a daunting mandate.

Source: Voice of America

Minister Angie Motshekga sends condolences to families of deceased Driehoek High School learners

The Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga has learned with immense sadness of the passing of three learners at the DrieHoek High School in Vanderbijlpark this morning.

This tragic accident has surely traumatised the entire school community, but none more so than the parents who said good bye to their children this morning, not realising that it would be their last.

The Minister sends her deepest condolences to those parents and the entire school community during this time.

One cannot begin to imagine the trauma these parents are going through, especially those who are unable to identify their children due to the severity of their injuries. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this incredibly difficult time. I know words seem shallow at a time like this, however my condolences are truly sincere. I have been in contact with the MEC, Mr Panyaza Lesufi he has been on the scene dealing with these matters hands on.

I have been given assurances by the MEC that the Department will do everything in its capacity to assist grieving parents as well as those who have suffered injuries in getting through this tragedy. Said Minister Motshekga.

The 23 injured learners are being treated at various hospitals and the Minister wishes them a speedy recovery with the understanding that some are critically injured.

I am confident that these learners are getting the best care available and am hopeful that they will make a full recovery. Said Minister Motshekga.

The province have deployed psycho social support to assist those learners who are grieving with trauma counselling after this tragic incident.

Source: Government of South Africa

Gauteng Health pays salaries of interns and community service employees

The Gauteng Department of Health paid more than 552 internship and community service employees yesterday, 31 January 2019 and more payments are expected on Monday, 04 February 2019.

This follows a realisation of a possible delay in salary payments of statutory appointments.

The Head of Department (HoD), Dr Mkhulili Lukhele immediately sent out a communication informing hospitals CEOs of the delay in salary payments to alleviate panic amongst affected employees.

Salaries can only be processed after posts creation which must be preceded by endorsement by Provincial Treasury. This process happened in January. The endorsement is part of GPG checks and balances to ensure that the Department spends within allocated budget and the process is necessary for accountability purposes.

In order to address outstanding payments due to late submission of professional registration documents, another run is scheduled for Monday the 4th of February and it’s expected to pay out on the 7th of February 2019. A team is working round the clock to prepare for this next run, said HOD Lukhele.

Moreover, Gauteng Health always gets a large proportion of these interns and community service doctors who are required to complete this training as it’s a statutory requirement to qualify for the profession.

Currently the Department has a total number of 1528 trainees, however 1378 is the initial number that was allocated to the Department . An additional 150 was allocated to ensure that all students in need of internship are provided an opportunity to complete their studies.

We express regret for all the inconveniences caused by this mishap and we are prepared to do all in our power to ensure that it never happen again, concluded HOD Lukhele.

Source: Government of South Africa