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Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Chemical spraying is the surest way to eliminate the mosquito that carries dengue fever

Posted by African Press International on October 2, 2011

Chemical spraying is the surest way to eliminate the mosquito that carries dengue fever (file photo)

MANDERA, (IRIN) – An outbreak of dengue fever in Mandera, northeastern Kenya, is spreading fast, with at least 5,000 people infected within weeks, due to limited health facilities, a shortage of medical personnel and poor sanitation, officials told IRIN.

With only one public hospital and a few private clinics, medical officials in the town – which borders Ethiopia and Somalia – said the facilities were congested with dengue fever patients and they were unable to cope.

“Mandera District Hospital is congested, many patients and panicked residents are streaming into the facility, it’s the only public hospital, all wards are occupied above capacity,” Mohamed Sheikh, the provincial public health and medical officer, told IRIN. “At the moment, more than 5,000 cases have been recorded, and a large number of other cases – about half of those attending Mandera government hospital – have been treated in the few private clinics.”

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) describes dengue as “a mosquito-borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness, and sometimes a potentially lethal complication called dengue haemorrhagic fever”. The WHO estimates some 50 million people are infected with dengue across the world every year.

A statement by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation on 26 September said four deaths from the disease had been confirmed but, according to Mandera residents, at least 10 people have died since early September when the outbreak started.

Sheikh said more deaths resulting from the viral infection could have occurred in homes or at private clinics.

“Symptoms of dengue fever case are easily mistaken for malaria and anti-malaria drugs were prescribed to many suspected patients for two weeks, then we got concerned when we received more cases, conducted tests last week and confirmed almost all our patients required new treatment for this viral infection,” Sheikh said.

In the absence of a specific treatment for dengue fever, Sheikh said, health facilities were providing supportive treatment to the infected: Paracetamol for those presenting with fever, fluids for those dehydrated and antibiotics for those with infections. He added that the fever often subsides after seven days.

Sheikh said the disease was believed to have spread from neighbouring Somalia where several deaths and cases have been reported this year.

He said health workers had been mobilized to help in treatment and to tackle poor sanitation, which provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, the disease’s vectors.

“Elimination of mosquitoes by chemical spraying is the surest, [most] reliable approach to eliminate the spread of dengue fever; it’s easily contracted from a single bite, mosquito nets cannot guarantee full prevention,” Sheikh said.

A community nurse at the Mandera District Hospital, who requested anonymity, said more than 100 patients were spending nights in the hospital’s compound while hundreds more were unable to access treatment as they could not pay the fees charged for diagnosis, treatment and admission.

“Many people are suffering at home, some have died; five cases known to me are from poor families, the government should consider this a disaster and waive all fees,” the nurse said.

Severe drought

Abridirizak Dualle, programme manager of the Rural Agency for Community Development and Assistance (RACIDA), an NGO, said the outbreak had affected almost 75 percent of the residents of Mandera, who were already struggling to cope with severe drought.

Dualle said small businesses and subsistence farming along Dawa River – which runs through the town – as well as school attendance had been affected.

“I have just recovered from dengue fever and returned to work to find that eight of my colleagues who were working on a number of drought mitigation projects are all at home sick; almost all families in Mandera central are either sick or affected,” Dualle said.

Ibrahim Maalim, a local leader, urged the government to quickly establish mobile clinics at Buruburu, Township, Tawakal and Kamor, the worst-hit areas of Mandera.

Abdi Mohamud, the Mandera central zone education officer, said a crisis meeting was convened on 26 September following reports that parents were withdrawing their children from school for fear they would contract the fever.

“Five teachers from this zone have contracted dengue fever; they are unable to work. I have yet to find out how many children are affected,” Mohamud told IRIN.

A teacher at Mandera Township Primary School said only three out of 22 teachers had reported to work while more than half the school population of 1,900 pupils had not turned up.

“The matter is very serious, fewer than 900 pupils attended classes today. In one class 20 out of 84 pupils were present; not all are sick, some are assisting sick relatives,” said the teacher, himself just recovered from the disease.

na/js/mw source

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Women farmers in Bangladesh are blocked from subsidies and support

Posted by African Press International on October 2, 2011

Women farmers in Bangladesh are blocked from subsidies and support

DHAKA,  – A significant number of women farmers in Bangladesh are unable to access fertilizer, cash assistance and other government subsidies intended for farmers, because the land they work is registered in their husband’s name, according to government officials, NGOs and women farmers.

Close to half of all farmers in Bangladesh are women, and the majority have not received their Agriculture Input Assistance Card (AIAC) required to access government subsidies, said Sadeka Halim, of the Information Commission, the government-run agency which oversees and enforces the country’s right to information act. Farmers must present their AIAC cards to receive subsidies, such as diesel for irrigation equipment.

The problem, according to Sharmind Neelormi, an associate economics professor at Jahangir Nagar University in Dhaka who has studied gender trends in farming, and others, is that the AIAC programme requires eligible cardholders to own land.

“It is our understanding there are millions of women who have not received AIAC simply because their land is registered under the name of their male partners who left the country while these women work in the field,” Neelormi said.

“It’s a humiliation for millions of women who are relentlessly working for food production in the country,” she added.
The Ministry of Agriculture has temporarily stopped issuing new cards amid allegations of corruption in the AIAC programme. Government officials say they are investigating. But farmers are still required to present the cards in exchange for subsidies.

Quazi Akhter Hossain, additional secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, said the AIAC programme was intended to provide farmers with a way to verify their status. Since it began in 2010, nearly 14 million cards have been distributed – short of the 19 million target, said Anwar Faruque, the Ministry of Agriculture’s director-general of the seed division.

More women farmers

The number of men working in agriculture in Bangladesh has decreased about 10 percent since 2002-03, while the number of women farmers has risen, according to a study released this year by Neelormi.

“The AIAC scheme overlooked the fact that more and more women are now engaging in the agriculture sector while more men are abandoning this job to go in search of jobs in the city and abroad,” said Ziaul Hoque, a steering committee member for the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL), a local alliance of 200 local NGOs and civil society organizations campaigning for comprehensive agrarian reform in Bangladesh.

The director-general of the Department of Agriculture Extension Service, Habibul Rahman, said the AIAC programme was not designed to distinguish between male and female farmers, but focused on land ownership only.

“In order to recognize the role of the real food heroines of the country, the government must revise its policy related to AIAC,” said Neelormi. “Ownership of land cannot be the main criteria for distributing AIAC.”


Aloka Rani, a 45-year-old female farmer from Rangpur District, began farming after her husband’s death a decade ago. She said she is discriminated against as a woman in every step of food production.

“When I go to buy fertilizer, I am served last, and I face difficulties in hiring day labourers because in the village powerful males mock labourers who work under women,” Rani said.

A bank declined to give her a loan, too, because her land is registered under her husband’s name.

“This discrimination against me must end because our agriculture minister is a woman and our prime minister is a woman too,” the widow said.

husband, who is paralyzed. She said she spoke in March at a national programme marking International Women’s Day in Dhaka, and while she was there she asked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for an AIAC.

Six months later, Ambia Khatun continues to wait.

mh/es/nb/cb source

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On the trail of the LRA

Posted by African Press International on October 2, 2011

On the trail of the LRA

NAIROBI,  – Detailed updates about the activity of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are now available in near real-time, thanks to a partnership between two US-based NGOs.

The LRA Crisis Tracker, a joint venture between Invisible Children and Resolve provides data on attacks, killings, abductions, injuries and looting by the LRA, an insurgency that began in northern Uganda in the 1980s, whose fighters are now scattered across remote areas of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

Data is published on the tracker’s website as well as on social media such as Twitter and Facebook and via apps for iPad and iPhone. Historical monthly data going back to December 2009 is also available. The information derives from the Invisible Children early warning radio network, NGOs, UN agencies and other sources.

“I feel it’s interesting but it wasn’t available during the height of the conflict in northern Uganda,” Lindsay McClain of the Justice and Reconciliation project in Gulu district, northern Uganda said. “I have seen the systems and it provides early warning systems to protect civilians but it’s a challenge to these rural communities without access to the internet.”

js/ca/am/mw source

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