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Archive for December 8th, 2011

Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow – Are you really looking for Mr Felicien Kabuga or you just want to extent the life of ICTR? Stop looking for him in Kenya – he is not there.

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

By API

The Kenya media has once again brought to life Mr Kabuga’s story and the wishful thinking by the Chief Prosecutor for ICTR Justice Hassan Jallow that the fugitive is being hidden in Kenya, a thing he may well know is not true, but only wants to accuse Kenya at the United Nations so that he gets ICTR’s life extended.

The Chief Prosecutor still insists that Mr Felicien Kabuga is hiding somewhere in Kenya.

As far as API is concerned, Mr Kabuga has not been in Kenya since the 23rd of March 2008, when API reported that he had crossed into Norway from Sweden by car at Svinesund border-crossing.

In 2008, API wrote that Kabuga was ready to talk in connection with surrendering, but had conditions to be met.

When the story was at the top, API was contacted by officials from two embassies in Europe belonging to Rwanda. The officials were very positive and wanted to talk about the conditions because Mr Kabuga wanted to surrender and be tried in Rwanda. He also wanted to avoid being in custody during the trial because of his high age and poor health.

Surprisingly, after two weeks had passed, they decided to withdraw and were not even willing to meet and get the letter that was to be handed over to the Rwandese government.

Since 2008, everybody has kept quiet and now when the ICTR’s life (International Criminal Court for Rwanda’s life) is about to come to an end, then the Chief prosecutor decides to direct his anger on Kenya and Zimbabwe saying the two countries have refused to cooperate with his office.

Surely, how does he expect cooperation, especially from the Kenyans when they do not house the fugitive?

When we stated in 2008 that Mr Kabuga was in Norway, it would be of public interest to know if the ICTR did anything at the time – a follow up of some kind. If they ignored API’s revelation in 2008, then they should stop harassing countries that do not house fugitives and instead work with governments where the three men – including Kabuga are enjoying high level refugee status.

Related articles:

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felicien kabugainternational outcrychief prosecutorinternational criminal court, and rwandese government.

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10th December – Watch the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies live here from Oslo and Stockholm

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

Celebrating the winners by watching Webcasts on 10 December – 

 Click here to Watch the ceremony live!

Click to choose: Here you can choose to watch both ceremonies, One in Oslo and the other in Stockholm.!


  •  Ceremony at the Oslo City Hall, 13.00 hours CET. 
  • Ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall, 16.30 hours CET.

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Elections in Morocco important step towards greater democracy

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

 

“The parliamentary elections in Morocco are an important step in the country’s democratisation process. I am pleased that the elections were conducted in a peaceful and transparent manner,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The recent constitutional reform in the country strengthens protection for human rights and has given more power to the parliament and the prime minister. According to the provisional results of last Friday’s elections, 65 of 395 seats in the Moroccan parliament have been won by women. The leader of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), Abdelilah Benkirane, will in all likelihood form a coalition government in the near future.

“The new parliament and government will have an important part to play in following up the comprehensive political, economic and social reforms that have been intiated in Morocco. It is particularly important that women and young people are included in this process. Norway will support these reforms in dialogue with the country’s authorities and civil society actors,” said Mr Støre.

 

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Nigeria Releases Vitamin A Cassava to Improve Public Health for Millions

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

By Godwin atser

The Nigerian Government has announced the release of three new vitamin A-rich ‘yellow’ cassava varieties that could provide more vitamin A in the diets of more than 70 million Nigerians who eat cassava every day. The yellow color (cassava is generally white) is due to the higher vitamin A content.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. It afflicts almost 20% of pregnant women and about 30% of children under-five in Nigeria. VAD can lower immunity and impair vision, which can lead to blindness and even death.

Children and women will be the main beneficiaries of these new yellow varieties, which could provide up to 25% of their daily vitamin A needs. Varieties with enough vitamin A to provide up to half of daily needs are already in the breeding pipeline and should be ready for release in a few years.

These new yellow varieties were bred using traditional (non-transgenic) methods by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and were liked by farmers during field trials. Cassava is an extremely adaptable crop; it is drought tolerant, requires limited land preparation, and grows well in poor soils. The new yellow varieties are also high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests. “Demand for these varieties has already started, but it will take some time before we have enough quantities to give out,” said Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Manager for Nigeria.

The yellow cassava is already being multiplied through stem cuttings. In 2013, when sufficient certified stems are available, HarvestPlus and its partners will then distribute these to about 25,000 farming households initially. Farmers will be able to grow these new vitamin A varieties and feed them to their families. They can also multiply and share cuttings with others in their community amplifying the nutritional benefits. After the Mid-2014 harvest, more than 150,000 household members are expected to be eating vitamin A cassava.

This work is funded by HarvestPlus. Other partners include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and Nigerian Government agencies.

HarvestPlus leads a global effort to breed and disseminate micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger in malnourished populations. It is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health. It is coordinated by CIAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

 

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Al Bashir’s ultimatum to Kenya angers Kenyan civil society now in upproar ready to arrest him

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

By Chief editor API

The relationship between Kenya and Sudan is getting worse by the day because of Justice Ombijah`s desire to follow the laws. Even the Supreme Court President Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga, who is his boss is now criticising the government and that is seen as direct support for the Judge. 

This drama is getting worse. The government says no, they will not interfere with a head of State of another country. The Kenya civil society has now said if the Sudanese President sets foot in Kenya, they will use the powers that give the people to execute a citizen’s arrest.

This is very serious.

On the other hand, the government has moved to the court of Appeal asking the court to set aside the High court order of arrest directed against Mr Al Bashir.

The Sudanese president has told the Kenya government that he will not relent if the order is not quashed within 14 days. He will punish Kenya by expelling 1200 Kenyans working and some studying in his country.

He has also said he will touch where it hurts most .. tourism, by disallowing all flights travelling to Kenya to fly past Sudan airspace. Most flights from Europe must overfly Sudanese airspace.

So how will Kenya solve this dilemma.

 

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Three women receive Nobel Peace Prize this year: A Concert 11th December 2011 in their honour in Oslo Spektrum has attracted good artists

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

By Korir, Chief editor, api

The winners of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize arrive Oslo today Thursday the 8th. According to a release by the Nobel Institute, the three will arrive in the afternoon at different times. From there they will be driven straight to their hotel rooms in Grand Hotel.

After a rest, the three women will have an evening small dinner with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. The dinner is strictly for 11 people. The evening is meant as an evening to acquaint themselves before the next day that has a tight program.

Make a date with Spectrum and enjoy the Nobel Peace Prize concert honouring the three women who won the Nobel Peace Prize. The three shares the Prize. The President of . This is one big way and practical when we talk about women empowerment world over.

 This year, three astonishing women have been credited with the win because they have devoted their lives uplifting lives of other human beings through different struggles. When the three Laureates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman arrive in Oslo, they will be welcome open-hearted and presented with a tight schedule. They will also be met by the white snow that has decided to drop in and provide them with a White Christmas!
They arrive Thursday the 8th.

Serious business starts on the 9th December. The three will attend a 1.00 pm Press conference at the Nobel Institute.

On the 10th December from 11.30 am – 11.45 am Save the Children’s Peace Prize Show will be the host inside the Nobel Peace Center for invited children. It is reported tha the HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit will also be in attendance.

According to a tentative program from the Nobel Institute the Laureates will have the opportunity for an Audience with H.M. King Harald V, H.M. Queen Sonja, Royal Palace between 12.00 noon – 12.20 pm, followed by the main event of the day – Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, that takes place from 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm at Oslo City Hall. The members of the public who have no place in the city hall have the opportunity to follow the ceremony at The Nobel Peace Center through a Live big screen transmission of the event.

As is always, apart from when President Barack Obama won the Prize – he refused to attend CNN program, CNN’s Jonathan Mann will host a Live CNN program from 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm at Oslo City Hall.

When the program at City Hall is over, those who still want to show solidarity with the winners may join a Torchlight parade outside Grand Hotel at 6.55 pm before the laureates and guests retire for a Nobel banquet at 7.00 pm.

The 11th of December is not a free day either. Duty calls from 3.00 pm – 4.55 pm, whereby Johnson Sirleaf and Gbowee will have a joint meeting with the Norwegian Refugee Council and other humanitarian organizations. This will be followed by the opening of the Nobel Peace Prize Exhibition 2011 at 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm.

Nobel Peace Prize Concert starts at 20.00, 11th December.

www.africanpress.me - Nobel Peace Prize Concert Oslo Spektrum will be top on 11th December 2011

http://www.africanpress.me - Nobel Peace Prize Concert Oslo Spektrum will be top on 11th December 2011

This leaves only a 90 minutes rest for the three laureates before heading to the Nobel Peace Prize Concert Hosted by Helen Mirren and Rosario Dawson at the Oslo Spektrum starting at 8.00 pm. It is scheduled to end at 11.00 pm.

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The Global Fund audit recommends Swaziland repay US$5.8 million

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

by api

Photo: FreeFoto.com
Released in late October, the Global Fund audit recommends Swaziland repay US$5.8 million

MBABANE,  – On the heels of a decision by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria to cancel its next round of funding, the Swazi government is calling on donors to come to the impoverished country’s aid. However, there are fears that the result of a recent Global Fund audit may dissuade donors even as HIV organizations contest its findings.

Economic constraints forced the Global Fund to cancel Round 11grants at its board meeting in late November in Ghana’s capital, Accra. HIV activists in Swaziland say the cancellation has jeopardised the scale-up of HIV programmes. The country is also contesting a recently released Global Fund audit that alleges nearly US$6 million in aid was misused.

With an HIV prevalence of about 26 percent, Swaziland cannot afford to fund HIV treatment domestically – an estimated 90,000 Swazis are in need of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières.

In early 2010, the Swazi government announced it would take over funding for all ARVs, excluding paediatric drugs, from the Global Fund, but a lack of money led to ARV shortages in 2011. Swaziland recently received stopgap funding from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to help supply first-line ARVs until the end of April 2012.

HIV organizations contest audit findings

The audit report released on 31 October by the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommended that Swaziland pay back $5.8 million of around $100 million in grants it had received between 2003 and 2010.

The report says the money due for repayment has been misspent as part of budget overruns, or unbudgeted or unapproved expenses, and the situation has been compounded by a dearth of supporting documentation and oversight.

Swaziland’s Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), which handles the disbursement of Global Fund grant money, denied any corruption, theft or fraud in a statement.

“We are completely transparent,” said Derek von Wissell, director of the government’s National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA). “There is a lack of understanding about the way things work in Swaziland.”

NERCHA has joined the CCM in insisting that no money was misspent. Both bodies say inadequate local accounting practices were largely to blame for the appearance of financial discrepancies that in fact did not exist.

Among the audit’s findings were poor controls in terms of unbudgeted expenditure, such as the purchase of vehicles used to support feeding schemes but not included in original work plans. In its report, the OIG does not question the need for the vehicles, but has asked NERCHA to provide evidence that the nearly 40 vehicles purchased were used in line with Global Fund grant objectives.

Without this evidence, the OIG has recommended that the roughly $1.8 million used to purchase the cars be refunded.

The money went to vehicles that you can plainly see are transporting food to neighbourhood care points,” said Alicia Dlamini, a systems manager with a HIV testing and counseling NGO that depends on international donations. “This is not money that disappeared into someone’s overseas bank account.”

Unapproved expenditure was also found in the construction of rural centres built for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children, where costs ran about $1 million over budget, despite fewer than the projected number of centres being built.

Keeping up with the times

Dlamini maintains that the Global Fund Secretariat approved the expenditure, but the audit disagrees, highlighting the need for better guidance from the Secretariat to Fund recipients in order to avoid similar situations in future.

Von Wissell says these situations are historically rooted. “The original plan of the Global Fund was, ‘Let’s get the money out there and get the results’. We were told go buy the drugs we need and get vehicles if they are needed,” he told IRIN/PlusNews.

“At the Global Fund now, such flexibility is gone. We started getting money in 2003 and the Global Fund was just starting up, so monitoring systems were just starting up for both of us. You can’t apply 2010 rules to what was done in 2003,” Von Wissell said.

Since its inception in 2002, the Fund has tried to implement increasingly tighter financial controls, most notably after the Fund discovered fraud in several countries in 2010. The Fund subsequently instituted a high-level panel to review financial management.

The OIG conceded that financial reporting guidelines had changed over the years but urged NERCHA to improve its financial oversight, and produce missing supporting documentation.

“We order a big batch of drugs on behalf of the Global Fund, to be sent to government’s Central Delivery Stores, which then may lose an order or an invoice – this is Swaziland, and it happens,” von Wissell said.

“We go back to the suppliers for a certifiable invoice, but this is not accepted by the Global Fund. The drugs are there. The money was legitimately spent, but the OIG says there is no proof – 60 000 people are alive today because of those drugs,” he added.

The UN recommends that the principal recipients of Global Fund monies, such as NERCHA, should use 14 percent of the annual grants received for programme monitoring and evaluation.

According to von Wissell, NERCHA has never received more than about 2 percent of annual grants for evaluating Global Fund expenditures.

In its audit, the OIG recommended a commitment of Global Fund money and expertise to improve the monitoring and evaluation capabilities of the Fund’s recipients in Swaziland.

Wooing the donors?

Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini has called on the international donor community to come to Swaziland’s assistance “in this hour of need”, but his call may encounter some resistance if donors are alarmed by the findings of the Global Fund’s audit report.

HIV organizations and government maintain that the audit has created false impressions, which may jeopardise future funding for a country that has already seen shortages of HIV treatment, testing kits and related laboratory tests, according to Alicia Dlamini, a systems manager at an HIV testing and counselling NGO that depends on international donations.

“If donors think monies were squandered in Swaziland, they will write off the country,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Thembi Nkambule, director of the Swaziland Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, an umbrella body, said thecancellation of Round 11 may already have jeopardised the government’s commitments to scale up HIV treatment and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

jh/llg/he source http://www.irinnews.org

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budget overrunshiv prevalencecapital accraglobal fund to fight aids, and tuberculosis tb.

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Avoiding ethnically-driven elections

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

by api

Some Peulh traders feel they are being targeted by the administration

CONAKRY, 6 December 2011 (IRIN) – Politics remain ethnically divisive in Guinea a year after violent clashes marred a bitterly divided Presidential election. Analysts and civil servants say more concerted reconciliation efforts between ethnic groups are needed on the part of the President and opposition leaders to avoid another pitched battle in upcoming legislative elections.

Voting was originally scheduled for the end of 2011, but senior officials told IRIN it is more likely to take place early next year as the census, registration process and other key preparations are nowhere near complete.

“Ethnic tensions are getting worse, not better,” said Vincent Foucher – a researcher at the International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict thinktank – who wrote Putting the transition Back on Track. “Everyone is playing the ethnic card… horrible statements are being made from all sides.”

The main political party, President Alpha Condé’s Rally the Guinean People (RPG) is supported by the Malinke, while main opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo’s party, the Union des Forces Democratiques de Guinée (UFDG), is closely associated with the Peulh community. Peulhs are the dominant ethnic group in Guinea, followed by the Malinke and Sousou.

Favouritism

Corinne Dufka, head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in West Africa, says the current administration has fomented ethnic tension rather than trying to reduce it. The President has shown clear favouritism in appointing Malinke to civil service and ministerial posts, and has used the judicial system – based on French civil law, customary law, and decree – to discriminate against Peulh political groups.

Currently, Peulhs hold just six ministerial positions, including the Youth and Tourism portfolios, while the military is Malinke dominated.

Many people fear that Condé is concentrating power in the executive. “Past Presidents had to balance the ethnic positions at least a little, but now there is not as obvious a need,” said Foucher. Even military junta leader Dadis Camara had to put more effort into getting the support of different ethnicities during his short-lived time in power, he added.

Public discourse has been peppered with ethnic rhetoric in recent months. On 21 September 2011, the Governor of Conakry Region, Resco Camara, talked of ordering containers of water from the Mayimbo River to pour on protesters – the river is popularly believed to have dangerous powers against members of the Peulh community.

Mouctar Diallo, leader of the New Democratic Forces party (NFD) and President of a group of opposition parties, Collective Parties Politique Finalisation de la Transition, told IRIN he has never seen Guinea as divided as it is now. “You say your name and you know your ethnicity – and that is how people are defining themselves. An ethno-strategy has become part of the Guinean politics… the situation is very serious.” He too, has shocked many with his strong statements – earlier this year saying President Condé would need to expand his cemeteries and hospitals to bury protesting militants – referring to strong crackdowns by security forces on protesters.

A rice vendor at Concasseur market in the capital, Conakry, told IRIN that Peulhs feel increasingly marginalized in society and politics. Those in the diaspora have made a number of vitriolic statements, with online news site Guineé Presse speaking of impending civil war and a “genocide“ being planned against the Peulh community. “They talk of genocide when there are arrests. Key officials are making strong statements – it is worrying,” said Foucher.

Nevertheless, strained relations between the President’s party and the opposition improved recently when Condé held meetings with opposition leaders to discuss the upcoming elections. He described the meeting as “cordial and rewarding”.

Moustapha Naïte, director general of the Patrimoine Partie Politique, which is linked to the Presidency, told IRIN that although ethnic division is at a high pitch, poverty, not politics, is the root cause of tension between the various communities.

Economy not ethnicity

“People are mistaking economic issues for ethnic issues. What people are really concerned about is the economy and jobs, and that is starting to look up,” he told IRIN, referring to a recent spike in investment in the mining sector, and mining reform that could increase the government’s share in the sector by up to 35 percent.

“We are committed morally and religiously to reconciliation,” Naïte said. “We need to have a debate about the problems that have been posed. There is a sense of frustration in the country, and deepening poverty has accentuated some tensions, but the roots are much more in poverty than in ethnicity.”

Guineans have become poorer in the past 15 years. In 1995 some 40 percent of the population was living in poverty, but in 2010 this figure reached 58 percent, according to the UN.

Ousmane Balde, head of International Alert, a conflict resolution non-profit, agrees. “The biggest danger in Guinea is poverty. One percent of the population takes most of the country’s revenue – it is very corrupt – yet this is somehow socially tolerated.”

HRW’s Dufka said poverty need not be divisive. “All ethnic groups have suffered from bad governance, corruption and a weak rule of law,” she pointed out.

Marriages, baptisms

Some worry that politically driven ethnic division has seeped into communities, creating tension where previously there had been inclusion and tolerance. For instance, in the city of Conakry, most marriages and baptisms have traditionally been inclusive events to which all ethnic groups were invited. Dufka told IRIN that lately she has heard of more ceremonies being limited to one group or another.

In the marketplaces, a few Peulhs, who are angry with what they see as the government’s efforts to undermine them economically and politically, have started to set different prices for Peulhs and for others, say traders.

A Malinke woman at Concasseur market, who asked to remain unnamed, said she was charged 18,000 GF(US$2.67) for a bottle of milk, while the Peulh woman just before her had been charged 15,000 ($2.21). But, she said, this practice was far worse during the election period in 2010.

President Condé has tried to break up monopolies in the import market, traditionally dominated by Peulhs, causing some to feel targeted, said a vendor. Many Peulhs left Guinea for neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire when its President Alassane Ouattara eliminated taxes for traders there.

“Had President Condé pushed for inclusion – ‘let’s all work together; how can I encourage Peulhs to continue to invest in Guinea?’ – this could have mitigated some of these problems and would not have sabotaged the economy,” said Dufka.

Others feel it is high time that the power of what they call “mafias” – who manipulate the market and fix prices – is broken. “It is the President who says monopolies in the market should be broken up to help everyone compete for the benefit of the population… he has not stigmatized one ethnic group over another,” Diallo, a Conakry resident, told IRIN.

Moving forward

Ethnic tensions have long simmered in the country, but with so many Guineans having seen first-hand the impact of such violence in West African neighbours Sierra Leone and Liberia, the appetite for violence is low. Thousands of refugees from these countries fled to Guinea during their civil wars. “Ethnic problems are not fundamental here [Guinea], they’re power-related,” International Alert’s Balde told IRIN.

Diversity is so fundamental to most city-dwellers’ lives that any degree of ethnic politicking will only go so far, a Conakry-based journalist says. “Many Guineans have more than one wife, each of a different ethnicity. It’s not unusual to find a Guinean with a Peulh mother, a Malinke wife and a Soussou or Forestier father… things are mixed here.”

Lounceny Camara, President of the Independent Election Commission (CENI) in Guinea, told IRIN he hoped ethnicity would play a far smaller role in upcoming legislative elections. The problem is that political debate remains highly polarized in the fledgling democracy. “We have never before seen a second round [of voting in an electoral process] – there is no real middle ground yet,” he said.

Before political campaigning begins, political parties should sign up to a code of conduct committing them to refrain from any comment that risks stirring up inter-communal tensions, says the International Crisis Group.

Most analysts agree that on top of imposing limits and rules, a deep countrywide reconciliation process needs to take place. “It is easier to move ahead with elections than to open such delicate debates as reconciliation,” Balde told IRIN. “But if you do not address the problems of the past, they’ll just recur… the state has always acted with impunity here, and there has still been no catharsis.”

For years, International Alert has been hosting a dialogue on reconciliation and peace-building with political figures, religious leaders, security sector representatives and civil society organization representatives.

“The President came with intentions to take a South African model [of reconciliation]. Then the reality of power changed and it dampened his ardour,” said Balde, referring to the assassination attempt against the President in July 2011. According to the ICG, ethnic resentment probably played some role in the event, and most of the people in the first group indicted for the crime are Peulh

The government recently appointed religious leaders to set up a reconciliation commission to address past tensions as well as the roots of inter-community divisions. Balde told IRIN he hopes it will be as inclusive as impossible.

Dufka supports the idea. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of pushing this,” she said. “This could help focus Guineans on what they have in common…Corruption and impunity affect all Guineans and all ethnic groups – Guineans often lost sight of that.”

But if the initiative is to work it needs buy-in from all sectors of society, she said, and at the moment many civil society members have not even heard of it.

ms/aj/he source http://www.irinnews.org

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international crisis groupcellou dalein diallofrench civil lawdominant ethnic group, and reconciliation efforts.

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Fiasco leaves country short of lab supplies: Swaziland chose not to apply for Global Fund money a year before stockouts began

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2011

by api

Swaziland chose not to apply for Global Fund money a year before stockouts began

JOHANNESBURG,  – First there were national shortages of HIV medication, then of HIV tests, now Swaziland lacks the lab tests essential for initiating and managing HIV patients on treatment. To make matters worse, the country chose not to apply for the international funding that could have safeguarded antiretroviral (ARV) stocks.

Shortages of HIV programme supplies began making headlines in mid-2011.  Media reports have largely ascribed stock-outs to reduced revenues from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), due to the global economic downturn. In 2010, SACU began to review its revenue-sharing formula, including the possibility of re-allocating Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana smaller shares.

Changes to the formula remain under review but by mid-2010, declines in overall SACU revenue were enough to raise alarm among academics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who advised Swaziland to move away from over-reliance on SACU disbursements to fund its HIV programme.

But Swaziland chose not to apply for Round 10 funding from the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria. Its July 2010 Round 10 application – which was ultimately denied – focused instead only on strengthening community health systems. When Global Fund money for ARVs officially ended in April 2011, the Swazi government informed the international financing mechanism it would take over ARV funding after allocating funds from its national budget.

The most likely lifeline may only come in late 2013.

The decision was driven by government beliefs that the percentage of the national budget it had allocated to treatment was enough, according to Vulindlela Msibi, executive director of Swaziland’s country coordinating mechanism (CCM), which manages Global Fund money.

No money, no drugs, no tests

According to Aymeric Péguillan, Swaziland head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the consequences of the government’s decision not to seek international support for HIV treatment were predictable.

“In the Round 10 application, there was no line for commodities so it was an already accepted situation that government was going to take over the huge majority of ARV procurement,” Péguillan told IRIN/PlusNews. “Everyone could see this coming.”

While the government initially assured development partners like MSF that health and education would be protected as it cut spending amid tough financial times, this has not been the case.

“In actual fact, the health sector is really struggling to negotiate a share of national revenue and we do not see a ‘plan B’ – there is no money available in other departments,” said Péguillan. “It’s difficult for partners to get a clear picture of what money is available every month and how it’s allocated… The Ministry of Finance calls the shots and it’s quite difficult for us to work on any sort of prediction or planning with the Ministry of Health.”

Samuel Vusi Magagula, deputy director of health services with Swaziland’s Ministry of Health, did not respond to IRIN/PlusNews requests for comment.

Msibi said the country was now looking to re-apply for ARV funding as part of the Global Fund’s next round, and is considering reallocating current Global Fund financing to the ARV programme. In a statement, the CCM has called Round 11 a “do or die” moment for the country’s HIV and tuberculosis response.

''In the Round 10 application, there was no line for commodities so it was an already accepted situation that government was going to take over the huge majority of ARV procurement''

However, the Global Fund has more than halved the estimated amount of money available in Round 11 as lower interest rates and a weaker dollar conspire with possible decreases in donor funding. If Swaziland is successful, it will only see this money in late 2013.

Temporary measures

After ARV stock-outs were reported, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) gave the country US$7 million in emergency funding in August; however, this was only for first-line ARVs.

With this assistance, the government was able to sign a 12-month tender for the drugs via the US-funded Supply Chain Management Systems project, according to PEPFAR spokeswoman, Kate Glantz.

In August, South Africa announced it would lend its embattled neighbour about $313 million. According to South Africa’s National Treasury Department, it is waiting for Swaziland to sign the papers needed to disburse the first $104 million tranche, which should go to priority areas such as health and education.

Swaziland now has a buffer stock of first-line ARVs that should last until April 2012. However, the country was still experiencing stock-outs of essential laboratory supplies – which may be tied to partially delayed Global Fund disbursements. Slated to support programmes, salaries and some of these lab supplies, the first disbursement of $10.9 million arrived in the country last week.

Despite several bail-outs this year by international donors, neighbouring countries and international NGOs, Swaziland remains in the grips of a months-long shortage of lab reagents needed for CD4 count testing, which measures the immune system’s strength and is needed to start patients on ARVs, as well as toxicity testing important in monitoring patients’ responses to treatment.

Although the situation has improved, with MSF and PEPFAR-supported programmes sourcing reagents for some areas of the country, Péguillan said it was far from ideal and as of mid-October, there had been no government response to the shortages.

“It is far from great and still very fragile and a temporary solution but not as bad as it was a month ago,” he told IRIN/PlusNews.“Yet, there is still uncertainty for months to come and around the supply of HIV test kits as well.”

llg/kn/mw source http://www.irinnews.org

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