Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A fresh offensive against tuberculosis launched in Africa

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] A fresh offensive against tuberculosis (TB), including TB among people living with HIV, has been launched by health leaders from Africa and international agencies to help stem down the scourge.
The move saw leaders sign the Swaziland Statement on March 21, committing them to speed up progress against the two diseases in the next 1000 days and work with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to achieve the international targets of cutting deaths from TB and HIV-associated TB by half by 2015, compared to 1990 levels.
They declared a package of new investments and initiatives worth more than US $120 million.
“We did not gather here today (March 21) to underline the problem – we know the problem very well,” said Benedict Xaba, Minister of Health of Swaziland. “TB and HIV have combined together in the SADC region in a perfect storm and what we need to mobilise is an emergency response to this storm.”
Africa is not currently on track to achieve the international TB and HIV-associated TB mortality targets by 2015. According to the latest World Health Organisation data, around 600 000 people died from TB in Africa in 2011, accounting for 40 per cent of the global toll.
This means that Africa has now overtaken Asia – with its much higher population and number of TB cases – as the region with the greatest number of TB deaths. SADC countries are at the epicenter of the epidemic.
A major stumbling block to progress is the extremely high TB/HIV co-infection rate in Africa. In 2011, 80 per cent of the people living with HIV who fell ill with TB were in Africa. TB associated with the mining industry is also fueling the regional co-epidemic.
The proportion of people getting sick with TB is at least two and half times higher among miners than in the general population in South Africa and up to 20 times higher than the global average.
“TB remains a major cause of death in our sub-region and we will not defeat HIV without a concerted offensive against TB,” said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa. “If HIV/AIDS and TB was a snake, I can assure you the head would be in here South Africa. And I’m repeating this to the mining sector – because mineworkers come from the whole sub-region; they come here to our mines to catch TB and HIV and take it back home.”
He said they must prioritise hot spots for action, and one of the hottest of these is TB in the mining industry adding that the partnerships witnessing witnessed during the Swaziland meeting today between government, the corporate sector, and global agencies can and must drive the renewed effort in the next 1000 days.
Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, Vice-Chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that the Global Fund will commit US $102 million of new funding to TB programmes in SADC countries. The Global Fund is the largest international funding stream for TB, accounting for the great majority of 2011 donor funding for TB.
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, said that UNAIDS would make a bold call to action for Zero tolerance of parallel systems for delivery of HIV and TB services. “UNAIDS will support countries to ensure that every person is aware of their HIV status and is also tested for TB, and that all people co-infected with TB and HIV initiate TB and HIV treatment,” said Sidibe
He added that UNAIDS will advocate to close the financial gap and mobilise donors, partners and countries to secure resources and meet the TB/HIV target of halving the number of TB deaths in people living with HIV by 2015.
UNAIDS will provide focused support to the 10 countries most affected by TB and HIV, and work to overcome the stigma and discrimination that prevent people from getting tested and staying on treatment.
In addition, the Global Fund has committed US $741 million for HIV programmes in SADC countries. This funding will support TB-HIV activities such as providing antiretroviral therapy to TB patients who are HIV positive.
According to Sarah Dunn, DfID Head for Southern Africa, DfID will provide US $220 000 for catalytic, short term programme management support to be provided as matched funds for a similar or larger contribution from the private mining sector and other partners. 

 Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at ochiengogodo@yahoo.com, ochiengogodo@hotmail.com or ochiengogodo@gmail.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make water and sanitation for all in Africa a reality by 2030, leaders urged

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


 [NAIROBI] Leaders should support the ambitious target of providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all in Africa by 2030.
In a press statement of March 21 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of World Water Day, WaterAid, an international non governmental organisation, says that the lack of progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene is acting as a brake on progress in economic and human development, particularly in child health, nutrition and education in Africa.
The WaterAid’s report ‘Everyone Everywhere’ that was  launched by President Johnson Sirleaf on March 21 at a UN event on water in the Hague, in the Netherlands, sets out a vision for making safe water and sanitation available to all and reviews the progress that has been made to date in tackling water and sanitation poverty.
 It finds that, lack of progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene was a great impediment to economic and human development.
The global NGO with a mission to transform lives by improving access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities, cites World Health Organisation figures showing economic gains that Africa could make if everyone on the continent having access to water and sanitation.
The continent could gain $33 billion every year from everyone with access to water and sanitation. Out of this US$4.5 billion would come from reduced healthcare costs; $7.2 billion gained from reduced mortality; $2 billion from less time taken off from work; and a staggering $19.5 billion in general time saved.
Benefits of lives saved from everyone having access to water and sanitation on the continent could be significant.  The Institute of Health Metrics estimates that that around 550,000 people die from diarrhoea diseases every year in Sub-Saharan Africa, 88 per cent of whom, according to the WHO, can be attributed to a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene that is equivalent to 480,000 deaths due to a lack of these services on the continent.
The WaterAid call came as over 50,000 people took part in more than 30 mass walking events on the day across Africa to call on their governments to keep their promises on access to clean water and safe sanitation.
 In the new report by WaterAid today, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia says, “Addressing the global water and sanitation crisis is not about charity, but opportunity.  According to the WHO, every $1 invested in water and sanitation produces an average of $4 in increased productivity.  It enables sustainable and equitable economic growth.”
WaterAid Pan-Africa Programme Manager, Nelson Gomonda, says in the report thatNothing could better demonstrate that our continent has truly begun to realise its potential and is coming true on its promise of progress and development, than achieving the fundamental goal of every African having safe drinking water.”
He says more than 330 million Africans today live without access to clean water, so the road to travel is long, but the end is in sight. 
“With more than 1,000 African children under the age of five dying every day from diseases brought about from a lack of water and sanitation, Africans will not accept failure. We have to reach this target,” he says.
Currently, in Sub-Sahara Africa, 334 million people that is 39 percent of the population, lack access to clean drinking water, while under 600 million (70 per cent) lack access to sanitation.
WaterAid is calling on international leaders to: 
  • Recognise the need for the framework that replaces the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 to reflect the contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene to other areas of poverty reduction, including health, education, gender equality, economic growth and sustainability. 
  • For the UN to set a new global target to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.
  • Identify ways of accelerating future rates of progress on sanitation if the goal of universal access is to be met by 2030
The report link: http://www.wateraid.org/~/media/publications/Everyone%20everywhere.ashx

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at ochiengogodo@yahoo.com, ochiengogodo@hotmail.com or ochiengogodo@gmail.com

Friday, March 22, 2013

'Africa supports' post 2015 goal on water security

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) has restated its support for Africa's adoption of a distinct water goal in the post 2015 development agenda.
In a press release on the occasion of the World Water Day, AMCOW said that access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; for food and energy security; and for peace and cooperation in trans-boundary and coastal waters management was an imperative for Africa.
Tunis Post 2015 Africa Wide Water Consultations Participants
Speaking on the Africa position at a High Level Forum hosted by the Government of Netherlands to mark the global celebration of the World Water Day, AMCOW Executive Secretary, Bai Mass Taal, stressed the need to guarantee water security for universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; for food and energy security; and for peace and cooperation in trans boundary and coastal waters management.
An Africa Wide Stakeholders Forum on Water on the Post 2015 development agenda which met in Tunis on March 1st 2015 proposed the adoption of Water Secure World for All by 2030.
The proposal was endorsed at the African Union led Africa Post 2015 Dialogue that was convened in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) from March 11 – 12 2013 in Tunis.
The participants at the African wide stakeholders’ forum on water gave some reasons why the agenda should prioritize water to include:
  • Access to clean water and sanitation is prerequisite for healthy human living and has direct impact on the well-being and productivity of the population as well as sustaining freshwater ecosystems.
  • Sustainable and equitable economic development and poverty reduction have water as a pre-requisite.
  • Water and sanitation are human rights and increasingly widely recognised as such.
  • Water is essential for ensuring food and energy security, which in turn can only be achieved if the cross sectorial inter linkages are taken into account.
  • Water resources management is a key instrument for mitigating the impacts of the currently Climate Change and Variability.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

African policymakers 'lack environmental data'


Ochieng' Ogodo
25 February 2013 | EN

African countries should work together to gather and share environmental data, says a report
Flickr_nerissa's ring
[NAIROBI] Environmental policies in Africa are being hindered by a lack of adequate and accessible data and poor coordination between countries, according to experts who were speaking at the launch of 'Africa Environment Outlook 3, Summary Report for Policy Makers'.

For policies to work, there is a need for "clear implementation [of] roadmaps with realistic targets and funding mechanisms" and for "institutional mechanisms to ensure alignment and collaboration", says the report.

The report was commissioned by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and launched at the First Universal Session of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya, last week (21 February).


  • Policymakers in Africa say they lack access to the environmental data they need to make decisions
  • Good data is sometimes left to languish on shelves
  • A UNEP representative calls for national networks that can coordinate data sharing
Frank Turyatunga, regional coordinator for UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment in Africa, says that policymakers need data and information on issues such as biological diversity, air quality, climate variability and marine resources, so they can make decisions on how they can be protected or used sustainably.

He adds that research is needed to generate this environmental data, and that scientists should transform it into a form that is easy to use in the decision-making processes.

"Policymakers need good information based on up-to-date scientifically credible and relevant data — not guesswork that is more likely to lead to mistakes in planning," says Turyatunga.

"For instance, the water sector in Kenya is responsible for researching and building data on water availability, its quality and distribution. But because they have financial and technical capacity challenges, this has not been done adequately," he adds.

Having environmental data will also help governments prioritise investment in many areas, including health, access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Accessibility of data is also a problem, says Turyatunga. Policymakers have trouble accessing data in central African countries, but even in southern Africa, where good data is kept, it may not easy to get at.

"If you have data only kept on the shelves, it is not helpful. Policymakers work on behalf of the people and unless they are working from informed positions, they are not going to deliver a good service," says Turyatunga.

He wants to see the establishment of national networks to help various environmental agencies and countries exchange data.

Tanzania's environment minister, Terezya Huvisa, says that governments cannot make decisions or budget without data.

For example, data on environment-related health issues help to budget on the necessary healthcare, says Huvisa, who is also president of the AMCEN.

"We have difficulties in funding research, but we seriously need data to plan and implement policy programmes for the benefit of the people of Africa," she says.

Link to full report

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rice yield in SSA jumps to 30 per cent after rice crisis

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Paddy rice production growth rate shot up from 3.2 per cent per year before the 2000–2007 rice crisis to 8.4 per cent per year after the rice crisis 2007–2012 in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) according to an analysis by Benin based Africa Rice Center .
The analysis also showed that rice yield in SSA jumped by about 30 per cent from 2007 on average to 2012 and that it is increasing at a faster rate than the global average.
“This is very encouraging news,” says AfricaRice Director General, Dr Papa Seck, who adds that “The surge in production and yield is a result of key investments made by farmers, governments, the private sector, the research community and donors to develop Africa’s rice sector.”
Seck says in après release that it is crucial to maintain this trend, since rice consumption continues to increase in SSA at an annual rate of 5 per cent.
High rice prices in late 2007 and 2008 sparked food riots in several African cities. Due to the “rice crisis,” African governments, assisted by the international donor community, undertook ambitious programmes to boost rice production capacity.
AfricaRice analysed trends in rice production across the African continent, placing particular emphasis on the periods before and after the 2007/2008 rice crisis to establish the domestic production responses to these measures.
Data were retrieved from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), accessed 7 February 2013).
“We were pleased to learn that paddy rice production in SSA increased by 2.8 million tonnes from 2000 to 2007, and then accelerated, increasing by 4.7 million tonnes in the period 2007–2012,” says  AfricaRice Deputy Director General, Dr. Marco Wopereis.
“But what’s more important, the analysis revealed that average rice yield in SSA increased by about 11 kg per ha per year from 1961 to 2007 and by a spectacular 108 kg per ha per year from 2007 to 2012, despite drought and floods in several African countries in 2011 and 2012.”
According to Wopereis such growth rates are comparable with cereal yield growth rates after the Second World War in the UK and the USA.
Global rice yield– driven by the Green Revolution in Asia – increased by 52 kg per ha per year over the period 1960–2010. 
“Currently, 71 per cent of the increase in paddy rice production in SSA can be explained by yield increase and 29 per cent by area expansion.
Before the rice crisis, only 24 per cent of production increase could be attributed to increases in yield and 76 per cent to increases in harvested area,” Wopereis adds.
“This is evidence of increased use of technological innovation, such as improved varieties and improved crop management in general.”

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at ochiengogodo@yahoo.com, ochiengogodo@hotmail.com or ochiengogodo@gmail.com