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Africa

DRC refugees deported for looting food at refugee camp in Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government deported about 70 refugees back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in violation of international humanitarian law, the United States Embassy in Harare said.

Officials rounded up 80 refugees who were alleged to have looted food rations from the Tongorara Refugee Camp’s warehouse and put them in a Harare prison. Ten were found not guilty and the rest were deported according to Todayng.

“In August (last year) the government removed approximately 80 refugees accused of looting a food supply warehouse from Tongogara Refugee Camp and placed them in detention in Harare.

“The government forcibly returned approximately 70 of these refugees to the DRC in violation of international law, according to an international organisation,” the US Embassy said in its recently released 2021 Human Rights Report on Zimbabwe.

Established in 1984, the Tongogara Refugee Camp, near Chipinge, has a capacity of 15 000 refugees. Many use it as a transit zone as they escape into South Africa.

The DRC rejected some of the alleged thieving refugees only for them to be returned to Zimbabwe and put in prisons.

“DRC authorities rejected approximately 15 of these, whom the government then placed in detention facilities in Harare,” the report stated.

It was also noted in the report that despite a strict “encampment policy” that requires refugees to stay at the camp, some moved into the two major cities, Harare and Bulawayo.

“At year’s end, approximately 850 refugees lived in urban areas, including Harare and Bulawayo and more than 6 500 Mozambican asylum seekers lived among host communities along the porous border with Mozambique,” the report stated, adding that a substantive number of refugees were in Zimbabwean prisons.

Since legally, refugees in Zimbabwe should be in camps, employment opportunities in the outside world are non-existent. As such, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other partners provide camp residents employment opportunities, including banana farming, livestock production and soap production.

The report noted that many refugees were unwilling to return to their home countries voluntarily. Therefore, resettlement was the only viable solution.

However, Zimbabwe does not allow resettlement for refugees and pushes for their repatriation instead.

“While the government did not accept refugees from foreign countries for resettlement, it facilitated the voluntary repatriation of refugees to their home countries by recognising the Voluntary Repatriation Declaration Form as a valid document for travel purposes,” the report stated.

The report also highlighted that there was prolonged detention for undocumented migrants, who are often mistreated by other prisoners.

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Africa

Most Africa’s public health issues linked to climate change- WHO

More than half of the 2 121 public health events recorded in the past two decades in Africa were climate-related, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report to mark World Health Day.

Natural disasters had also spiked dramatically since 2010, with 70% of all-natural disasters occurring between 2017 and 2021 according to Today.ng

Floods were the most frequent, accounting for 33% of all reported natural disasters.

By definition, public health events were ones that represented an immediate threat to human health and required prompt action, and not limited to disease outbreaks and the spread of infectious diseases.

“The analysis found that of the 2 121 public health events recorded in the African region between 2001 and 2021, 56% were climate-related. The region is witnessing an increase in climate-linked emergencies, with 25% more climate-related events recorded between 2011 and 2021 compared with the previous decade,” the report stated.

Various United Nations agencies, global think tanks, and aid givers had since incorporated climate change awareness and mitigation in its programmes as the world, particularly Africa, was feeling the effects of global warming.

Part of the message being conveyed was that African governments should prioritize human well-being in all key decisions, stop new fossil fuel explorations and subsidies, tax polluters and implement WHO air quality guidelines.

Climate change-related issues had also become a political campaign rallying point.

On Wednesday, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera donated 10 000 kilograms of maize flour to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), to mark his 67th birthday in the country.

Dodma will then distribute to flood victims in various camps in the Southern Region of Malawi.

“While the president is thankful for the gift of life, he is mindful of the many Malawians whose lives have been disrupted by recent natural disasters, and this donation is his expression of solidarity with them and commitment to alleviating their suffering,” said presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda in a statement.

Because of climate change, “the entire foundation of good health is in jeopardy with increasingly severe climatic events”, WHO said.

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), southern Africa was one of the most affected parts of the world, with reoccurring natural disasters such as flooding.

As such, WHO noted that waterborne diseases were on the rise.

“The WHO analysis found that water-borne diseases accounted for 40% of the climate-related health emergencies over the past two decades. In Africa, diarrhoeal diseases are the third leading cause of disease and death in children under five. A significant proportion of these deaths is preventable through safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene,” the organisation said.

The WHO analysis revealed that vector-borne diseases, notably yellow fever, accounted for 28% of the climate-related health emergencies, while zoonotic diseases, specifically Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever, were the third most prevalent. Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever is a viral disease transmitted to people from ticks and livestock and had an outbreak fatality rate of up to 40%.

 

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AfricaFoodHealth

WFP Partners Government of Japan to support DRC refugees in Angola

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes a contribution of US$ 293,000 from the Government of Japan to support resilience building activities for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) residing in Lunda Norte province.

Japan has been one of the main donors to our refugee assistance operation and has already contributed US$ 875,000 between 2019 and 2021

“The Japanese government is firmly committed to promoting the humanitarian-development nexus and helping rebuild self-reliance opportunities for refugees,” said Maruhashi Jiro, Ambassador of Japan to Angola. “The proposed livelihood activities will also contribute to social cohesion through the involvement of host communities in asset creation.”

The contribution from Japan will support 125 refugee families (around 500 people) with food assistance for six months whilst providing them access to agricultural inputs (tools and seeds) and training opportunities on modern farm technologies, animal husbandry, and post-harvest management. The selection of families and necessary assessments are starting in April 2022, while the trainings coupled with food distributions are scheduled to start in July.

“Japan has been one of the main donors for our refugee assistance operation and has already contributed US$ 875,000 between 2019 and 2021,” said José Ferrão, Head of WFP Office in Angola. “This new contribution will allow WFP to start building a path to self-sufficiency for our beneficiaries, since our eventual goal in Lovua settlement is not just to help refugees meet their basic food requirements, but also to assist them in restoring their livelihoods.”

In February 2022, WFP assisted nearly 7,000 refugees with general food distributions providing maize meal, pulses, vegetable oil and salt. WFP recognizes the pressing need to reduce their dependence on food assistance and has been working with Government and partners to engage refugees in food production and promote opportunities for their increased self-reliance.

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Agriculture

UN programme’s new phase to target countries in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific to empowering rural women

Four United Nations agencies today announced the forthcoming launch of a new phase of a joint programme that aims to secure rural women’s livelihoods, rights and resilience to advance sustainable development.

The ‘Joint Programme: Accelerating Progress Towards Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment’ (JP RWEE) is a partnership between the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, UN Women, and the three Rome-based agencies, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The programme which began in 2014 seeks to expand its funding base and further scale up to additional countries.

This new five-year phase of the programme will initially focus on Nepal, Niger, the Pacific Islands, Tanzania and Tunisia, thanks to the generous support of Norway and Sweden who have committed approximately US $25 million towards the programme.

“This partnership builds on previous success and demonstrates the impact of combining expertise to achieve significant results for rural women. These results include increased agricultural productivity, economic autonomy, and leadership roles. We are grateful to Norway and Sweden for the opportunity to scale up the programme in both existing and new countries, keeping the rights and needs of rural women firmly at the centre,” said Sima Bahous, UN Women, Executive Director.

This programme has shown that rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development

Rural women face structural barriers including discriminatory policies, legislation and social norms which hinder their access to services, resources and opportunities. They carry the disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work and are often excluded from participation and leadership in rural public life.

“This programme with its holistic approach is a great vehicle to improve rural women’s livelihoods. Lessons learned from the first phase show that it is crucial to secure funding from the onset of the programme and we encourage other donors to join us in this important effort to empower rural women,” said  Astrid T. Tveteraas, Head of Section for Food, Department for Climate and Environment, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

“This programme has shown that rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. Sweden is pleased to support the second phase in new countries. Equally, Sweden is eager to support approaches and lessons from the programme that can push the overall global development of women’s economic empowerment further,” said Lotta Sylwander, Lead Policy Specialist Gender, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The programme builds on the comparative advantages and strengths of FAO, IFAD, UN Women and WFP to address the multi-faceted dimensions of rural women’s economic empowerment, which includes access to opportunities, resources and services, including land, credit and technology. The programme works with national governments to advance policy change, with local government to ensure policy implementation, and with local communities and households to tackle unequal power dynamics and discriminatory social norms in order to achieve deep rooted and lasting change.

The first phase of the programme was implemented in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda from 2014 to 2021 and reached approximately 80,000 rural women. The participants achieved, on average, an 82 percent increase in agricultural production, generated over US $3,600,000 from on-farm and off-farm sales and almost US $2 million through savings and loan schemes. Programme results also showed greater economic autonomy for rural women, more gender equitable household relations and increased numbers of women in leadership positions.

The new phase of the Programme will be formally launched at a side event during the 66th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on March 23rd, 2022.

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Agrictech

Rural women embrace agroecology to overcome social and environmental hurdles in Africa

Around a third of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers on less than two hectares of land. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage is much larger, with some 60 percent of the population engaged as smallholder farmers in food production and processing. At least half of these farmers are women, who specialise in seeding, weeding, transplanting, harvesting, post-harvest work, processing, marketing and, in some areas, land preparation.

This year’s International Women’s Day recognized the contributions of women and girl leaders and change-makers around the world who are fighting for sustainability in the face of the ongoing climate crisis. Despite their crucial role in agrifood systems, women are faced with enormous challenges, including exclusion from decision-making, denial of essential productive resources such as land, water, credit, information, and technologies, and disregard for their deep knowledge of local contexts. In addition, they are disproportionately affected by climate and weather-related disasters, constituting 80 percent of people displaced by climate change.

On 9 March, the FAO Regional Office for Africa paid special tribute to African rural and indigenous women and their contribution to climate action and sustainable agrifood systems transformation through an interactive online dialogue with leaders from the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems and ENDA Pronat. The virtual celebration highlighted how rural and indigenous women are actively promoting healthy food systems through agroecology, regenerative approaches, and indigenous foodways.

Challenges to women producers in Zambia and Uganda

In the Central Province of Zambia, interviews by the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems revealed that many women had no control over the land they use for farming, which belongs to their spouse or relatives. “We have land, but to use it for farming, I have to seek permission from my husband, who decides on the type of crops to grow and how to use the proceeds from our sales,” said Universe Mafuta Mazaba. Restina Mumba, a Petauke-based farmer. She said how hard it has been for her to acquire land from the traditional leaders: “The chiefs should help us not only to access land but also give us certificates for our land, so that our children can also benefit from it. This is the time to advocate for our rights. We want to be independent to grow food that has nutritional value.”

The virtual celebration highlighted how rural and indigenous women are actively promoting healthy food systems through agroecology, regenerative approaches, and indigenous foodways

In Uganda, female small-scale farmers are facing growing competition for land. Nagitta Rose, a 57-year-old farmer in the Mityana district was once a prominent farmer whose produce was enough to feed the entire community. Unfortunately, her husband was involved in a motorcycle accident, which left him bedridden and unable to protect their land. Since then, their 5-acre farm has been facing different claims of ownership. With no title deed and formal proof of ownership, Nagitta is at a loss to defend the land from encroachers.

Limited access to financial resources and credit exacerbates the challenges faced by these women, who are often excluded from land entitlement schemes and may have difficulties understanding lending policies due to reduced access to education. To further complicate their situation, rural and indigenous women are confronted with unreliable seed storage facilities, which represents a threat to food security in the local communities, since much of the food produced comes from their seeds.

Resilience through agroecology

Notwithstanding the financial, legal, environmental and technical obstacles posed, rural women farmers continue to show admirable tenacity. A key ally in empowering these women to continue working the land is agroecology. Agroecological approaches include diversification of crops, conservation tillage, green manures, organic compost, biological pest control and rainwater harvesting.

In Zimbabwe, for example, women have been using traditional knowledge passed down from their ancestors to control pests and diseases without having to depend on chemical pesticides. Nyengeterai Munyani, a vibrant farmer in her 70s, has seven hectares of land on which she grows small grain crops. To preserve her crops and control pests, she makes use of a variety of organic methods: “I use leaves from paw trees, which I crush while they are fresh and mix with water. I spray my crops with this solution and that deals with the pests and diseases. There are also indigenous trees like mutsviri and mutovhoti whose barks we burn and sprinkle the ashes on our crops.” In the Masvingo province, producer Gogo Mumvuri also practices diversified farming and organic methods of pest and disease control to lessen environmental impact. “When I plant different crops on the same piece of land at the same time, it reduces pests. I also use bark from trees in our area like the mukonde tree, whose ashes get rid of pests,” she said.

The adoption of agroecology has also united local communities by providing sharing and learning opportunities for rural women farmers. In the Shashe region of Mashava, Zimbabwe, Vongai Mudzingwa, a 48-year-old seed custodian, explained how agroecology reduced her farming workload, improved her social life, and united her community: “When planting and harvesting, we call our neighbours and work together as a team. This has fostered unity among us. We are now united because we make use of mushandirapamwe.” Mushandirapamwe is a Shona word that loosely translates to working together as one, and it is a very common practice among women seed custodians in Shashe. “Thanks to agroecology, we even have free time on our hands. As women seed custodians, we formed a stokvel (club) where we meet every Thursday to share agroecology farming ideas and exchange seeds, as well as other kitchen equipment and groceries we buy with money we get from selling our farm produce,” she added.

African rural and indigenous women remain undeterred in their commitment to the practice of agroecology and continue to play crucial roles in maintaining healthy food systems.

International Women’s Day reminds us that every day should be dedicated to recongizing and supporting women such as Universe, Restina, Nagitta, Nyengeterai, Gogo and Vongai. It reminds us that we have a critical role to play in tackling discrimination in women’s access to land and natural resources, and addressing gender gaps in rural education, training and finance. Breaking legal and cultural barriers to women’s full engagement in agrifood systems is key to achieving better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life – leaving no one behind.

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Africa

Improving adolescent and youth health services in DRC

Nineteen-year-old Armande* recalls her disastrous first visit to a health centre.

“It was awful,” says the teen from Kongo Central, in western Democratic Republic of the Congo. “I was younger then and looking for information on HIV, and the nurse there made fun of me in front of everyone because of my age.”

Adolescents face a range of health and societal problems: sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, sexual violence, early and unwanted pregnancy, and early marriage.

In Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government is working to provide access to quality sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents and youth. According to the Strategic Plan for Health and Wellbeing for Adolescents and Youth (2021–2025), a third of the population is aged between 10 and 24 years. Yet only 17% of youth and adolescents used health services in 2021.

To improve service quality, World Health Organization (WHO) has supported the implementation of an innovative collaborative learning project backed by the Global Fund. Service providers work together to identify, discuss and propose solutions for common problems – all while strengthening capacity and developing positive attitudes, which then feed into the health services provided to adolescents.

“Young people and adolescents need services that are tailored to them,” says Fidèle Mbadu Muanda, Director of the National Programme of Adolescent Health. “Collaborative learning is about strengthening capacities and changing attitudes among service providers. We’ve aligned the norms and policies linked to youth-oriented health services according to WHO guidance.”

In addition to providing technical guidance for the project, WHO supported trainings and the design of quality materials for providers.

For Dr Symplice Mbola Mbassi, adolescent and youth health specialist at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, collaborative learning is innovative on multiple counts.

We’ve aligned the norms and policies linked to youth-oriented health services according to WHO guidance

“It allows people to take stock and identify for themselves what needs to be addressed, as opposed to classical approaches to training, where the themes tend to be imposed on trainees. They teach and inspire each other from their own experience and good practices,” she says.

The project was launched in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over 2018 and 2019, covering six districts in the provinces of Western Kasai (Mbuji-Mayi) and Kinshasa. Jeannette Mudipanu, a nurse in Makala’s Saint Clément Hospital Centre who participated in one of the 32 sessions, says she experienced a profound shift in perspective.

“It’s important to understand the individual,” she said. “From there, we must take the time to listen, patiently and without judgment.”

Youth attendance is now up at Saint Clément: available data shows that around 600 adolescents visited the centre between July and December 2020, as compared with 280 over the same period for the previous year. Exit interviews show a 100% satisfaction rate with the services received.

The new approach was evident right away when Armande visited.

“It was night and day,” she says, comparing it with her first experience. “The first thing I noticed was the way I was greeted. The nurse saw me in a private space and responded to my questions without judgment. I got advice on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, avoiding early and unwanted pregnancy, and how to use a condom. She did mention abstinence as the best choice but also acknowledged that it can be hard for young people like us to stick to. Most importantly, she corrected some of the misinformation that’s been going around.”

Service providers seize each opportunity to refute some of the most harmful myths in circulation.

“I had heard that the lubricant on condoms causes cancer, so I used to absolutely avoid those condoms,” Armande admits. “I also used to think that having sex was the only way to transmit HIV.”

HIV/AIDS prevalence among Congolese youth aged 15 to 24 is 0.23%, as compared to a national average of 1.2%, according to Spectrum 2021 and the Demographic and Health Survey (EDS 2013 – 2014). Mortality due to early pregnancy remains a scourge: according to the 2021 Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Report, youth and adolescents under age 19 account for 11% of deaths.

Based on initial success and lessons learned in the six pilot districts, the project now aims to scale the collaborative learning approach to 25 zones in five provinces.

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Interviews

Our aim is to meet the social, economic and health challenges of vulnerable communities- AHC founder, Clarisse Mefotso Fall

In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2022 and celebrating the virtuous, ambitious women with selfless contributions and commemorating the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women across the world.

Clarisse Mefotso Fall is one of the powerful leading women with great achievements, track records, and a multi-award winner. She hailed from Cameroon, a wife, mother, and dedicated professional woman in the field of public health having graduated from Mount Saint Vincent College with a master’s degree in public health in the area of policies and systems, and served in various positions.

In this interview, Clarisse Mefotso Fall shares her experience, challenges, and success stories with ADEWALE ADENRELE

You are the Global President of 1000 African women’s Networks; can you tell us the aims and objectives of this organization?

Eric Leroy Adams,
New York City Mayor with Clarisse Mefotso Fall

I am the founder and executive director of the African Hope Committee, a non-governmental organization that was founded in 2003, and registered in 2004. And before that, I was a manager in an NGO in New York for 5 years. Which makes nearly 20 years of career in Public Health. AHC is based in New York and more precisely in Harlem. We provide services to the African population and other immigrant groups in the field of social, education, health, and immigration. AHC serves an African community not only locally but also across the United States as part of its immigration services. Internationally, AHC has developed activities in the field of education, health, and the eradication of poverty in French-speaking African countries such as Senegal, Niger, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as English-speaking countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Ghana.

What have been the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of leadership for you?

The secret of my success is multiple. From the beginning of my career, I surrounded myself with a committed (dedicated) and competent team with which I shared a common mission and objectives. Supported by a board of directors dedicated to my vision, I have drawn up a development plan for each of the staff who have and work for AHC. As a public health expert, I was able to define and assess the needs and problems within the African community living in New York and developed and implemented social, health, and educational activities there. responding to these challenges. I have continually cultivated professional and cordial relationships with our donors, sponsors, and partners

What are your major responsibilities as DOJ Accredited Representative and how have you impacted your position on the populace and what are your success stories so far?

I serve as The DOJ Accredited Representative at the African Hope committee. As defined our mission, we provide immigration as well and this came out at the time, we were aggressively creating outreach campaigns on HIV/AIDS in the community. The immigration needs were well demanded. The board saw it as a huge service to provide in the community even if this was to begin by educating families about their illegal and legal status. I was then proposed to join immigration programs that will prepare me to be accredited. I have been accredited for 12 years, being that one must renew its accreditation every 3 years. African Hope Committee ROSE immigration service ( ROSE) Right to Organize for Social Equality.   ROSE is my mother’s first name, a woman who likes justice and fairness for all and continues to live her through HOPE and FAITH.  I deal with the immigration cases that come our way, namely asylum and refugee immigration applications, family reunification, obtaining immigration visas for students, changing statutes, work permit applications, and more. AHC has been able to meet the demand of the African immigrant community living in New York under this program by assisting them in securing their green cards through some of the immigration programs mentioned above. This is our pride.

With your leadership role and vast experience working with international organizations, accredited organizations on global projects linked to United Nations; what are the needs in Africa? What will it take to build entrepreneurship and employment in Africa? And what are you trying to do to move the needle, especially in Cameroun?

With my leadership role and my experiences working in community health, with the board members,  AHC has always aimed to meet the social, economic, and health challenges of vulnerable communities by providing lasting solutions. The African community residing in New York is confronted with problems of integration, health, housing, learning the English language, finding employment, a complete lack or inadequate medical coverage, and faced with unprecedented immigration problems. Unlike in Africa, people are more confronted with poverty in general. The need to build more schools that are adequate to compete with the kids in America or Europe, to build a vocational program that builds our kid’s skills where some can progress to become great entrepreneurs, businessmen, and computer technicians. What we’ll take to build not only entrepreneurship in Africa but programs geared towards building our children’s skills is to mobilize government institutions and continue to address the SDGs 20230. AHC has begun to address programs that build youth skills so they could grow to be independent and this to a country like Cameron, Senegal, The Republic of Congo/DRC, Niger, Nigeria Through our member presidents and vice-presidents under AHC Network called 1000 African Women Network.

1000 African Women Network members attended the 2019 CSW63 at the United Nations 🇺🇳

In the past 20 years, sub-Saharan Africa has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the world. The number of female legislators on the continent has increased, would you consider yourself as a politician someday?

This is a question that most people asked me. Currently, I serve as an African Commissioner at the Newark Mayor’s Office in New Jersey. I was appointed in June 2021. I have worked for more than 20 years in the social areas. Our work will never be achieved without reaching out to politicians and partnering with their offices to address issues that affect our communities. The question you asked if I consider myself a politician one Day? We never know where our career will take us. Working in this area of public health does not distance you from working with politicians. I meet, Presidents, Ministers, congressmen and women, Mayors, Deputies, Elected Officials from around the world from these high level social, economic, and political forums, especially during global events such the CSWs, The General Assembly, and during some of the State Address by Assemblymen and member s of the Congress.

In 2009, Former First Lady Michelle Obama recognized your humanitarian work and activities; would you tell us what she told you and the kind of award?

Since 2004, thanks to an effective referral system and the collaboration of our local partners, NGOs, and government institutions, we were able to provide health education and host health summits for more than 7 years consecutively. Reaching women, men, girls, and boys in New York. For example, I have been honored with several awards as well as proclamations from members of the American government, including members of Congress and Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg on 3 occasions in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The most rewarding award was the Awards from The NYPD, where I was the first African Descent woman to receive such an award in New York for caring for the immigrant community. In 2009, we also received The Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s recognition with her own words: “Movement for real and lasting change is sustained by the relationships we build with one another. Thank you for your support. Michelle Obama.”  This is simply a recognition of the hard and sustainable work we bring to the community. A lasting effort, durable and lasting. As a humanitarian herself, she understands what it takes to bring a community together to create a sustainable service.

You are the Founder & Executive Director at African Hope Committee, Inc, what motivated or inspired this great concept?

Once again thank you for the opportunity to speak in your journal. My name is Clarisse Blanche Mefotso Fall.  With my background in public health, I have developed a great passion for education. My father is a retired educator in Cameroon and had worked all his life in educating kids. I guess I got that from my father with the only difference being that I am in the Field of Health, Public Health and I have obtained a master’s degree in Public health with tracks in policies, systems, and community health.

Attending The C3-Arab Summit during UNGA 2018 - Picture with Honorable Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. UNGA is United Nations General Assembly
Attending The C3-Arab Summit during UNGA 2018 – Picture with Honorable Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. UNGA is United Nations General Assembly

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. Can you tell us how to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all?

African Hope Committee as an accredited organization with the United Nations ECOSOC Program works to reinforce the UN Women ideas that act to empower women and girls across all its programs and advocacy. We continue to address each year at the CSWs Gender Equality with the hope to make progress towards sustainable development by 2030, leaving no one behind. In 2020, right before CSW64, we hosted a Gender Equality forum in Cameron by reaching out to students and bringing them together at the Ecole Bilingue Wafo in Douala Cameroon. This was a great success in empowering young women and boys with the issues of inequalities. We hope to conduct such a program in Africa by mobilizing government and private institutions to develop a program that will not leave anyone behind in terms of education and employment.

African Development Magazine would like to be part of your team reporting your activities; will you give us this chance and support us?

Communication is key in our society. Social media and marketing are very important in the progress of our society. We continue to build partnerships with news media and social media that will help advance our mission and bring exposure to the work we do. We are honored to build a partnership with your journal to help cover African issues around the globe.

African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?

African Culture is the most ancient culture starting with Egypt. As we all know, of all the countries around the world, African culture stands out. From its beautiful attire to the languages, food, arts, and nature itself.  It is rich and very diverse as it keeps changing from country to country in Africa. Many cultures and traditions are found in the country. And this brings the attraction to many people to visit the continent.  People are kind, polite, and very humble in general.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can u share with us the most amazing memory?

Before talking about some of the amazing memories in my life, are the wonders of life that define me daily and bring joy, pride, satisfaction, and motivation in my life. I am a happy wife and mother of 4 young adults including 3 grandchildren.  The best memories are working and guiding young college and high school students to aim high in their lives; to work with men, women, girls, and boys even children to create a positive image of our community around the globe. Imagine bringing together the African Community to partake in the AIDS WALK for over 4 years. Hosting High-Level Health and Social program by mobilizing the international and the local community to partner and participate at the events. To expose members of the international communities at the United Nations, High Level, Social and Economic Forums. To build Ngo’s skills and provide them with more tools that will reinforce that knowledge, especially with the SDGs. To create a global network that brings people from around the globe. To travel to different countries to address public health issues. As an author of a book entitled CLARISSE BLANCHE released on March 5th, 2019, I get to talk to people about my book which is found in Amazon and other major book stores around the world.

What advice would you give the younger ones?

My advice for young people is that the most important thing is to build faith, hope, and trust yourself. Focus on your education and be positive and stay away from trouble. Respect your parents, your elders, your teachers, and yourself. Invest as soon you begin to work because this one thing lacking especially in the Black and African Communities. We must advise our children to invest earlier to minimize financial stress. Not to be strained financially as you grow older.

Thank you for sharing with us.

You are welcome!

ADM2022

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AfricaAfrica AsiaEconomyHealthInterview storyInterviewsPersonality Interview

Digitization helps reduce redundancy, improves efficiency of healthcare professionals – Sudhir Rathore   

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is complex and fast-growing with hundreds of laws, policies, and regulations, the wide range of potential professions and jobs, and daily developments in diagnosis, treatment, and medication, healthcare organizations have a lot to keep track of — and doing so thoroughly and professionally is vital to their success and the health of their patients.

Healthcare consultants are so valuable. Although becoming a healthcare consultant takes years of education, time, and skill development, it’s a position that’s crucial to the success of healthcare organizations across the globe.

Sudhir Rathore is a Healthcare entrepreneur and consultant with a primary focus on the African continent and he has worked in senior positions in various capacities with healthcare organizations like Fortis healthcare and Aster healthcare, also with prestigious groups like Aditya Birla Group and TATA in India. He bagged Bachelor of Science, Master of Business Administration degrees.

Sudhir founded SURJEN, a Healthcare delivery start-up, and integrated technology, health for medical services providers to achieve better healthcare delivery objectives in Africa. He is rated as among one of the best healthcare executives in Nigeria.

Sudhir Rathore is also a co-founder, director, and principal consultant at Troika Consulting. He shares his experience with ADEWALE ADENELE on why he focuses on Africa, the role of digitalization, and the future of the healthcare industry.

Below are excerpts:

How and why did you begin your journey as an independent consultant?

After working with various organizations for 15 good years in senior positions one thing I realized was that the independence to work on your dreams is not something that comes easy. So, it’s like searching for absolute freedom in my professional career has encouraged me to start afresh as an entrepreneur. My years of experience in the Nigerian healthcare system helped me to contribute and add value to the healthcare industry.

Which industries or work areas are you typically involved in?

Sudhir Rathore
Sudhir Rathore

My work area is exclusively Healthcare, which includes working with Hospitals, Laboratories, Pharmacies, etc. The idea is to change the way healthcare is delivered in Nigeria. We want the healthcare delivery system to be more accessible, economical, and trustworthy

Can you think of any client story in the healthcare industry that you are especially proud of?

We have helped more than seven thousand patients in accessing quality healthcare through us, be it heart surgery for small kids, kidney transplants, gynecology surgeries, spine and brain surgeries, gunshots, or accidents we have assisted all sorts of patients. One specific patient I would like to mention was a few years back when he was shot in the head in Makurdi during a random shooting incident by armed robbers. We received a call around 11:30 pm to evacuate him and bring him to Abuja. It was very difficult in the middle of the night by the road looking at the security situation, we arranged an air ambulance to airlift him to Abuja and performed successfully in one of the hospitals in Abuja. We were able to save a life.

Do you think the pandemic has affected consulting in the healthcare industry, and have you seen an increase in a specific type of project?

Pandemic has affected many industries at large; however, it has given a stimulus to the hospitals around the world. We are a part of the consulting team of a private University Teaching Hospital coming up in Abuja, which was conceptualized and built during a pandemic. Pandemic also has helped diagnostic laboratories to build their infrastructure and provide quality and comprehensive services to the masses in Nigeria. A lot many investors are now investing in healthcare diagnostic businesses in Nigeria.

What role do you think digitalization will play in the healthcare industry?

To me, digitalization is the basis of easy accessibility and cost-effectiveness of healthcare services delivery to the masses in Nigeria especially primary healthcare. Web-based digital healthcare services like www.surjen.com  provide primary healthcare services to the patients from the comfort of their homes, be it blood sample collection, booking hospital appointments, Teleconsultation, second opinion for chronic diseases, or referral to hospitals in case of advanced treatments. Such digital healthcare services are not only cost-effective but easily accessible by the patients. In secondary and tertiary healthcare institutions digitization not only helps reduce redundancy but also improves the efficiency of healthcare professionals.

What trends will have the biggest impact on the healthcare industry? And how do you think companies should better prepare?

Healthcare industry is one of the most challenging industries as compared to others like software, space, or automotive. The industry is regulatory heavy, approvals for new products and procedures take years leaving less room for innovators and investors. However, there is a change in both the attitude of the regulatory bodies and investors in the last couple of years. The way various vaccines are developed against pandemics using newer technologies within a limited time has opened up a newer avenue for industry players, regulators and investors. They are more receptive now and willing to move ahead together.

I think genetic research coupled with AI technology is a new goldmine for investors and will bring out better resources for healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies to treat diseases like sickle cell which is predominant in Nigeria, cancers, Alzheimer’s, etc.

How do you think the healthcare industry will change over the next 5 to 10 years?

Healthcare industry in Nigeria is already going through a positive transformation. There are treatments and surgeries which were not happening in Nigeria before but are being done frequently in hospitals in Abuja and Lagos. So, things are changing. However, we need to aggressively counter the challenge of brain drain. A lot of young doctors after training from Nigerian institutions move abroad for greener pastures leaving the country’s healthcare system to suffer. I think both the Nigerian government and private healthcare players should bring out opportunities in terms of training and growth of these doctors within Nigeria so that such migration can be discouraged.

Nigerian Healthcare delivery system can change with the intervention of the government by providing subsidies on importation of equipment, consumables, medicines, etc. It should also be liberal on imposing various taxes on healthcare facilities and most importantly is to make available capital at single-digit interest rates through banks. Covid intervention fund from CBN is one such welcome move by the federal government but this should not be the only one.

Do you think there are any advantages for companies using independent healthcare consultants?

Pix; Middle: Sudhir Rathore and his staffs
Pix; Middle: Sudhir Rathore and his staffs

Consultants bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with them that’s why they are called consultants. Expecting a good doctor to be a good businessman and a good management professional at the same time is asking too much from him. It takes a lot of people with different skill sets and knowledge to successfully run a healthcare institution be it a hospital or a laboratory, it’s a team effort always. A consultant guides the total business entity to a growth path by integrating each department cohesively and eliminating any friction.

What are the most exciting aspects of working in the healthcare industry?

Respect before money. This is probably the only industry where you respect your customer and your customer equally respects you. Secondly, the blessing you receive when you have done your job well and the patient has recovered, nothing can match that. However, this is also an industry that comes with heavy responsibility

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

Yes, one amazing story I would like to share with you. This family whose one-year-old daughter was detected with a hole in the heart and was referred to me by one cardiologist to undergo surgery in India. When I discussed with the hospital in India the bill was coming out to be around 6000 dollars for the surgery. Meanwhile, the father of the child sought to meet me; I didn’t go to my office on that day so I invited him to my house. When he came what I saw was a military sergeant in uniform. I discussed with him the process and cost of surgery, and he said that he can’t pay as he is not that financially strong and he has much support from his family. That pained me as much as I could emotionally connect to him as my father was also in the Military. I vowed to help him within my best capacity. I called the hospital in India and pleaded with him that we need to get this surgery done within the bare minimum cost. After initial hiccups, the hospital thankfully agreed and they diverted the patient through an NGO making the whole surgery free of cost for the family. Later the father sends me an emotional email with lots of blessings. I will never forget that man, what I saw in him was my father. Life is good, that’s what I can say.

African Development Magazine would like to be part of your team and report your activities, will you give us this chance?

Sure, why not.

Thank you for sharing with us.

You are welcome, Thanks to ADM

  ADM 2022

 

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Health

US-CDC supports Nigeria’s progress towards AIDS-free generation

Since 2019, Nigeria has nearly doubled the number of children and adolescents receiving lifesaving HIV treatment services. The country has also increased the percentage of children under nine years old that have achieved HIV viral suppression from 60 to 84 percent. The US-CDC-supported Faith-Based Action for Scaling Up Testing and Treatment for Epidemic Response project, or FASTER, facilitated significant progress among these populations.

The US-CDC Country Director, Dr. Mary Boyd, disclosed this in Abuja at the close-out ceremony of the FASTER project. The project was implemented in collaboration with CDC Comprehensive HIV Service Delivery Implementing Partners, the Government of Nigeria, and other stakeholders in the FCT, Nasarawa, Benue, Lagos, Imo, Enugu, Delta, and Rivers states, to catalyze priority interventions, especially for children and adolescents, towards improved HIV service delivery and health outcomes.

Dr. Boyd said, “In many ways, FASTER came to set the trend, to demonstrate that innovations in Pediatric HIV care and treatment are possible and that it can make a difference in saving lives.”

FASTER focused on reducing structural barriers to care, expanding innovation, and scaling up what works. NASCP’s, Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu acknowledged the critical contributions of the FASTER initiative, particularly in ensuring that infants received timely early infant diagnosis and treatment by introducing point of care testing utilizing GeneXpert platforms.

FASTER focused on reducing structural barriers to care, expanding innovation, and scaling up what works

The CDC Country Director noted that the FASTER initiative delivered on its objectives and was instrumental in ensuring innovations in case-finding, such as caregiver-assisted HIV self-testing. Rapid turnaround time for early infant diagnosis, pediatric viral load testing for timely decision making, and accelerated adoption of optimized pediatric regimens. FASTER also impacted the roll-out of Operation Triple Zero (OTZ), an asset-based approach to HIV programming for adolescents and young people (AYP) and was instrumental in strengthening the retention in care of mother-infant pairs.

Dr. Boyd noted, “While significant progress has been made, we still have work to do. For example, estimates show that about 85,000 children living with HIV in Nigeria still do not have access to treatment. However, we now know those innovations and best practices that do work, and we are well on our way to ensuring equity in the care available for every child living with HIV.”

The Country Director expressed gratitude to the 100s of religious leaders who partnered with US-CDC and have become champions for the children’s health in their communities. “Such efforts will remain part of the history of Nigeria’s HIV epidemic control success story,” she added.

FASTER was funded through a US-CDC Headquarters co-operative agreement in 2019 with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). In addition to Nigeria, the project was implemented in Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

US-CDC is one of the key implementing agencies of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  The FASTER program exemplifies the ongoing efforts of the U.S. government to assist countries in achieving sustained epidemic control of HIV by supporting equitable health services and solutions, enduring national health systems and capabilities, and lasting collaborations.

Since 2003, the U.S. government, through PEPFAR, has invested more than $85 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response and saved more than 20 million lives, working in 54 countries.  In Nigeria, PEPFAR has invested more than $6 billion in the national HIV/AIDS response. Some measures of our success include nearly 1.8 million, women, and children currently on HIV treatment in Nigeria.

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Africa

Somalia makes history by hosting its first ever health research conference in Garowe

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the importance of health research in finding solutions to health challenges. To address the most urgent health priorities using evidence-based solutions, the Ministry of Health and Human Services of the Federal Government of Somalia and National Institute of Health (NIH), with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, convened the first ever health research conference in Garowe, Puntland, from 30 January to 1 February 2022.

Some of the brightest Somali minds came together at the event ─ 200 national and international researchers ─ to present 51 unpublished research abstracts, showcasing new evidence and best practices around public health actions in Somalia which were neither researched before in the country by anyone nor had any evidence been generated before on these priority public health issues. Overall, Somali authors submitted 91 abstracts; the rest were either published already or did not meet the expected criteria.

Dignitaries who participated in the conference included: HE Dr Fawziya Abikar Nur, Federal Minister of Health and Human Services; HE Dr Jama Farah Hassan, Minister of Health, Puntland; HE Per Lindgarde, Ambassador of Sweden to Somalia; Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative to Somalia and Head of Mission. Representatives from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Public Health Agency of Sweden (PHAS) and African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), and colleagues from the University of Umea and the Gothenburg University in Sweden also participated.

Professor Khalif Bile, Chair of the NIH Board of Directors and the Scientific Committee for the NIH Research Conference, spearheaded the event, taking it from an idea to reality. Under the leadership of Dr Abdifatah Diriye Ahmed, NIH Executive Director, the NIH Public Health Specialist and research focal person, Dr Mukhtar Bulale, organized the conference, bringing together all relevant stakeholders.

Institutions supporting the NIH

WHO extended financial support to the conference, through the Alliance for Health Policy and System Research (AHPSR), which aims to build health systems research capacity for low and middle-income countries and use new knowledge and evidence from public health research to set policies that support system building. The AHPSR promotes the generation and use of health policy and systems research to improve health systems in low- and middle-income countries, such as Somalia, while developing the research capacity of institutions, systems and individuals.

Other partners of WHO supporting this first ever research conference include the PHAS, which provided financial support to the conference, and collaborates with the NIH, in addition to AFENET and SIDA, which offer regular technical support to the NIH’s activities.

Members of academia from 32 public, private and international universities attended the conference, and supported the NIH team at various stages of planning and implementation.

Young, budding Somali researchers light glimmer of hope

Participants at the conference included scientific and technical committees, organizers, presenters, stakeholders, panelists and partners. The scientific committee for the event assessed abstracts, mentored some of the authors whose abstracts needed further refining, and developed guidelines and checklists for peer reviewing the studies.

Of the 51 researchers, seven were female. Additionally, 10 trainees from the first ever Frontline-Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP-Frontline) conducted in Somalia in 2021, with support from WHO, the PHAS, AFENET and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC), offered support to conduct the research conference.

Sadia Hussein, one of the two trainees from the first FETP cohort who presented an abstract, and a WHO Public Health Specialist, explained that she got the idea for her study while she was working in Deynile, Banadir, as part of the FETP field work. She added she enjoyed participating in the conference as it was a forum where researchers and experts came together with policy-makers to display their research skills, while highlighting gaps in the health system, and linking research to the bigger picture in health.

Researchers presented on an extensive range of topics 

I encourage you to come up with a national health research agenda and improve collaboration between the public and private sector, especially universities

Researchers presented their findings on six themes that had been selected after taking into consideration the Essential Package of Health Services (Somalia EPHS 2020), universal health coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Researchers presented 10 abstracts under the theme of health systems; 15 as part of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; 18 under communicable diseases; 8 as part of noncommunicable diseases. Panelists delivered 12 informative presentations related to the themes of health research production and dissemination; and research training and capacity-building, linking research to action.

Presenters stimulated thought-provoking discussions between the sessions, including around strengthening pharmacovigilance and drug regulation; increasing and motivating human resources for health; occupational safety of health workers with the introduction of new diagnostics, improving access to health care for women; and providing compassionate care while maintaining dignity and the privacy of female patients. They discussed how to reduce and eliminate the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); and recruit assistant community-based midwives to improve maternal health care in rural areas. The only experimental study that was presented focused on ‘Effects of the Coenzyme Q10 on the Peripheral Nerve Injury: An Electrophysiological Study’, presented by a university professor.

Furthermore, participants debated over how to address the high burden of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Somalia, and the need to deploy community health workers to enhance early detection of the disease, in order to reach the SDGs’ target of ending tuberculosis epidemics by 2030. These rich discussions aim to spur changes in policies and programming eventually.

Introduction of the first Somali Health Action Journal

As another significant milestone, the NIH Board of Directors launched the Somali Health Action Journal (SHAJ) at the conference. This is the first Somali health journal that will receive articles, facilitate their review by peers, motivate Somalis to conduct further research, write and publish new articles, and take up opportunities to disseminate and use research for policy-making and the design of useful programmes.

The editors of the journal committed to supporting young Somali researchers by mentoring them where possible. The journal aims to inspire the young and future generations of Somali health professionals to study different topics that will lead to innovations in health in the country.

Research must address country’s problems

HE Dr Fawziya Abikar Nur, Minister of Health and Human Services for Somalia, praised the NIH, its board of directors, and scientific committees for motivating several young Somalis to present their findings on crucial health topics.

“I encourage you to document these national efforts ─ both what works and what does not work and why ─ but, above all, provide us solutions that can address the challenges we face,” she said, while thanking the partners who made the event a resounding success.

While lauding the Government of Somalia for its exemplary role in organizing a milestone event of this kind, and commending international researchers for visiting Puntland for the historical gathering and partners such as the PHAS for their support, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik inspired young and experienced Somali researchers by announcing that WHO will work with the NIH to introduce state-of-the-art libraries in all ministry of health buildings of Somalia. He also added the WHO would award the young researchers nominated by the NIH for the best research presented in future conferences.

Dr Malik reminded the audience that in 1990, it was noted that only 10% of global health research was allocated for addressing 90% of global health problems. A commission set up to address this problem warned that if this disparity was not changed, the world would experience a large burden of infectious diseases, increasing rates of tuberculosis, malaria, and epidemics of noncommunicable diseases including heart diseases. As predicted, Dr Malik explained, the world is now seeing a high burden of these diseases, including infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

“I encourage you to come up with a national health research agenda and improve collaboration between the public and private sector, especially universities,” said Dr Mamunur Malik. “Also, research needs to contribute to improving national health. For example, diarrhoea and malaria contribute to a high burden of diseases but people do not have access to health services. Research should help address issues like this, and how to improve access in fragile settings like in Somalia, address health inequities, and increase access to drugs so people lead healthier lives.”

Putting Somalia on the global research map

On behalf of the NIH team, Dr Mukhtar Bulale explained that the sessions were successful and led to rich discussions with questions being answered, which was a flagship symbol illustrating useful nationally owned health research.

“Even though we started small, this conference has put Somalia on the global research map. Seeing young researchers put their best foot forward has given us immense hope that Somalia’s health research development is undergoing a recovery phase. We saw at the conference a unity of purpose, solidarity and eagerness for research partnerships and solutions to challenges. I urge stakeholders to ensure we do not miss the opportunity to support these young, dynamic researchers,” Dr Bulale said.

At the end of the conference, the Federal Ministry of Health, NIH, and stakeholders advocated for sustained investment in health research to further promote the Essential Package of Health Services 2020, which would benefit the Somali population. They also resolved to promote health system research, linking it to public policy formulation, while ensuring it focuses on addressing existing barriers to health service delivery. This implies the development of a national research agenda to invest – attention, resources and skills – in research that will result in improved health outcomes for the populations, and thematic areas where more evidence is required to inform policies and strategies. Together, they also committed to foster cooperation between the public and private sector in health system research, and to promote the development of innovative technologies and approaches. The partners resolved to strengthen the links between evidence generation and health care provision, while calling on all national and international stakeholders to develop the capacity of learning institutions and to facilitate high-quality research in the country.

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