UN, NGOs Shaken By DR Congo Sex Abuse Claims

A Venezuelan migrant is pictured in a humanitarian camp in Bogota

 

The humanitarian world has pledged to combat the scourge of sexual abuse within its ranks following shock revelations of alleged exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a report published this week, more than 50 women levelled accusations against aid workers from the World Health Organization (WHO), other UN agencies and major non-governmental organisations during the 2018-2020 Ebola crisis in the volatile eastern DR Congo.

A year-long investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian contained allegations of sexual exploitation, including propositioning women, forcing them to have sex in exchange for a job, or terminating contracts when they refused.

“The largest number of accusations — made by 30 women — involved men who identified themselves as being with the WHO,” the report said.

The WHO insisted Friday it was taking the “horrific” allegations “deadly seriously” and had launched an investigation.

The other UN agencies accused — the International Organization for Migration and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF — plus NGOs cited have done likewise.

– ‘Of a certain morality’ –
The Congolese authorities and civil society have joined the chorus of outrage.

“On behalf of the government, I condemn this kind of attitude,” said government spokesman David Jolino Makelele.

“We are going to strengthen our control over these kinds of missions,” he told Top Congo radio.

“We want them to send to us people of a certain morality.”

Congolese 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege urged victims to file complaints.

“We have very courageous jurists and lawyers. I do not think they will back down in the face of international organisations,” said the gynaecologist, who defends female victims of sexual violence.

The UN says it has learned from previous sexual abuse scandals, such as that involving peacekeepers in the Central African Republic in 2014 and 2015.

“We have now at the UN secretariat a database to which the agencies report in real time any abuse allegation,” Alessandra Vellucci, spokeswoman for the UN in Geneva, told reporters on Friday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has “a zero tolerance policy”, she stressed.

– Failing alert system –
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the system to help people to come forward clearly “doesn’t seem to have worked”.

“It is very, very painful for everybody involved with the best intentions in humanitarian assistance to see these cases emerge,” he said.

“No-one receiving humanitarian assistance anywhere in the world should ever be subjected to that.”

A UN executive contacted by AFP said donors, OCHA, the main UN agencies and NGOs “should sit down together and say ‘we have a serious problem here’.”

“The humanitarian world has yet to confront the problem squarely,” the official said.

The WHO played a leading role in the response to the 2018-2020 Ebola crisis, which was declared over on June 25.

Nearly 2,300 were killed — the highest Ebola outbreak death toll in the DRC’s history and the second-highest ever in the world.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press briefing in Geneva on Friday that he was “outraged” by the revelations.

“We come to save lives and spread hope. The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We will not tolerate behaviour like this,” he said, adding that perpetrators would face “serious consequences”.

– Lure of money, jobs –
“Horrified but not surprised,” a leading witness told AFP, on condition of anonymity, following the allegations in the report.

“All the ingredients came together,” the witness said, citing concerns “from day one”.

Among those ingredients was an influx of money and generally well-paid humanitarian workers into the poor region around the afflicted towns of Beni and Butembo.

A billion dollars poured in to tackle the outbreak, funding the activities of UN agencies and NGOs under the auspices of the DR Congo’s health ministry.

For poor locals, the influx represented a rare chance to find decent work as drivers, security guards and housekeepers with the anti-Ebola response teams.

“We are here to look for a job, so that we can have something to eat,” a woman called Salome told AFP in March 2019 as she waited with dozens of others outside an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo.

 

 

-AFP

COVID-19: AfDB Approves $2m Emergency Assistance For WHO

AFDB, Abia

 

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Tuesday approved $2 million in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

The grant, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip Regional Member Countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.

It is one part of several Bank interventions to help member countries address the pandemic which, while slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is straining already fragile health systems.

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Specifically, the WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels.

This grant “will enable Regional Member Countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa Region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities,” said the Bank’s Human Capital Youth and Skills Development Department.

The grant will contribute toward a $50 million WHO Preparedness and Response Plan, which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.

It is estimated that Africa will require billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scramble together contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns, in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies

Coronavirus: 24 Cases Have Been Exported From Italy To 14 Countries – WHO

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that 24 cases of coronavirus have been exported from Italy to 14 countries.

WHO also revealed that 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries.

In his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 28 February 2020, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month.

Mr Ghebreyesus who on Friday reeled out figures regarding the spread of the virus said that as of 6am Geneva time this morning, China reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: 10 Critical Things WHO Wants Everyone To Know

Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.

“Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy,” Mr Ghebreyesus told newsmen on Friday.

The Director-General also said that the continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern.

He, however, noted that WHO’s epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and have now increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level.

“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.

“As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.

“As I said yesterday, there are different scenarios in different countries and different scenarios within the same country,” Mr Ghebreyesus said while briefing the media.

According to him, the key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission.

Achieving Food Security: DG FIIRO Suggests Massive Deployment Of Technology

Food-itemsThe Director General of the Federal Institute of of Industrial Research (FIIRO),  Dr. Gloria Elemo on Friday urged the Federal Government to effectively fund research and development to strategically re-position the country to drive the necessary change for food security.

Speaking at Bells University in Ogun State, South West Nigeria, she said this is imperative especially at a time when the Federal Government is taking bold steps towards ban on importation of staple food items into the country

She also called on research institutions, universities across the country to rise up and play strong parts to ensure the realization of the agenda for food security and nutrition for the teeming population of Nigerians.

Dr Elemo maintained that to address this deficiency, a multipronged approach is needed, especially science and technology to ensure better quality of food and nutrition

She also challenged policy makers to be up and doing in driving the necessary action plans in this regard and suggested a strong political will, multi-sectoral coordination and cooperation among agencies of government and effective infrastructural development

Dr Elemo suggested that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology should sustain efforts in driving the evolution of a robust national system of innovation as a key pillar on Nigeria’s economic transformation.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report says about 45% of all child deaths are linked to food insecurity and malnutrition. The report also shows that Africa accounts for a larger percentage of this figure.

Guinea Monitoring 816 Ebola Contacts Following Flare-Up

Ebola-aid-workersGuinea’s Ebola coordination unit has traced an estimated 816 people who may have come into contact with victims of the disease or their corpses during a recent flare-up in a village in the country’s southeast, a health official said on Monday.

Guinea said on Thursday that it had discovered new cases of Ebola just hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared neighbouring Sierra Leone’s latest outbreak over. Four people have died in the flare-up in Porokpara.

“Since the start of the tracing on Saturday, we have traced 816 contacts in 107 families,” Fode Tass Sylla, spokesman for the coordination unit, said on state television. “We are optimistic because everyone is motivated and cooperating.”

The villagers will be quarantined in their homes for 21 days, after which time, if they have not developed symptoms, they will be released, Sylla said.

The world’s worst Ebola outbreak on record is believed to have started in Guinea and killed about 2,500 people there by December last year when the WHO announced an end to active transmission in the country.

More than 28,600 people have been infected and 11,300 have died, nearly all of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the epidemic began in December 2013.

Obiano Flags Off 2016 Immunization Plus Days In Ogbaru

Willie-ObianoThe Anambra State Governor, Mr Willy Obiano, on Thursday flagged off the 2016 Immunization Plus Days (IPDs) at Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state.

The governor urged parents to continue with the routine immunization of eligible children and report any anomalous development to health officials in case of any.

The Governor also encouraged mothers to be at the vanguard of the immunization exercise so as to prevent the dangerous virus from eating up the limbs of children.

Mr Obiano harped on why the polio vaccine should be administered to children, why commitment should be made to eradicate polio, and the need to ensure the sustainability of remaining polio free.

The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Willy Onuorah, commended the efforts of the government in ensuring proper mobilization for active participation of the required age group in the Polio vaccination exercise, adding that the state has remained polio free for over ten years.

Wife of the Governor, in support of the exercise, also gave mothers treated mosquito nets so that while polio eradication is targeted, malaria is also prevented as all are dangerous and a great challenge to children’s health.

WHO Declares Liberia Ebola Free

LiberiaLiberia has once again been declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This is the third time the WHO will be doing so, putting an end to the worst outbreak the world has had to deal with.

The “end of active transmission” was declared, after 42 days without a case in the country.

This was not the first time the announcement would be made as Liberia had been down the road twice, only for the disease to resurface.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has also urged West Africa not to throw caution to the wind but to maintain proper hygiene.

World Bank Fast Tracks Ebola Aid As Sierra Leone Calls For Help

EbolaThe World Bank said on Wednesday it would speed up delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to fight Ebola in West Africa, as Sierra Leone appealed for help in plugging gaps in its response.

On a visit to Sierra Leone, where the epidemic is spreading fastest, World Bank, President Jim Yong Kim, said the lender would accelerate disbursement of $162 million in emergency support to ensure the money was delivered in two years instead of three.

To help kick-start Sierra Leone’s economy, Kim said the bank would make available an additional $170 million over the next two years, mostly to strengthen infrastructure and agriculture.

“We’re accelerating our support to Sierra Leone,” Kim said in Freetown, during a tour of Ebola-affected countries in the region.

The worst known outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever on record has killed more than 6,070 people from 17,145 cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Despite Britain deploying hundreds of troops to its former colony, Sierra Leone is lagging behind Guinea and Liberia in its Ebola response, reporting 537 new cases in the week to November 30.

The WHO said uncertainty about data prevented firm conclusions about progress in eradicating the disease.

Sierra Leone President, Ernest Bai Koroma, said his country still had less than a third of the 1,500 beds it required and needed an additional four laboratories.

“While we do appreciate the increased presence, I must say that there is still the need for us to address the gaps that still exist in some areas of our intervention,” he said.

In a subsequent stop-off in Guinea, Kim said that a $153 million aid package to that country would also be delivered in two years, instead of the planned three.

Medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said in a report this week that one of the shortcomings in the Ebola response is the failure to deploy trained medical personnel, resulting in high rates of infection among local staff.

In a move that could relieve staffing shortages, 250 medical volunteers from the African Union are prepared to be deployed on Thursday from Nigeria to the worst affected countries.

The World Bank on Tuesday revealed that the epidemic would cost more than $2 billion across the region, causing once-booming economies to slow down or shrink.

Ebola Causing Food Shortages In West Africa

FoodThe United Nations has said that the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa was causing food shortages in one of the world’s poorest regions and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the disease was threatening the stability of stricken countries and their neighbours.

Doctors in Liberia were out on strike as they struggled to cope with the worst outbreak of Ebola on record, while the global aid organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said that 800 more beds for Ebola patients were urgently needed in the Liberian capital, Monrovia alone, while in Sierra Leone, highly infectious bodies were rotting in the streets.

Governments and aid organisations have scrambled to contain the disease, which according to the World Health Organization, has killed more than 1,500 in West Africa since March.

In an address to United Nations member states, MSF President, Joanne Liu, said: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.” She said that aid charities and West African governments did not have the capacity to stem the outbreak and needed intervention by foreign states.

Slamming what she called “a global coalition of inaction,” Liu called for the urgent dispatch of field hospitals with isolation wards and mobile medical laboratories.

MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said that biological disaster response teams were needed to support West Africa’s buckling healthcare systems.

First Taste Of Test-tube Burger Declared ‘Close To Meat’

The world’s first laboratory-grown beef burger was flipped out of a petri dish and into a frying pan on Monday, with food tasters declaring it tasted “close to meat”.

Grown in-vitro from cattle stem cells at a cost of 250,000 euros ($332,000), the burger was cooked and eaten in front of television cameras to gain the greatest media coverage for the culmination of a five-year science experiment.

Resembling a standard circular-shaped red meat patty, it was created by knitting together 20,000 strands of laboratory-grown protein, combined with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. Red beet juice and saffron were added to give it colour.

The two food tasters were reserved in their judgement, perhaps keen not to offend their host at the London event, noting the burger’s “absence of fat”.

Pressed for a more detailed description of the flavour, food writer Josh Schonwald said the cultured beef had an “animal protein cake” like quality to it, adding that he would like to try it with some of the extras often served with traditional burgers – salt, pepper, ketchup and jalepenos.

Even the scientist behind the burger’s creation, vascular biologist Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, was relatively muted in his praise of its flavour.

“It’s a very good start,” he told the hundreds of reporters who had gathered to watch the meat being cooked and served.

The Dutch scientist’s aim was to show the world that in the future meat will not necessarily have to come from the environmentally and economically costly rearing and slaughtering of millions of animals.

“Current meat production is at its maximum – we need to come up with an alternative,” he said.

MASSIVE SCALE

The World Health Organization (WHO) says meat production is projected to rise to 376 million tonnes by 2030 from 218 million tonnes annually in 1997-1999, and demand from a growing world population is expected to rise beyond that.

According to a 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), industrialised agriculture contributes on a “massive scale” to climate change, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation and biodiversity decline.

The meat industry contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion expected to grow as consumers in fast-developing countries such as China and India eat more meat, the report said.

Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, who was not involved in the research, said it was “great pioneering science” with the potential to ease environmental, health and animal welfare problems.

But, he added: “whilst the science looks achievable, the scalable manufacturing will require new game-changing innovation”.

Post said he was confident his concept can be scaled up to offer a viable alternative to animal meat production, but said it may be another 20 years before lab-grown meat appears on supermarket shelves.

He also conceded that the flavour of his meat must be improved if it is to become a popular choice.

Post resisted requests from journalists from all over the world eager to try a morsel of the world’s first cultured beef burger, saying there was not enough to go around.

Instead, he said, his children would be offered the leftovers.

($1 = 0.7528 euros)

Nigeria Awaits WHO’s Certification As Guinea Worm Free Country

The Federal Ministry of Health has called on Nigerians and government at all levels to support efforts for the eradication of Guinea Worm in a bid to aid the certification of Nigeria as a Guinea Worm free country.

This call was made by the national coordinator of the Nigeria Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, (NIGEP), Mrs Ifeoma Anagbogu  in Abeokuta, Ogun state capital at a sensitization programme on the disease.

Nigeria is awaiting the certification of the World Health Organization (WHO), in June as the country has continued to record zero cases of guinea worm diseases since 2008.

The national coordinator said all hands must be on deck to eliminate it from the affected localities

Although Nigeria is said to have recorded its last case in 2008,it needed the certification of WHO for it to be pronounced a Guinea Worm free country.

This necessitated this sensitization workshop for field officers from Lagos and Ogun states on proper records ahead of the WHO’S visit.

While explaining that certification by WHO will boost the nation’s health profile, Mrs Anagbogu said that the programme had already put in place sensitive surveillance structure for quick detection of the disease so as to contain it promptly if discovered at all.

Participants at the meeting include epidemiologists, village-based health workers, Disease Surveillance Notification Officers (DSNOS), NIGEP coordinators at the state and local government levels.

Guinea worm disease is a poverty-generating disease caused by poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water. It affects agricultural production adversely, incapacitates affected people and communities.