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Africa: Uganda confirms cases of Ebola, three death

Health authorities in Uganda have confirmed the death of three more Ebola patients in the country, days after declaring an outbreak of a strain of the disease in a central district.

In a statement released on Friday, the health ministry said the total deaths attributable to the outbreak – confirmed and suspected – stood at 11.

It also said the total number of confirmed cases now stood at 11 after four more infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours. Nineteen others suspected of contracting Ebola were receiving treatment at a hospital, the ministry added.

Authorities declared an outbreak – attributed to the Ebola Sudan strain – in the district of Mubende on Tuesday, announcing the death of a 24-year-old man. Mubende is about 130km (81 miles) from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. It has a typically high death rate, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Human transmission is through body fluids, with fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea the main symptoms

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments. People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

The WHO says the Ebola Sudan strain is less transmissible and has shown a lower fatality rate in previous outbreaks than Ebola Zaire, a strain that killed nearly 2,300 people in the 2018-20 epidemic in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

At present, there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighbouring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone.



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Sports News: Golfers Fetes Farombi, Relishes Benefits Of Health Mobile App

Members of the prestigious Ibadan Golf Club (IGC) have been congratulating the former lady captain of the club, Dr. Temitope Farombi over the second year’s anniversary of her health company, Ohealth App while relishing many benefits they have derived as golfers using the health app.

The Captain of IGC, Tunji Oladosu in his remark said the club is proud to associate the former lady captain and her functional telemedicine app that is so beneficial to golfers and the populace.

Oladosu however wished Dr. Farombi well on the second anniversary of the Ohealth and many more years of advancement, while enjoining other golfers to explore the benefits derivable to them from the health app.

Speaking in the same vein, Otunba Abimbola Davis, a distinguished member of IGC and the Chairman governing council of the International Psychometrics Centre (IPC) also attested to the proficiency of the health app in his golfing activities and utilization of Information Technology for the betterment of our society.

Davis who said he can’t do without playing golf despite the cumbersome nature of his work because exercise is important for optimal health and golf is a good way to exercise both mind and body urged fellow golfers to embrace the new normal after the pandemic outbreak and tap into the big opportunities abound in Information technology.

The manager of Ibadan Golf Club, Kolawole Ogunjobi also congratulated the former lady captain of the club, saying Farombi is an asset to the club because she always finds time to counsel the golfers on the importance of their health checks whenever the need arises.

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OHealth At Two: UCH CMD Highlights How Telemedicine Has Improved Healthcare Services In Nigeria

The Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Professor Jesse Abiodun Otegbayo has explained how the invention of telemedicine has helped healthcare delivery in the country sharing his experience with Ohealth App that clocks in two years.

Prof Otegbayo, while hosting the crew of Ohealth in his office explained that Telemedicine is good to utilize for the Nigerian populace in saving healthcare and it is something unique and should be encouraged, adding that the COVID 19 pandemic has taught us a lot of things even when we did not want to factor it into our practice.

“There are some instances where the face-to-face consultation may not be possible; a lot could be done via telemedicine through the Ohealth App that you are using which I know and have some experience in using.

“Also, it can be used for distant consultation where someone may be in Lagos or even in rural areas where there is internet and consultation and if there is a need for one on one contact or the person requires surgery that is when the person needs to come”, said the CMD.

Otegbayo added that there are a lot of advantages to telemedicine, “where a patient would not have to move some distance to and see a doctor and also the congestion we see in the hospitals especially when you go to the Medical outpatient or General outpatient with the number of traffic very heavy the patients will enjoy using telemedicine”.

“It also creates room for scheduling appointments for the patient at their convenience instead of staying for hours unattended to. Also, on your App there is room to recommend laboratories to the patients and the result can be sent to the doctor and the patient can be taken care of.

“It has been a wonderful experience and I believe that it is the way to go and it will continue to get better. I have known about telemedicine for a while and I saw how it works very well outside the country, not just for consultation but for training health personnel”.

The medical expert however added that “as we continue to develop in our information technology we can work through that level where we can train, treat and research, these are the major functions of telemedicine. With 60% of Nigerians with mobile phones and internet capabilities, your App will help a lot and the cost is very affordable”.

He however wished the inventor of the online health company, Dr Temitope Farombi, a neurologist and a consultant with UCH well on the second anniversary of the Ohealth and many more years with advancement.


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Somalia: At Least $1 Billion Needed to Avert Famine Says UN Chief

The U.N. humanitarian chief predicted Tuesday that at least $1 billion will be needed urgently to avert famine in Somalia in the coming months and early next year when two more dry seasons are expected to compound the historic drought that has hit the Horn of Africa nation.

Martin Griffiths said in a video briefing from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu that a new report from an authoritative panel of independent experts says there will be a famine in Somalia between October and December “if we don’t manage to stave it off and avoid it as had been the case in 2016 and 2017.”

The undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs told U.N. correspondents that more than $1 billion in new funds is needed in addition to the U.N. appeal of about $1.4 billion. That appeal has been “very well-funded,” he said, thanks to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which announced a $476 million donation of humanitarian and development aid in July.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, created by USAID, said in a report Monday that famine is projected to emerge later this year in three areas in Somalia’s southeastern Bay region, including Baidoa without urgent humanitarian aid.

Up to 7.1 million people across Somalia need urgent assistance to treat and prevent acute malnutrition and reduce the number of ongoing hunger-related deaths, according to a recent analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification or IPC, used by the network to describe the severity of food insecurity.

The Horn of Africa region has seen four straight failed rainy seasons for the first time in over half a century, endangering an estimated 20 million people in one of the world’s most impoverished and turbulent regions.

Griffiths said meteorologists have predicted the likelihood of a fifth failed rainy season from October to December, and a sixth failed rainy season from January to March next year is also likely.

“This has never happened before in Somalia,” he said. “This is unprecedented.”

“We’ve been banging the drum and rattling the trees trying to get support internationally in terms of attention, prospects, and the possibilities and the horror of famine coming to the Horn of Africa – here in Somalia maybe first, but Ethiopia and Kenya, probably they’re not far behind,” Griffiths said.

He said the U.N. World Food Program has recently been providing aid for up to 5.3 million Somalis, which is “a lot, but it’s going to get worse if famine comes.” He said 98% of the aid is given through cash distributions via telephones.

But many thousands are not getting help and hungry families in Somalia have been staggering for days or weeks through parched terrain in search of assistance.

Griffiths said a big challenge is to get aid to people before they move from their homes, to help avoid massive displacement.

Many Somalis raise livestock, which is key to their survival, but he said three million animals have died or been slaughtered because of the lack of rain.

“Continued drought, the continued failure of rainy seasons, means that a generation’s way of life is under threat,” Griffiths said.

He said the international community needs to help Somalis find an alternative way of life and make a living, which will require development funding and funding to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Griffiths, a British diplomat, said the war in Ukraine has had an impact on humanitarian aid, with U.N. humanitarian appeals around the world receiving about 30% of the money needed on average.

“To those countries, which are traditionally very generous, my own included, and many others,” he said. “Please don’t forget Somalia. You didn’t in the past. You contributed wonderfully in the past. Please do so now.”

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Zimbabwe: Measles outbreak has killed 700 children says Health Minister

The death toll from a measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has risen to almost 700 children, the country’s health ministry has said.

Some are calling for the enactment of legislation to make vaccination mandatory in a country where anti-modern medicine religious sects hold sway on large swathes of the population of 15 million people.

The southern African country’s health ministry announced at the weekend that 698 children have died from measles since the outbreak started in April.

The ministry said 37 of the deaths occurred on a single day on Sept.1. The health ministry said it had recorded 6,291 cases by Sept. 4.

The latest figures are more than four times the number of deaths announced about two weeks ago when the ministry said 157 children, most of whom were unvaccinated due to their family’s religious beliefs, had succumbed to the disease.

Dr. Johannes Marisa, the president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association, told The Associated Press on Monday that the government should escalate an ongoing mass vaccination campaign and embark on awareness programs targeted especially at anti-vaccine religious groups.

“Because of the resistance, education may not be enough so the government should also consider using coercive measures to ensure that no one is allowed to refuse vaccination for their children,” said Marisa. He urged the government to “consider enacting legislation that makes vaccination against killer diseases such as measles mandatory.”

UNICEF on Monday said it “is deeply concerned” with the number of cases and deaths among children due to measles. The agency said it is assisting the government to combat the outbreak through immunization programs.

The measles outbreak was first reported in the eastern Manicaland province in early April and has since spread to all parts of the country.

Many of the deaths have been of children who were not vaccinated, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in August.

Zimbabwe’s Cabinet has invoked a law used to respond to disasters to deal with the outbreak.

The government has embarked on a mass vaccination campaign targeting children aged between 6 months and 15 years old and is engaging traditional and faith leaders to support the drive.

Zimbabwe continued vaccinating children against measles even during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but the drive has been hampered by religious groups that preach against vaccines.

The Christian sects are against modern medicine and tell their members to rely on self-proclaimed prophets for healing.

Church gatherings that have resumed following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions have “led to the spread of measles to previously unaffected areas,” said the health ministry last week.

Measles is among the most infectious diseases in the world and mostly spreads in the air by coughing, sneezing or close contact.

Symptoms include coughing, fever, and a skin rash, while the risk of severe measles or dying from complications is high among unvaccinated children.

Outbreaks in unvaccinated and malnourished populations have been known to kill thousands. Scientists estimate that more than 90% of the population needs to be immunized to prevent measles outbreaks.

The World Health Organization, in April warned of an increase in measles in vulnerable countries due to a disruption of services due to COVID-19.

In July, the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said about 25 million children worldwide have missed out on routine immunizations against common childhood diseases, calling it a “red alert” for child health.


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India institute partners South Africa to boost domestic vaccine production

The Serum Institute of India signed a deal this week with South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare to make four vaccines used in Africa.

The deal has been hailed as saving local vaccine production, which was at risk of shutting down after receiving no orders for a COVID vaccine. But medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says more efforts are needed for vaccines to be fully produced in Africa for Africans.

Four routine pediatric vaccines — pneumococcal vaccine, rotavirus vaccine, polyvalent meningococcal vaccine and hexavalent vaccine — will be made in South Africa with products from bulk drug substances supplied by India’s Serum Institute.

In addition to the 10-year agreement, South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare also anticipates receiving grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI.

“The partnership represents an important step for preventing the kinds of gross inequities of access to life-saving vaccines that emerged during the COVID pandemic,” said CEPI’s chief executive officer, Richard Hatchett. “We are proud to be part of an effort that will secure critically needed vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa, for Africa so that it can be ready when it faces future epidemic or pandemic threats.”

FILE - Employees pack boxes containing vials of Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at the Serum Institute of India in Pune, Nov. 22, 2021.
FILE – Employees pack boxes containing vials of Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at the Serum Institute of India in Pune, Nov. 22, 2021.
But Candice Sehoma with Doctors Without Borders Access Campaign in South Africa is calling for more than just fill-and-finish deals.

“I think it’s a great step towards realizing the improvements in the African continent’s manufacturing capacity, particularly looking at vaccines. And actually looking into routine vaccines. I think that, for me, is a great step,” Sehoma said. “But I think, definitely, we could do with a lot more and even a full sharing of technology, so that we don’t find ourselves waiting in line for vaccines that are coming from high-income countries.”

Petro Terblanche, managing director of the South African company Afrigen, which reproduced Moderna’s MRNA COVID vaccine, says Aspen’s deal with the Serum Institute may not be healthy for other companies on the continent, as it could drown out local competition.

“So, the manufacturing capacity and the technical capabilities and the reach of the Serum Institute is very dominant, it is very, very powerful. However, if Serum Institute is prepared to do partnerships with Africa and South Africa for end-to-end manufacturing and technology transfer to Africa, it’s a positive development,” Terblanche said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, says the agreement is an important step for African vaccine manufacturing.

“It has responded to African Union heads of state and government calls that 30 percent of our continent’s requirements for human vaccines be procured from African manufacturers. And we look forward to this being motivation for more expanded manufacturing of vaccines here on the continent of Africa,” Ouma said.

According to the Africa CDC, less than 1% of vaccines currently used on the continent are locally manufactured.

Aspen’s Group Communications Consultant Shauneen Beukes says they cannot comment on calls for the full African production of vaccines at this stage.



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1st Ukraine grain ship for Horn of Africa reaches Djibout

The first ship carrying grain from Ukraine for people in the hungriest parts of the world has docked at the Horn of Africa port of Djibouti as areas of East Africa are badly affected by deadly drought and conflict.

Food security experts call it a drop in the bucket for the vast needs in the worst-hit Horn countries of Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, the nation where this first shipment is going. But the flow of grain from Ukraine to other hungry parts of the world is expected to continue, with another ship departing Tuesday for Yemen. The U.N. World Food Program has said it is working on multiple ships.

WFP says this first shipment of grain will be shipped overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people have been affected by the country’s Tigray conflict, which has now flared up again.

WFP has said the 23,000 metric tons of grain on the first ship are enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month. But the U.N. has said 2.4 million in Tigray alone are severely food insecure and that 20 million people across Ethiopia face hunger.

Millions of other people in the Horn of Africa region are going hungry because of drought, and thousands have died. Somalia has been especially hard hit because it sourced at least 90% of its grain from Ukraine and Russia before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Millions of tons of food are needed for the Horn of Africa, WFP said. “In Ethiopia alone, three-quarters of everything that we used to distribute originated from Ukraine and Russia,” regional director Michael Dunford said.

Food security experts have said it will take weeks for people in African countries to see grain from Ukraine arrive and even longer to see it bring down high food prices that have been a source of despair and protests in multiple nations.

Far more ships carrying grain from Ukraine’s reopened ports have been going to richer places like Europe as existing business contracts are fulfilled. As of Sunday, 114 ships carrying more than 1.2 million metric tons of food commodities had left Ukraine, WFP said, but “export volumes remain far below pre-conflict averages.”

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Northeastern Nigeria endures humanitarian crisis as children affected by hunger and malnutrition

Lying on a small bed next to her mother, 14-month-old Aisha Usman stares blankly, her eyes sunk in their sockets and rib cage visible.

She is the latest arrival at a treatment center for severely malnourished children in Nigeria’s northeast, where a long-running Islamist insurgency has uprooted millions, forcing farmers to abandon fields and causing food shortages.

Some 1.74 million children under the age of 5 faces acute malnutrition in the area, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says.

The militant Boko Haram group and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province have been fighting Nigerian security forces in the northeast for over a decade, displacing more than 2 million people and killing hundreds of others, aid agencies say.

At the treatment center at Damaturu Hospital, in the Yobe state capital, Aisha’s mother Fatima said there were days when her family goes to sleep hungry because of a lack of food.

Dr. Japhet Udokwu attends to a child at a treatment center for severely malnourished children in Damaturu, Yobe, Nigeria, Aug. 24, 2022.
Dr. Japhet Udokwu attends to a child at a treatment center for severely malnourished children in Damaturu, Yobe, Nigeria, Aug. 24, 2022.

That is because in her Babangida village, some 50 kilometers from Damaturu, Islamist insurgents forced villagers to abandon their farms, she told Reuters. She used to fetch firewood for sale but says that stopped as it became too dangerous to venture into the forest.

“Sometimes we are getting food to eat, and at times we don’t,” the 35-year-old said.

Her daughter weighs 4.7 kg (10 lb), less than half the average weight of children her age. Some of the little girl’s organs were shutting down when she arrived at the hospital, a doctor said.

She has been given an injection and started receiving food via a tube, and the doctor said she was slowly responding and improving.

The United Nations’ OCHA needs $1 billion this year to assist 5.5 million people, including women and children, with food aid in the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

The OCHA has raised 42% of the required funds eight months into the year, according to a briefing to reporters.

Some international donors have shifted funding elsewhere, including Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, which are also facing increased humanitarian needs, the OCHA says.

A woman carries a malnourished child at a treatment center in Damaturu, Yobe, Nigeria, Aug. 24, 2022.
A woman carries a malnourished child at a treatment center in Damaturu, Yobe, Nigeria, Aug. 24, 2022
.Up to 5,000 children in Nigeria’s northeast, however, are at risk of dying in the next two months if funding does not come through, said John Mukisa, a nutrition sector coordinator for U.N. agencies.

Across from Fatima’s bed, 21-year-old Sahura Hassan brought her son to the Damaturu treatment center because he had stopped eating, had a fever, could not sit, and was severely dehydrated.

“Most of the problem we notice in these local government areas is due to poor access to food due to the insecurity, and there is food insufficiency in each of the households,” Japhet Udokwu, the doctor in charge of the treatment center, told Reuters.

Farming sustains livelihoods in the northeast, but insecurity, the rising cost of fertilizer and diesel, as well as flooding and drought due to changing climate, have combined into a powerful force that is upending lives.

Nigeria’s government says it is winning the fight against insurgents in the northeast and that some areas have now been cleared of militants and are safe for villagers to return and farm.



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African Health Ministers Approve Plan for Quality Health Care

Health ministers attending the World Health Organization’s 72nd Regional Committee for Africa in Lome, Togo have approved an eight-year strategy aimed at curbing disease and responding quickly to health emergencies.

More than 400 people participated from 47 countries, including about 30 health ministers, who attended the top annual health gathering in person, while others joined online.

After a week of discussions about some of Africa’s most pressing health issues, countries adopted a new strategy for creating more resilient public health systems for responding to infectious and chronic diseases, such as diabetes. The World Health Organization says early diagnosis and care could save the lives of many of the millions who die from the diseases.

The plan also commits countries to reach critical targets by 2030 to strengthen their ability to prepare, detect, and respond to health emergencies.

The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says the ministers also have launched a new campaign to curb sickle cell disease. She notes it is one of the most common, yet least recognized illnesses in the region. However, like childhood tuberculosis, she says it has been pushed to the sidelines for far too long.

“As we have seen with COVID-19, the impact of sickle cell disease extends well beyond health, posing significant economic and social costs for patients and their families. We cannot afford to continue ignoring the threat, so greater investments, and stronger collaboration and partnerships, need to be prioritized,” said Moeti. “Childhood TB also does not typically receive much attention, even though one in every three TB cases among children globally occurs in our region.”

She says both require timely diagnosis and treatment, as do other diseases, such as monkeypox, that go largely ignored until they make headlines elsewhere.

Currently, she says 406 cases and seven deaths have been confirmed across 11 African countries. While these are far fewer cases compared to other geographic regions, she says there is a need to increase the response.

She notes there is a shortage of monkeypox vaccine and whatever is available is being used in wealthier countries, where the epidemic is raging. She says no monkeypox vaccines or antivirals are available in African countries.

“We are making a plea that the situation that African countries have experienced with COVID-19 vaccines should not be repeated. And we are still hopeful that with advocacy being carried out and the discussions with countries that are helping to produce the vaccines that we may obtain vaccine supplies for African countries. This is not the case up to today,” Moeti said.

Moeti says there is better news regarding COVID-19 coverage. She notes vaccination rates are going up among health workers, older people, and those at risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. While there is still much to be done, Moeti says she believes it is possible for African countries to catch up with the rest of the world.

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Burkina Faso launches pharmaceutical production plant to boost health sector

Burkina Faso has built its first pharmaceutical production plant, specializing in the production of generic drugs, which was visited on Tuesday by Prime Minister Albert Ouédraogo.

Built by actors of the Burkinabe private sector and named Propharm, this factory, erected on 1.5 hectares in the commune of Komsilga, on the outskirts of the capital Ouagadougou, will ensure a “permanent availability of the most requested medicines”, according to its promoters.

Certified by an independent Spanish organization, it will start producing paracetamol 500 mg, phloroglucinol, an antispasmodic, as well as a “kit of oral rehydration salts and zinc, for the treatment of diarrhea”, explained Propharm’s General Manager, Armel Coéfé.

“Our production capacity, at present, meets the local need and solves the problem of drastic rupture,” he added, noting that the list of molecules to be produced will grow, especially “with the production of drugs for the management of malaria.

According to Prime Minister Albert Ouédraogo, “this is an important plant, insofar as it will contribute to making available to our population’s medicines at a lower cost. He added: “During the Covid-19 period, these issues were important and everyone recognized the need to develop local production of medicines. It is also a local company, which contributes to developing a resilient economy.

According to Armal Coéfé, the factory is currently finalizing the last step, the inspection of the National Agency for Pharmaceutical Regulation on the batches produced, in order to obtain the marketing authorizations in the coming months.

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