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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

FAO, UNICEF, WFP deploy massive relief operation

The trio of the United Nations Agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP), with other partners, have conducted massive relief operations since the conflict began, and intensified those efforts throughout 2016 to mitigate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis, reports NaijaAgroNet.

For example, the said that in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, among others, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment team found that humanitarian relief had lessened the risk of famine there.

Also, FAO has provided emergency livelihood kits to more than 2.3 million people to help them fish or plant vegetables. FAO has also vaccinated more than 6 million livestock such as goats and sheep to prevent further loss.

While WFP continued to scale up its support in South Sudan as humanitarian needs increase, and plans to provide food and nutrition assistance to 4.1 million people through the hunger season in South Sudan this year.

This, NaijaAgroNet gathered, includes lifesaving emergency food, cash and nutrition assistance for people displaced and affected by conflict, as well as community-based recovery or resilience programs and school meals. 

In 2016, WFP reached a record 4 million people in South Sudan with food assistance - including cash assistance amounting to US$13.8 million, and more than 265,000 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies. It is the largest number of people assisted by WFP in South Sudan since independence, despite problems resulting from the challenging context.

UNICEF aims to treat 207,000 children for severe acute malnutrition in 2017. Working with over 40 partners and in close collaboration with WFP, UNICEF is supporting 620 outpatient therapeutic programme sites and about 50 inpatient therapeutic sites across the country to provide children with urgently needed treatment.

Through a rapid response mechanism carried out jointly with WFP, UNICEF continues to reach communities in the most remote locations. These rapid response missions treat thousands of children for malnutrition as well as provide them with immunization services, safe water and sanitation which also prevent recurring malnutrition.

Uboshe Uboshe/GEE
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Above 1m children acutely malnourished in South Sudan

Over 1 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished in South Sudan, reports NaijaAgroNet, according to the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, Jeremy Hopkins.

In addition, Hopkins disclosed that over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished.

“If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die. We urge all parties to allow humanitarian organizations unrestricted access to the affected populations, so we can assist the most vulnerable and prevent yet another humanitarian catastrophe," he said.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that this is coming as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) recent report estimated that 14 of the 23 assessed counties have global acute malnutrition (GAM) at or above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent, with some areas as high as 42 per cent.  

For the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director, Joyce Luma, this Sudan situation is a man-made crisis.

"This famine is man-made. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago. But we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve," she said, insisting "We will continue doing everything we possibly can to hold off and reverse the spread of famine."

Across the country, she noted, three years of conflict have severely undermined crop production and rural livelihoods.

“The upsurge in violence since July 2016 has further devastated food production, including in previously stable areas. Soaring inflation - up to 800 percent year-on-year - and market failure have also hit areas that traditionally rely on markets to meet food needs. Urban populations are also struggling to cope with massive price rises on basic food items,” she said.

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Water, hygiene plus sanitation improve health & romance

Washing hands with simple “tippy taps,” made with easily-available supplies,
 and soap or ash reduces the spread of disease.
Nafisatu Yunusa is excited about change. The 23 year-old mother of three lives in Marafa, a village of just over 600 people in Bauchi State, northern Nigeria, where the dry winter season can be hard. Red dust clouds the sky, vegetation turns brown, and there's no rain for months. 

Like other rural communities in the region, for a long time, many people in the village of Marafa did not have access to running water or toilets. Without them, open defecation was the norm. Most households had lost at least one family member to preventable diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Fields and villages were contaminated with feces, which was not only unsightly and malodorous, but was also extremely unsanitary. “Back then, our children were always suffering from diarrhea, typhoid fever, cholera," Nafisatu explains. "It was the biggest challenge we had, it was everywhere."

Information about stopping open defecation has helped to make the village a more attractive – and healthier place to live.
But the establishment of a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee, or WASHCOM, in her village, has transformed Nafisatu's life. The WASHCOMS have been set up in communities in the area under UNICEF’s SHAWN (Sanitation Hygiene and Water in Nigeria) programme, which is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Nafisatu works as a treasurer for the WASHCOM and is one of the nine Mafara WASHCOM members who have been trained to teach healthy sanitation practices to others in the community. “Now when a child goes to use the toilet he or she comes and washes hands – with soap, if it is available, or ash,” she says, “and that has contributed a lot to stopping the spread of diseases."  As a result, Marafa has become one of 351 communities that are now certified as “open defecation free” in the Local Government Area of Dass, in Bauchi state. Every household in the community has a latrine and nearby hand washing facilities.
And the SHAWN programme has rewarded the community with a borehole and hand pump, so that water is now easier to access, even in the dry season.

The United Kingdom’s DFID supported this UNICEF project.
The improved sanitation and easy access to water, says Nafisatu, has not only saved lives, but it also helped ease a common strain on marriages in Marafa. Among the good hygiene practices they have been trained to teach, WASHCOM hygiene promotion team members have shared their knowledge with women community members about menstrual hygiene management.

When water is easily available, good hygiene practices are also easier to implement.
Nafisatu recalls that women in the village used to stuff dirty menstrual padding under their beds, which often made the bedrooms smell unpleasant. Their husbands, recounts Nafisatu, would burn spirals of mosquito coils, hoping the acrid smoke would cover the smell. But sometimes, even that wasn’t enough, and Nafisatu said that several husbands even refused to sleep with their wives. 

Now that there is water in the village, and with women having learned about better menstrual hygiene practices, that problem has vanished. “The change has been so overwhelming,” says Nafisatu with a smile, “relationships are much improved!”
23 year-old Nafisatu Yunusa trains her community members 
on good hygiene and sanitation practices.
Photo credit for all pictures: UNICEF/Nigeria/2017/Stefan Heunis
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Monday, February 20, 2017

UN says South Sudan is in Famine

Some three agencies of the United Nations (UN) have warned that almost 5 million people urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance in the Southern Sudan city of Juba, reports NaijaAgroNet.

These agencies told NaijaAgroNet that the war and a collapsing economy have left some 100,000 people facing starvation in parts of South Sudan where famine was declared on Monday, just as a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine. 

The trio agencies, namely the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) equally, warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated. 

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people - more than 40 percent of South Sudan's population - are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.

In addition, the agencies said there is need for humanitarian access, maintaining that unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, is urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe.

As said by the UN agencies urged, further spread of famine could only be prevented if humanitarian assistance is scaled up and reaches the most vulnerable.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country, and formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger.
“The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago,” UN said.

For FAO Representative in South Sudan Serge Tissot, famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and the worst fears have been realized, as many families have exhausted every means they have to survive.

"The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They've lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch," Tissot said.

UN further described malnutrition as a major public health emergency, exacerbated by the widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services and low coverage of sanitation facilities.

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Without science, we’ll be lost – Earth Day Network

The Earth Day Network has declared that without science, the world would be lost, just as its warming up for the 2017 Earth Day slated for April 22 at the National Mall in Washington D.C., reports NaijaAgroNet.
According to the Earth Day Network Team in a public statement made available to NaijaAgroNet, Science serves humanity, thus it protects the air and water, preserves planet, and save lives.
Science, the team, said, helps the world to understand the causes and effects and leads to policies that help reduce the stresses on our planet. 
“We have all seen the news -- melting ice caps, droughts, unstable weather patterns -- are taking a toll on our planet,” they said.
Pointing out that for years, a growing number of scientists through their scientific-based monitoring and research have sounded the alarm about climate change and other environmental issues. 
“Without science, we would be lost,” they declared, stressing the reason why Earth Day Network is partnering with the March for Science to hold a rally, march and teach-in on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this Earth Day, April 22nd.
NaijaAgroNet recalls that the first Earth Day in 1970 activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.  All of the progress we have made, however,  is in jeopardy if we don’t take a strong stand now. 
The team, therefore beckoned on activists and enthusiasts to stand with Earth Day Network to show that they value scientific discovery, the sharing of knowledge, and the protection of our environment, by making a “tax-deductible contribution of $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford.”
The team further asked enthusiasts to support the cause, insisting that the vital role science plays in our democracy must be preserved.  
“The Earth is counting on you,” the team asserted.

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Why helping women is key to international aid, development

I am near the town of Ziniaré, about a two-hour drive from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. A hundred people are gathered under a huge baobab tree to welcome me before my visit to an agricultural project run by the Léger Foundation. Food insecurity affects about half of the country’s population.

After a short speech, I am taken to a small goat farm. Standing beside the fence, Iboudo Assèta tells me a story I will never forget.

Iboudo is a widow and the mother of six children. She is living with HIV and was identified by the project as a person who might have to leave her community to go to the city in order to provide for her family. Thanks to the work of our partners, she was able to access training, a business start-up kit and AIDS treatment.

Iboudo quickly decided to start up a farm with three animals provided by the project. With the support of a local training centre, she managed to expand her herd. She is now able to provide for her whole family with her new income. Her children are healthy, have enough to eat and go to school. One of her greatest sources of pride is having installed solar panels, which help them to do their homework in the evening.

Iboudo was not asking for help. On the contrary, she kept telling me how proud she is of her independence. Proud to be able to provide for her family. Proud to have escaped levirate, a custom that forces widows to marry their deceased husband’s brother.

A model of success for the women of her community, she passes on her know-how and expertise. Every day, she talks about how a person’s life can change simply by having access to the right resources.

This woman’s story affected me deeply because she shows the important role of women as agents of change in their communities. Iboudo and her story are part of a powerful evidence base that will underpin Canada’s new international assistance policy. This is a policy that will tackle gender inequalities. A policy that will address the significant obstacles faced by women and girls all around the world. A policy that will recognize the active role that women and girls can and must play in society for everyone’s benefit.

Our broad-cased consultations and the important evidence support this vision of development. According to the State of World Population 2016, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a 10-year-old girl’s life trajectory will be the true test of whether the 2030 Agenda (the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations) is a success or a failure. And that trajectory is littered with pitfalls. 

For example, we still see serious gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health services. Every year, out of desperation, an estimated 22 million women and girls endanger their lives by undergoing unsafe abortions. The same is true for access to education. Because girls are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence or early and forced marriage, 62 million teenage girls in the world do not go to school or are frequently absent. That is double the number of boys.

To make a real difference, Canada must invest strategically. We have to consider women and girls at the beginning of every process. Are they being consulted? Are they involved in decisions? Do they play a role in implementing our programs and leading in solutions? In administrative terms, the empowerment of women is not a checkbox at the bottom of a form. It is the careful application of gender analysis to every project we fund.

Like Iboudo, the 400 participants in the Léger Foundation’s project form the “first brigade of pioneers” in the fight for food security. When they are given the resources to achieve their full potential, these strong, independent, engaged women are the most powerful agents of change, development and peace. They are the pillars on which we rely to address poverty and inequality, to adapt to climate change and to enhance peace and security in the world.

In this International Development Week, I would like to thank all Canadians and our partners who are working hard to build a fairer, more inclusive, more sustainable world.

Despite the magnitude of the challenges we are facing, let’s remember, like Iboudo, that significant change is brought about by the sum of all the little victories.

*Contributed by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
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Clinical Trial: Sanaria’s PfSPZ-CVac vaccine achieves high-level protection against Malaria

A clinical trial has seen Sanaria’s PfSPZ-CVac vaccine achieving a high level protection against Malaria, reports NaijaAgroNet.

A report by the Nature described the achievement as a complete protection after 10 weeks with three doses of PfSPZ-CVac, investigators from the University of Tübingen noted that all nine subjects (100 per cent) immunized with three doses of Sanaria PfSPZ-CVac malaria vaccine in a recently completed clinical trial were protected against Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

This, NaijaAgroNet gathered was after they were exposed to the disease 10 weeks after their last vaccine dose, according to the Director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University, led by Professor Peter Kremsner.

He explained that PfSPZ-CVac was administered to the nine subjects three times over eight weeks; the research demonstrated the three doses were also safe and effective when administered over just 10 days. Scientists at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that assays of the subjects’ cellular immunity correlated with vaccine-induced protection. A team from Antigen Discovery Inc. that studied the antibody responses of the nine protected individuals, identified 22 malaria parasite proteins that could be the targets of protective immune responses.

Sanaria founder and CEO, Stephen L. Hoffman, MD said, “We are extremely encouraged by these findings. Clinical trials of PfSPZ-CVac underway in Germany, the U.S., and Equatorial Guinea, and soon to start in Mali, Ghana, the U.S., and Gabon will lead to an optimized vaccination regimen that we expect to move rapidly into phase 3 clinical trials and licensure. The ability to complete an immunization regimen in 10 days will facilitate the use of PfSPZ-CVac in mass vaccination programs to eliminate the malaria parasite and to prevent malaria in travelers.”

PfSPZ-CVac is composed of live, purified malaria parasites and the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Volunteers in the clinical trial received three 0.5 mL injections of the vaccine by rapid direct venous inoculation. Ten weeks after their last immunization, all nine subjects who received the highest dose of malaria parasites were protected against the injection of live malaria parasites.

The clinical trial included 42 adult volunteers, 21-45 years old. Twenty-seven volunteers received PfSPZ-CVac at varying doses to evaluate alternative dosage regimens. There was no difference in adverse events between volunteers who received the vaccine and those who received the saltwater placebo. They were enrolled, vaccinated and assessed under the direction of Benjamin Mordmüller, MD at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen.

The German Center for Infection Research funded the current trial with additional support from Sanaria. Sanaria receives research support and funding from NIAID, which supported vaccine manufacture for this trial, and multiple other institutions in the United States, Europe, and Africa, most of which participate in the International PfSPZ Consortium and will continue its fund-raising efforts to expand its research and clinical programs.

According to the World Health Organization, African children are hardest hit by malaria. The WHO estimates that in 2015 malaria caused 214M clinical episodes and 438,000 deaths worldwide; others have estimated up to 730,500 malaria deaths in 2015. This enormous morbidity and mortality occurs despite investment of billions of dollars in malaria control efforts. Malaria is also a concern for tourists, diplomats, business travelers, aid workers, industrial workers, and military personnel worldwide.

Professor Ogobara Doumbo, Director of the Bamako Malaria Research Training Center at the University of Bamako, Mali, said, “Those of us in countries where people’s lives are devastated by malaria have been waiting for a highly effective malaria vaccine for decades. We are excited about these new results with PfSPZ-CVac in Germany, and are proud to be able to initiate the first field trials of PfSPZ-based vaccines in Mali, West Africa in collaboration with our colleagues from the Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology, NIAID, NIH and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.”

Also commenting, Professor of Tropical Medicine and Travel Medicine, Dr. Martin Grobusch, who also is the Director of the Center of Tropical Medicine at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center, a clinic that cares for more than 16,000 travelers annually, said, “Travelers continue to be at high risk of acquiring malaria. A vaccine like PfSPZ-CVac that provides complete protective immunity for 10 weeks and can be administered in less than two weeks will be an ideal tool for the prevention of malaria in the traveling population.”

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fake drugs, NAFDAC revolution and economic growth

Prior to the creation of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) in 1992, the control and regulation of food, drugs, cosmetics, Chemicals and packaged water was seriously hampered by bureaucratic bottlenecks among other factors. The decision of the Federal Government to create the Agency in 1992 was therefore informed by the desire to ensure a more effective control of foods, drugs and other regulated products.

The late Minister of Health, Prof. Olikoye Ransome Kuti in 1999 while inaugurating the Governing Council of NAFDAC, said “NAFDAC as an agency is being inaugurated today, to give a frontal attack to the health problems arising from foods, chemicals, drugs, medicines and similar regulated products without the inhibition of civil service setting.”

In December 2016, NAFDAC under the leadership of Acting Director-General, Mrs. Yetunde Oni confiscated imported fruits juice worth millions of Naira in Onitsha, Anambra State; when the operatives of NAFDAC raided some markets and super stores in Onitsha. Some of the fruit juices confiscated were labelled Masafi, Euro drinks and Peach.

The Onitsha raid was in line with Federal Government’s ban on imported fruit juices and other products and it really achieved her aim of strengthening local industries and increase activities in the fruit juice manufacturing sector.

It is a fact that local production would reduce the foreign exchange put into importation of goods, so the activities of NADFAC is aimed at developing the local industry in Nigeria. Hence, on Tuesday, 24th of January, 2017 the agency destroyed substandard pharmaceutical products in Igwurita, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The destroyed products, stored in 21 containers were seized by the Nigerian Customs Services and NAFDAC and it is valued at N9.6 billion.

You can imagine if those fake pharmaceutical products such as Tramadol capsules of 100mg, Diclofena Sodium Capsule 50mg and Diahhea Stop 2mg, Oxyetracycline Hcl 50mg, Sildenafil tab mg, Diclotemac 40mg, Caffeine 30mg and conditioning preparation all imported from India and Nordana, USA  have gone into the market, millions of Nigerians would have died consuming them.

The N9.6Billion would have gone a long way to establish manufacturing companies and employ millions of Nigeria in the production of such genuine drugs. So, Oni, deserves accolades for the role she played during the reported case of “Plastic Rice” impounded by Nigerian Customs. She took quick action by putting the rice under laboratory test and discovered that the rice was not plastic as speculated but contaminated with microorganisms above permissible limit, hence the rice consignment is unsatisfactory and therefore unwholesome for human consumption.

Also, under the leadership of Mrs. Yetunde Oni, NAFDAC secured eight drug offenders in 12 months. And it is already in public domain that there are 52 cases in Court while eight convictions have been secured between February 2014 till date.

Among those convicted are Okwara Emmanuel who was sentenced to three years imprisonment for manufacturing and sales of fake Rambo insecticide and Dettol Antiseptic; Osita Paul Ely was sentenced to five years for importation of fake Maloxine tablets; Sylvanus Ifeanyi Nwanoro was sentenced to five years imprisonment for manufacturing and sales of fake Cof-N-Cold with Codeine syrup; Clara Onah was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for manufacturing and sales of fake Metronidazole and Juliana Madu was sentenced with an option of fine of N5,000.

I am happy with the directive of the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole that NAFDAC should register all Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, exhibitors at the ongoing 1st Nigeria Food Safety and Investment Forum within two weeks.

The directive given at the forum organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, in Lagos will boost local production and create massive employment to teeming Nigerian youths.

The onus is on the Federal Ministry of Justice to take steps in ensuring the speedy prosecution of other offenders while I call on the Federal Government to provide for more funds so as to get more vehicles, equipment for laboratories e.t.c.

At the same time, security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police should also provide water-tight security for the enforcement officials of NAFDAC as we have another hard working and dedicated Acting Director General overseen the activities of the Agency.

Also, Nigerians; who are the end users of fake drugs should assist NAFDAC by reporting notice of fake products so as for the agency to take necessary actions. There is a free text message number; 29543 available at no cost on the mobile networks for Nigerians to take advantage of.

We must help NAFDAC to carry out her task which include improving access to quality medicines; preventing the influx of substandard products by anti-counterfeiting measures and system strengthening to sustain local manufacturing; use of information technology in the regulation of food, chemicals and other consumables amongst others.

*Contributed by Kenny Adewole, an Abuja-based Journalist. He could be reached via    

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Pope Francis urges government to develop indigenous cultures, relationship to earth

The Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis has urged the government to reconcile development, both social and cultural, with the protection of indigenous peoples and their territories, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Pope Francis made this call in Rome, Italy while in audience with the representatives of IFAD's Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, which focused on economic empowerment of indigenous peoples, particularly women and youth.

This call has become vital especially when planning economic activities that may interfere with their cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth.
The 36-member delegation, which included representatives from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), were in Rome to take part in the Third Global Meeting of the Indigenous People Forum of IFAD.
During the morning meeting, the Pope emphasized the need for governments to pay attention to indigenous identity, and to generate guidelines and development approaches that include young people and women.
“For governments this means recognizing that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level,” he said.
Mirna Cunningham, President of the Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Autonomy and Development (CADPI), headed the delegation.
"I think the Pope's words are important," she said. "He went straight to the point. We have to remember that technological and economic development is not progress in itself and IFAD can play a very big role with technical and financial support to ensure that these measure are considered with indigenous peoples."
Antonella Cordone, Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues Policy and Technical Advisory Division at IFAD, said that “recognizing and institutionalizing indigenous peoples’ rights is essential, but we also have to work to set self-implementation strategies to support local economies. Otherwise we risk that indigenous peoples’ societies will disappear.”
Members of the delegation brought gifts to illustrate the work of indigenous peoples around the world, including an alpaca coat from Bolivian Andes, a blanket from the Igorot people in the Philippine Cordillera, and a bible translated into Miskitu from Nicaragua.
NaijaAgroNet recalled that between 10th and 13th February, IFAD hosted the Third Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum, bringing together representatives of indigenous peoples organizations and leaders of partner organizations to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by these communities.

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