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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Road Injuries and Heart Disease Killing more Ugandans today

By Esther Nakkazi

Boda Bodas or motor cycles are popular in Uganda. They beat the traffic jam, are fast and take you to your next meeting and you arrive on time. At the same time, Uganda like all other developing countries is coping with increasing deaths from non communicable diseases.

So if you live in Uganda, today and you are not HIV positive, you are more likely to die from road injuries or ischemic heart disease. More-so, you will die of road injuries if you are a man. In Uganda, road injuries took a greater toll on men, killing 9,917 males and 3,100 females in 2013.

If all is well, then, you will live to a ripe age of 58.2 years if you are a man and 61.6 years if you are a woman because average life expectancy has increased to those levels. By contrast, women lived an average of 53.6 years and men had a life expectancy of 49.9 years in 1990.

But you will most likely not die from from African trypanosomiasis and diarrheal diseases in Uganda. Mortality from African trypanosomiasis dropped 95% between 1990 and 2013. In 1990, these diseases killed 46,571 people. Twenty-three years later, they claimed 30,480 fewer lives.

This is according to a new, comprehensive analysis of trend data from 188 countries published in The Lancet on December 18, "Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

The research was conducted by an international consortium of researchers coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

According to a press release from Meropa Communications, the study shows that the leading killers in Uganda were HIV/AIDS, malaria, and pneumonia, accounting for 34% of all deaths in 2013.

For young people aged 15 to 49 years old, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were the top two causes of death, resulting in 43,815 lives lost in 2013.

For older people, 70 years and older, stroke claimed the most lives last year. But more women 6,209 and 4,363 men’s lives died of stroke. And children under the age of 5 years, it was malaria, killing 22,449 children in total.

Progress in Uganda and Internationally:

But generally there was progress with less mortality from a number of diseases that used to take a large toll on the country.

"We have achieved great progress in reducing mortality from a number of diseases, reflecting our country’s investments in improving health for its citizens," said Mr Opio John Nelson, Assistant District Health Officer for Environmental Health from Lira, Uganda.

"But we are still seeing children dying and deaths from other conditions are rising. These data are critical to understanding where we’ve been – and then where we need to go in order to save more lives in the future."

Globally, people live an average of 6.2 years longer than they did in 1990, with life expectancy rising to just under 72 years in 2013. Women showed a slightly larger average gain (an increase of 6.6 years) than men (a rise of 5.8 years). Improvements in health, reduced fertility, and shifts in the world’s age patterns have driven these global gains in life expectancy.

Out of the 188 countries included in the study Uganda ranked 166th for women and for men for longest life expectancies. In 2013, Andorra had the longest life expectancy for women (86.7 years) and Qatar had the longest for men (81.2 years). Lesotho had the shortest life expectancy for both women (51.2 years) and men (45.6 years).

"The fact that people are living longer in most parts of the world is good news but we must do more to address health disparities," said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

"Only with the best available evidence can we develop policies to improve health and save lives."

Worldwide, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) claimed the most lives, accounting for nearly 32% of all deaths. Much global progress has been made in reducing mortality from diseases such as measles and diarrhea, with 83% and 51% declines respectively, from 1990 to 2013.

Globally, a number of diseases that have received less attention relative to others are some of the biggest causes of premature death, particularly drug use disorders, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cirrhosis. 

The gender gap in death rates for adults between the ages of 20 to 44 is widening and HIV/AIDS, interpersonal violence, road injuries, and maternal mortality are some of the key conditions responsible. For children under 5, diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, neonatal disorders, and malaria are still among the leading causes of death.

Two diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria, followed very different mortality trends from other diseases. The global death toll from both diseases peaked around 2005 rather than 1990, with deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria declining 22% and 30%, respectively, from 2005 to 2013. Malaria mortality in Uganda peaked in 2004, with 52,573 deaths, but then fell 44% by 2013.

Leading causes of death in Uganda, with the number of lives lost


1990 (deaths)                                                 
1. Diarrheal diseases (38,336)          2. Pneumonia (24,529)                     3. Malaria (22,872)                           4. HIV/AIDS (19,912)                   5. Tuberculosis (12,319)                 6. Malnutrition (9,616)                     7. Preterm birth complications (8,961)                    
8. Meningitis (8,960)                         9. African trypanosomiasis (8,235) 10. Measles (8,067)                                                    

 2013 (deaths)
 1. HIV/AIDS (52,939) 
2. Malaria (29,545)
3. Pneumonia (28,046
4. Diarrheal diseases (15,710)
5. Tuberculosis (14,738                    6. Road injuries (13,017)
7. Preterm birth complications (10,838)
8. Neonatal encephalopathy (10,733)
9. Stroke (10,572)
10. Malnutrition (9,549)


Find the paper at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61682-2/abstract

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2013 is part of an ongoing effort to produce the most timely and up-to-date understanding of what kills and ails people worldwide.

Thousands of collaborators worldwide work together to generate annual estimates of deaths by cause, years of life lost to disability, and rates of premature mortality and illness. To make these data as useful and relevant to policymakers and country leaders as possible, findings from the GBD study can be used at the global, regional, national, and even subnational levels to track trends in health over time.

Researchers found a widening gap between countries with the lowest and highest death rates from a given disease – a potential sign of increasing inequalities in health. They also emphasize the importance of measuring local disease burdens, as the health challenges found in one corner of a country can widely vary from those experienced a few hours away.

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Dr. Edward Bbaale: Should Many Ugandans be Engaged in Agriculture?

By Esther Nakkazi

Uganda's agriculture sector cannot generate jobs yet it is a leading employer in Uganda, with over 8 million people or over 70 per cent of the entire labor force. In terms of productivity, it also has the lowest output per worker researchers say.

This implies that the majority of workers in Uganda are holders of low paying jobs, with very low prospects of overcoming the problem of poverty says Edward Bbaale, a researcher with Center for Basic Research and School of Economics at Makerere University.

So, is it necessary for so many Ugandans to engage in agriculture? Especially, at this point in time, when the demographic dividend is generating a window of opportunity to raise per capita income and thus reduce poverty?

Even when Uganda records growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, they are jobless while growth in the services and industrial sectors is job generating.

A paper by Bbaale entitled ‘Is Uganda’s growth profile Jobless?’ points out that more people should be engaged in other productive activities and sectors rather than agriculture if Uganda has to reduce on its poverty levels and create jobs for the youth.

The research published in November 2014, was funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

This paper set out to establish the link between economic growth and employment in Uganda for the period 2006 to 2011. Data is from World Development Indicators, Uganda National Household Panel Survey (2011) and United Nations Statistical Data Base. Researchers adopted the Job Generation and Decomposition (JoGGs) Tool of the World Bank during the analysis.

Overall, the promising sectors for poverty reduction through productivity and employment generation in Uganda by order of importance are; services sector, industrial sector and manufacturing. "If adults manage to engage in these sectors , the demographic shift will have an important poverty reducing impact," says Bbaale.

The services sector was employing over 2 million Ugandans, that is 19 percent in 2006 and 22 percent in 2011 of the labor force. It had all its contributions positive; contributed 39 percent to output per worker and 14 percent to the growth in employment.

“If East African governments are to cope with the pace at which new young entrants will come into the job market in the next decade, there is an urgent need for new innovative approaches to accommodate this youth bulge,” said Eugenia Kayitesi, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda).

Bbaale, however, cautions that agriculture still remains important because it is a major employer in Uganda.

Policy Question:

Since agriculture generates low income for its workers this puts a policy question on the productivity of jobs held in the agricultural sector.

Apparently, agriculture contributes to a decline in the employment rate by 6.5 percentage points. But there are positive increments noted in the services and industrial sector with 1.73 and 0.5 percentage points, respectively.

Of the -20 US dollars registered in per capita output, agriculture and manufacturing contributed negatively with -29 and -0.8 US dollars, respectively. Services and industry contributed positively 7.7 and 2.1 US dollars, respectively.

These findings combined with high productivity in services and industrial sectors give a great prospect to these sectors in an effort to reduce poverty via employment creation.

Agriculture being the major sector in Uganda, a small contraction in employment led to a very big negative effect on growth such that the positive effect in services and industry could not offset it.

Youth Employment:

IPAR-Rwanda in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) convened a high level conference on innovative approaches to incorporate youth into labour markets in the East African region in November 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda.

In his presentation at the conference, Bbaale said at least 25 percent youth could not find suitable work and 64 percent were discouraged from looking for work because they thought that a job search would be a futile effort. 9 percent did not know where to seek for work.

For those who managed to get employment, 52 percent did not have a contract with the employer, they had an oral contract with an unlimited duration. Some youth were self employed and most of them raised their own start-up capital for their businesses.

Most youth’s reason for becoming self employed were voluntary because they had a desire to become independent and more flexible hours of work, said Bbaale of his research.

Bbaale says governments in East Africa should be mindful of the influx of the youth to urban centres. And the education systems should orient towards relevancy to the job market.

“Supporting youth to find productive employment is a global priority, the situation in Africa could not be more urgent,” said Arjan de Haan, Program Leader of IDRC’s supporting inclusive growth programme.

He also found out that very few youth have benefited from the government youth fund. The majority of the youth also argued that government programmes were not addressing youth unemployment and were not innovative.

“Research and evidence coupled with experience sharing between countries in the region, and giving the youth a voice are all critical ingredients to providing policy makers and practitioners with the tools that are needed to address this growing challenge,” said Arjan de Haan.

ends.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Merck to Wipe Schistosomiasis off the face of Africa

By Esther Nakkazi

Ethiopia will receive around 13 million praziquantel tablets, treatment for schistosomiasis, in 2015.

Ethiopia is one of the most endemic countries for schistosomiasis in the world, says the World Health Organisation, with around 22 million people, or above 20 per cent of the entire population, needing treatment.

Merck (http://www.merckgroup.com), a leading company for innovative and top-quality, high-tech products in the pharmaceutical, chemical and life science sectors will donate the tablets.

The expanded Merck Praziquantel Donation Program will result in a financial commitment totaling around USD 23 million a year.

Merck is committed to the elimination of schistosomiasis, the parasitic worm disease, in Africa. At the beginning of 2012, it announced that it will fight schistosomiasis until the disease has been eliminated in Africa.

To reach this goal, the company will increase the annual donation of tablets up to 250 million in the medium term. The further scale-up of the program will allow the treatment of about 100 million children a year. Between 2011 and 2014, Merck’s annual donation has grown from 25 to about 75 million tablets.

"We have committed to continuing our efforts in Africa, in cooperation with WHO, until schistosomiasis is eliminated," said Frank Gotthardt, Head of Public Affairs at Merck and responsible for the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program.

According to a press release from APO, Gotthardt said that in order to fulfill this commitment, Merck will donate 100 million praziquantel tablets to African countries in 2015. Ethiopia will be one of the main beneficiaries of this donation.

The first meeting of the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance took place at the UN Conference Centre in Addis Ababa yesterday.

“This alliance will allow the different constituencies to engage in a coordinated approach to better address the challenges of meeting the elimination target”, commented Gotthardt.

The round table discussions and first global schistosomiasis meeting took place during the neglected tropical diseases week being hosted by the Ethiopian government from December 8 to 12.

The Merck Praziquantel Donation Program was launched in 2007. Since then, more than 200 million tablets have been supplied and over 54 million children have been treated.

It is also supporting awareness initiatives at African schools to explain the causes of schistosomiasis to children and teach them how to prevent the disease. Merck is also conducting research on a pediatric formulation of praziquantel for preschool children within the scope of a public-private partnership. So far, praziquantel tablets can only be administered to children over the age of six.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Join in for Universal Health Coverage


On Friday, 12 December, more than 500 organizations from over 100 countries will unite behind the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day – representing an unprecedented worldwide coalition urging access to quality health care for all.

The Uganda government has already taken recent steps to introduce a national health insurance scheme as early as next year. But there is still much work to be done, to ensure that all Ugandans have access to affordable care.

This date, December 12, will also mark the two-year anniversary of the United Nation’s unanimous resolution endorsing universal health coverage. More than 1 billion people lack access to basic health care, and another 100 million fall into poverty trying to access it each year. 

The ongoing Ebola outbreak is only the most recent reminder of the desperate need to strengthen health systems for everyone, everywhere.

There is clear picture yet that universal health coverage is affordable and attainable. For instance Rwanda our neighbour has achieved it. Other countries as diverse as Brazil, Thailand, Mexico and Ghana are implementing steps toward universal health coverage, reducing the number of families facing catastrophic health care costs. In addition, about 24% of the growth in “full income” between 2000 and 2011 in low- and middle-income countries resulted from health improvements.

report from the United Nations Secretary-General emphasized that universal health coverage is essential to ending extreme poverty and promoting sustainable growth for all. Once considered a pipe dream, universal health coverage, is an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Political talk does not lessen demand for Medical Male Circumcision in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni's negative talk about voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) is loud and clear, but Ugandans are not listening, as they continue to demand for the HIV intervention. 

In 2015, Uganda will carry out one million voluntary medical male circumcisions, if funding is available.  If that momentum is maintained, every year, all Ugandan men will undergo operation Abraham at some point. Then we shall have a circumcised nation, which is non muslim.

Museveni was a guest of honour in Fort portal at the World Aids Day (1st December 2014) and in his speech he undermined the importance of male circumcision as an HIV prevention intervention. He made comparisons between Bakonjo and Bagisu, tribes who have traditionally circumcised their men but still do not have the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the country. 

Museveni also mentioned that 'those who circumcise could die’.

Truth Tellers, who are a unified African voice speaking the truth of VMMC, as an HIV prevention intervention, say they want to win Museveni over, however, his talk has so far not lessened the demand and uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision.

Records from the Ministry of Health, show that in 2011, Uganda performed only 57, 132 safe male circumcisions and in 2013 there were 801, 678 procedures. In 2014 over 900,000 procedures have been done.

Dr. Barbara Marjorie Nanteza the Coordinator, AIDS Control Program, Ministry of Health, Uganda, believes that if funding is made available, Uganda will perform over 1,000,000 million medical male circumcisions in 2015.

Uganda has a population of 36 million people. Over 49 percent of these are male. If at least a million a circumcised, per year, then all Ugandan men will at some point undergo operation Abraham.

“Most Ugandans know the consequences of HIV/AIDS, so they seek for protection through SMC, which is so far the most effective and it is provided as an HIV prevention package,” said Dr. Nanteza. 

Truth Tellers, say they need to win Museveni over, even though some feel they have already talked themselves hoarse to both politicians and the public about its benefits.

Research backs it up too. It has shown that men who circumcise, reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV heterosexually, by approximately 60 percent.

“We have done our best to provide evidence to all the people including all the top politicians plus our President all these years,” said Dr. Nanteza.

“We really need to do something to win the voice of the President of Uganda to promote VMMC, or at least stop him from campaigning against the service,” said Stephen Mugamba who works with Rakai Health Sciences Program.

Truth Tellers stand for accelerated roll out of VMMC for HIV prevention in Africa.

“It is unfortunate the President of Uganda is speaking against Male circumcision. I wish we had a way of looking at circumcision from a cultural angle,” said an official from Kydesa (Kenya Youth Education and Development support Association) Rainbow community.

“ Changing a community culture might be very challenging. It requires deeper evidence that focuses on benefits of foreskin and circumcision as an option for HIV prevention,” he said.

Truth Tellers, now want to target the First Lady, Janet Museveni to champion voluntary medical male circumcision in Uganda.

“The president may have his misgivings about the strategy, however, it is great that they are not affecting the demand for the service. However, targeted advocacy may help. The first lady may also be targeted as a champion and may get to the president-in the spirit of female involvement. This is if she believes," said Martin a Truth Teller about VMMC.

ends

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

World Most Endangered Antelope Population Grows

By Esther Nakkazi

Less than 240 Hirola, a type of antelope, are left in the world living along the Kenya-Somalia border. They are critically endangered and without immediate intervention they could go extinct, the first time a mammal would do so on mainland Africa in modern human history.

Hirolas are the last living representative of an evolutionary lineage that originated over three million years ago. They look like a child born to an impala and hartebeest, and have trademark white "spectacles."

In 2006, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy was established by Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), The Nature Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and partners banded together to establish the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy, to protect critically endangered Hirola.

Its the only Hirola sanctuary on the planet. It has a predator-proof fence.

It is also very much a part of the community, who tell regaling stories of helicopters manoeuvring through bushes and the gentleness of captured Hirola during translocation.

One community member, ‘a magical elder' mimics the hyena with red eyes and holes in his ears and grows the tail of a hyena calling them in order to catch them.

"This is powerful and entrenching and shows that the sanctuary indisputably belongs to the community and the stories are beyond any ‘conservation awareness’ we can do ourselves," said Dr. Juliet King, Science Advisor, Northern Rangelands Trust.

A recent survey showed that in less than three years 34 Hirola have been born, bringing the number of antelope protected from poaching and predators in the sanctuary to 78.

“A lot of people may not view 34 births in three years as significant, but with fewer than 240 Hirola left in the world we’re talking about the difference between survival and extinction,” said Matthew Brown, Africa Deputy Director, The Nature Conservancy.

The predator-proof sanctuary was built and 48 Hirola were successfully trans-located into the sanctuary in August 2012. The trans location effort was deemed an overwhelming success (there were no Hirola deaths during or immediately after the trans location.

The Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy where they live is home to Somali pastoralists who voluntarily established this dedicated area for Hirola, assisted with the trans location, and continue to play a crucial role. The people of Ishaqbini have been quietly conserving this landscape for centuries and regard the Hirola as a blessing says a press release.

Additionally, the other wild animals in the sanctuary like giraffes, zebras, kudu, gazelles, ostrich and many others are significantly multiplying. Elephants for the first time have made their way into the sanctuary, and there is now an elephant family of eight settled in their new secured habitat.

The project’s long-term goal is to release animals bred within the sanctuary back into the free-ranging population, ultimately building a viable population that is equipped to cope with natural levels of predation and competition.

Museveni's World Aids Day Message Missed the Science in HIV?

By Esther Nakkazi

President Yoweri Museveni was a guest of honour in Fort portal yesterday and his speech for the World Aids Day missed the science in HIV.

In his message Museveni, encouraged adolescents and young children to abstain from sexual intercourse until they become of age to make informed decisions. He urged health educators to repackage HIV prevention information for young people. That was fine.

He also saluted the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) headed by former Health Minister Dr. Christine Ondoa for their work; infection rates are down from 162,000 in 2011 to 137,000 in 2013; people living with HIV on life-long treatment are 680,000 people as of June 2014, out of a total of 1,400,000 Ugandans living with HIV; mother to child transmission new guidelines are now rolled out country wide.

And pointed out that inspite of these achievements, 350 new HIV infection still occur in Uganda daily!

He spoke about the challenges Uganda is facing to fight HIV pointing out that most infections are happening among most at risk populations including: Sex workers, fisher folk, Uniformed Personnel and Truckers.

But Activists say while the messages were appropriate and encouraging he missed the point. And  the science in HIV. According to Alice Kayongo-Mutebi the Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager- East/West Africa Bureau, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

His messages strongly undermined the importance of circumcision as an HIV prevention method.

"He made comparisons between Bakonjo and Bagisu who have traditionally circumcised their men but still do not have the lowest prevalence rates in the country," said Kayongo. He mentioned that 'those who circumcise could die'. Yes they could but he needed to back it up with stats.

A study done in African countries including his own country, Uganda, showed that men who are circumcised reduce their risk of becoming infected heterosexually by approximately 60 percent.

Kayongo said Museveni also undermined the use of condoms as a prevention tool when he said 'Condoms should stop! If you do not trust someone, then do not have sexual intercourse with them'.

Many studies have indicated that consistent use of condoms results in 80 per cent reduction in HIV incidence. Consistent use is defined as using a condom for all acts of penetrative vaginal intercourse.

Kayongo also pointed out that Museveni while talking about most-at-risk population did not mention men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender Ugandans who at the risk of HIV infections.

Although no study has been done yet to establish the HIV incidence among MSM and commercial sex workers in Uganda, they are known to be among the drivers of the HIV epidemic. The one that was being done got suspended at MUWRP.

Scientists have indicated that Uganda’s HIV incidence-new infections per year, can be reduced by 77 percent if the country targeted prevention in most at risk populations which includes MSM.

Apparently, Men who have sex with Men are a bigger danger because most of them also have sex with women and they could be married, especially in a hostile environment like Uganda.

Uganda’s HIV incidence can be averted if they focused more on most at risk populations for prevention said a researcher from the school of Public Health Makerere University, Joseph Matovu. “If they did at least 2 million infections could be stopped by 2025,” said Matovu.

"Telling from the issues mentioned above, some of the President’s remarks were really unfortunate!
We need to continue to highlight the importance of safe male circumcision and condom use as prevention tools," said Kayongo. 

"The President has probably not been adequately informed about the scientific evidence surrounding these two interventions," said Kayongo.

Flavia Kyomukama, an HIV activist said Museveni had earlier said that any young person who gets infected with HIV is committing 'treason'.

"I think it is unfortunate for a Head of state not to know his epidemic and continue to leave some sections of the society behind. No wonder, Uganda's annual new HIV transmission rate is still as high as 137,000," commented Kyomukama.
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Africa Data Challenge


The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) (http://www.planetearthinstitute.org.uk), an international NGO that works for the scientific independence of Africa, held its first-ever ‘Africa Data Challenge’, as part of their #ScienceAfrica UnConference, held at Impact HUB, Westminster on November 18.

The ‘Africa Data Challenge’ had parties pitch their ideas for projects that harness data for real, human impact in Africa. Innovators from around the world pitched their ideas for projects that can help translate and transmit the power of data to those on the continent.

In a press release prior to the challenge Dr Álvaro Sobrinho, Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute, said: “Data holds a huge amount of promise for scientific development in Africa, and for many different business sectors too, but we haven’t yet fully explored how it can be used at a local level to improve lives."

"As an NGO we are always looking for practical ways to support science and technology, and this Africa Data Challenge will help do just that – developing and incubating new ideas with real impact."

Projects were unlimited in scope and focus, but designed to have a practical, human application in the next 12 months. Contestants presented to a live panel of judges and the successful innovators will be rewarded with a cash prize of £7,000 and receive PEI’s support to roll out their project.

The ‘Africa Data Challenge’ forms part of the PEI’s second #ScienceAfrica UnConference, which is hosted by Rt Hon Lord Boateng and run in partnership with UN Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank and the European Commission.

The UnConference brought together over 120 people passionate about and working in science, development and Africa for an interactive day of workshops and discussions.

Participants come from diverse sectors, including international policy makers, academics, students as well as the general public. The UnConference will also be live streamed on the PEI website and people are encouraged to use the #ScienceAfrica hashtag on Twitter to engage in a robust discussion about science, technology and innovation in Africa.

ends

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Health Innovation: Automated Medical Equipment could save many lives

By Esther Nakkazi

Christine Nabbanja is a twenty-two year old, fourth year, biomedical engineering student at Makerere University. She is also part of a group of five innovative students, teamed up to offer global health solutions to the world.

Their innovation is an automatic switch for an electrical suction pump. Suctions are used to clear the airway of blood, saliva, vomit or other secretions so that a patient can breathe during respiratory failure or surgery.

In Uganda’s health systems, the problem is immense as they represent at least 25 percent of all failed equipment in hospitals. Although they can be switched off, when health workers are using them, they tend to forget and the system clogs, delaying the job at hand and threatening the life of the patient.

Others on the team were Brian Nkwanga Senabulya the team leader, Andrew Nyorigo, Patrick Ssonko and Engineer Johnes Obonguloch the Principal Investigator.

So the team of five came up with a solution, to add on an automatic switch to the suction pump, so that when the bottle fills with fluids, it automatically switches off, says Nabbanja who is attending the second Hack-a-thon at Mbarara University of Science and Technology 22-24 August 2014.

It was organised by the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) Uganda and Mbarara University in partnership with Mass General Hospital’s Centre for Global Health. Other participating groups were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard Medical School and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in India.

It was my first time to attend a Hack-a-thon and I was really impressed. But I also ask what next?


Mbarara University 2014 Hack-a-thon cake
A Hack-a-thon enables teams made up of engineers, entrepreneurs, professors, clinicians to come up with innovations in just 24 hours that impact on global health to save millions of lives. What happens is teams pitch ideas to a group of judges. These are ideated and turned into prototypes and are again presented with business models that have the potential to transform health outcomes around the world.

To date, over 1,000 innovators have participated in CAM Tech hack-a-thons across Uganda, India and the United States and they have spawned many new technologies addressing different health problems.

Nabbanja and her team conceived the automated suction pump idea during the first Hack-a-thon held at Mbarara University last year. It won the second position and the first prototype has already been developed using the seed funding awarded to them.

The Pro-creation lab opened at Mbarara University 
Professor Fredrick Kayanja, the Vice Chancellor, Mbarara University says it is a practical innovation needed locally that could change hospitals and the way health workers work and save many lives.

He is also glad that it was hatched at a Hack-a-thon, which helps young people become better thinkers and emancipates fear from them.

For students ‘it changes the mindset about their education. People who did not think they were innovators become innovators,’ explains the director CAMTech, Elizabeth Bailey. And entrepreneurship skills are learnt because teams create viable business plans, she added.

“In this game, failure is totally acceptable. It also offers a neutral space where people do not fear failure,” says Bailey.

Kristian Olson the Medical Director of CAMTech, and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School says human resource is a limiting factor in resource limited settings.


Prof Kayanja and Prof Bangsberg
He explains that this is not a unique problem and agrees that the automated suction pump innovation by the students is a good idea. “Empowerment is transitional. The fact is that there is so much drive and to see that young people want to solve their own problems is intangible.”

Although the Hack-a-thons started only last year in Uganda and at Mbarara University, Dr. Data Santorino, a lecturer at Mbarara University and country director CAMTech says the idea is picking up.

At least 200 clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs and end users participated in 2014 up from 150 last year, 29 from 23 projects were presented and at least 70 pitches of innovative ideas were made to judges by individual students.

More university students are attending and more local companies are getting interested to sponsor the event, says Santorino as he promotes strategic partnerships to improve global health. "Innovation is not a one person affair. As African innovators we need partnerships that support our weak areas. There is so much we can contribute to Global Health.

“At a Hack-a-thon ideas are from the bottom to the top of the pyramid through a chain to commercialisation,” says Dr. David Bangsberg, the Director at Mass General Hospital (MGH)’s Centre for Global Health. His challenge is to find more cooperate partners to pick them up and commercialise them.

“My dream is to see an ecosystem where an innovator can take an idea, find the right expertise to ideate it, test it, move it with small seed capital, scale it with cooperate sponsorship,” says Bangsberg.

But that is not all. “With technology it is different,” says Nabbanja. “When an innovation comes from Uganda, even us Ugandan we do not trust it. It is as if it should have the face of a white person to be trusted.”
ends

Friday, November 14, 2014

Call for Proposals for £4m Research in non-communicable diseases in Africa

By Esther Nakkazi

GSK has launched a £4m call for proposals for scientific research into non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. The first funding round, will support successful proposals from researchers in Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya,Uganda and Malawi.

The proposals will be through GSK's Africa NCD Open Lab, established by GSK earlier this year, with a commitment of £25m funding over five years, as part of a series of strategic investments in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Mike Strange, Interim Head of the Africa NCD Open Lab, said: “We believe the highly collaborative research network we’re creating through the Africa NCD Open Lab has the potential to dramatically improve understanding of NCDs in Africa – and could ultimately, accelerate the development of new, better medicines to treat these.

“The launch of our first call for proposals is an important milestone for this initiative, and we encourage researchers working in the field of NCDs who are based in the eight eligible countries to consider applying for the funding and expert support available to them through this.”

NCDs including cancer and diabetes, are becoming more prevalent, across the developing world, and more research is needed to understand more about how – and why – these diseases manifest differently in this setting.

The Africa NCD Open Lab aims to address this through the creation of an innovative research network that will see GSK scientists collaborate with researchers across Africa on high quality epidemiological, genetic and interventional research, from its hub at GSK’s Stevenage R&D facility in the UK.

It will specifically inform interventions for the prevention and treatment of five priority diseases - cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and chronic respiratory disease – while helping build local expertise and creating a new generation of African NCD experts.

An independent external advisory group, comprising clinical and scientific experts in the field of NCDs, will review applications to the NCD Open Lab, with recommendations for funding based on scientific merit. The group will consist of a majority African membership to ensure that only locally-relevant research is funded.

A second call for proposals in South Africa is planned for early in 2015 which will be launched in collaboration with the Medical Research Councils of South Africa and the UK, with a combined £5m funding.
For more information, or to submit a research idea for consideration, please visit http://www.gsk.com/africa-ncd-openlab.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WHO declares Uganda Marburg Free

11/11/2014

Hon. Sarah Achieng Opendi
Minister of State for Health – Primary Health Care
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
P. O. BOX 7272,
KAMPALA - UGANDA

Press Statement

Today, the Ministry of Health wishes to inform the Public that the country is officially declared free of the Marburg Virus Epidemic. The declaration comes after completion of 42 days of the Post Marburg Surveillance countdown period which is a prerequisite of the World Health Organization (WHO) requiring any affected country to monitor the situation of any Viral Hemorrhagic Fever for that period before finally declaring an end to the outbreak.

The outbreak of the epidemic was declared on October 4th 2014 following laboratory tests done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) which confirmed that one person, a health worker, had died of the viral hemorrhagic fever.

The index case was a 30-year-old male Radiographer, who originally was working in Mpigi Health Centre IV, Mpigi Town Council but had been recruited by Mengo Hospital two months before his death on September 28th 2014 at Mengo Hospital.

The Ministry of Health informs the general public that since then, there have been no Marburg cases reported in the country. This implies that the Marburg outbreak in the country has completely been controlled. Marburg is a highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever that is spread through direct contact with, body fluids like blood, saliva, vomitus, stool and urine of an infected person. A person suffering from Marburg presents with sudden onset of high fever with any of the following; headache, vomiting blood, joint and muscle pains and bleeding through the body openings like the eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus and the skin.

From 4th October 2014 when the outbreak of Marburg was declared, the National Task Force on epidemics took up the coordination of all interventions geared towards combating the epidemic.

Additionally, the district taskforces of Kasese, Mpigi and Ibanda were alerted to trace all people who could have got into contact with the confirmed case. Consequently four isolation centers were set at; Mulago National Referral Hospital, the National Isolation Centre in Entebbe, Mpigi Health Centre IV and in Kagando Hospital in Kasese.

During the period of the outbreak, a total of 197 people were followed up for three weeks in Kampala, Mpigi and Kasese districts. These are people who got into contact with the confirmed case either during his sickness or after death. During this time, eight of these contacts developed symptoms similar to those of Marburg. However, their results tested negative for the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

A total of 13 samples were also collected from different parts of the country (Ibanda, Lira, Kitgum, Jinja, Gulu, Luwero and Kampala ) as part of a wider surveillance network during the period. On a good note however, they all tested negative for the Marburg virus.

By 20th November, all the contacts had completed their 21 days of monitoring and apart from the 8 who required laboratory investigation and tested negative; the rest did not develop symptoms which confirms that none contracted the virus. An additional 21 days of surveillance was carried out to make 42 days as a requirement for management and control of viral Haemorrhagic fevers.

The Ministry of Health urges the public to reduce the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission by avoiding contact with fruit bats, reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community in-case of suspected cases reported by avoiding direct or close contact with suspected patients.

We urge the Healthworkers to wear gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment when taking care of ill patients.

The public is also urged to embrace regular hand washing after visiting patients in hospital, before eating and after using the toilets, to avoid infections.

Finally, the Ministry of Health recognizes the contribution of the different development partners for their support during the outbreak. Special recognition goes to the World Health Organization, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Medicens San Frontiers, UNICEF, USAID (Communication for Healthy Communities), Airtel Uganda, Uganda Red Cross Society, World Vision Uganda, AFENET and the Media.

The Ministry of Health further acknowledges the efforts and contribution of Kampala Capital City Authority towards the control of this out break.

Lastly, the Government of Uganda once again reassures the general public that it is committed to protecting the population by ensuring that all measures are in place for early detection and immediate response to all Viral Haemorrhagic fever out breaks.
ends

Uganda based Health Organization Selected by Canada to Save the Lives of Women and Children

Press Release 
Nairobi, Kenya, November 7, 2014 – The seven-year, CA$36 million Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) research program today announced the selection of health organizations based in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burkina Faso that will help put research into practice and bring the program’s results to the attention of decision-makers.

The IMCHA program was launched in May 2014 by Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. It is a joint initiative of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

“Thanks to Canadian leadership and collective global action through the 2010 G8 Muskoka Initiative, we are seeing tangible results for the world’s women and children: fewer mothers are dying, more children are celebrating their fifth birthday, and women and children around the world have better access to quality healthcare,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. “Canada is building on these results with a $3.5 billion commitment from 2015 to 2020. Supporting research initiatives like this one is key to finding the innovative solutions we need to end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children and ensure that our programs reach those most in need.”

IMCHA is investing in scientific breakthroughs in primary health care to improve the health of women, newborns, and children in sub-Saharan Africa. It will fund approximately 20 research teams.

The selected organizations are: A consortium, which includes the Kenya based African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC); Tanzania- based East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC); and Uganda based Partners in Population and Development (PPD)

The West African Health Organization (WAHO), a specialized institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

These organizations will bridge the gap between the research teams and decision-makers in Africa, helping to ensure that research findings are taken up into policy and that health interventions are evidence-based and effective.

“This is an important step forward in turning research into action in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR. “By reaching out to decision-makers, these organizations will help innovations in health care be implemented so that the lives of women, children, and newborns can be saved.”

Maternal, newborn, and child health is Canada’s top development priority. Half of the world’s maternal, newborn, and child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these deaths can be prevented by strengthening health systems on the frontlines, where primary health care is provided.

According to Dr. Alex Ezeh, APHRC’s Executive Director, "Current research shows the value of investing in a holistic approach to maternal and child health issues through public-private partnerships, reinforcing the capacity of health workers closest to mothers and children, finding innovative ways of reaching vulnerable groups, and strengthening health governance at all levels. Moving forward, getting this evidence to drive policy decisions and programmatic actions will make all the difference."

“This made-in-Canada collaboration brings leading Canadian researchers together with their colleagues in the developing world to improve the lives of women and children,” said IDRC President Jean Lebel. “The program will make health systems stronger and more accessible in the area of frontline primary health care, where it is needed most.”

Research on pressing health issues to improve the lives of mothers, newborns, and children will focus on nine sub-Saharan African countries targeted in the Muskoka Initiative: Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, and Tanzania.

-30-
Media Enquiries:
Gloria Lihemo
Communications and Public Affairs Officer, International Development Research Centre
Regional Office for sub-Saharan Africa / glihemo@idrc.ca /+254 727 903 983/ www.idrc.ca 

Bibiana Iraqi
Communications Officer, the African Population and Health Research Center
biraki@aphrc.org / +254 702 643 448 / www.aphrc.org 



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uganda Hosts African Science Academies Meeting

Press Release:

African Science Academies are in Uganda to Discuss Country Ownership of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The meeting also Marks Culmination of 10-Year Initiative.

KAMPALA, Uganda – The 10th Annual Meeting of African Science Academies, hosted by the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, began today. The three-day conference’s agenda focuses on country ownership of Africa’s development in the post-2015 era.

The meeting also marks the culmination of the 10-year African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), a partnership of the U.S. National Academies and several counterparts in Africa aimed at strengthening the capacity of the African academies to inform policymaking through evidence-based advice. The number of national science academies in Africa has more than doubled since the initiative began.

“It is an honor to host the annual meeting of African science academies and provide a forum for our colleagues and other distinguished experts to discuss how Africa can control its own destiny by taking greater ownership of our continent’s development agenda,” said Nelson Sewankambo, president of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences. “The meeting also gives us the opportunity to discuss how African science academies can carry forward the momentum gained during ASADI to further establish ourselves as trusted sources of independent advice on science, technology, and health policy matters.”

The conference began with the release of a new report from several African science academies titled “Mindset Shifts for Ownership of Our Continent’s Development Agenda,” which recommends several catalysts for giving all sectors of society a greater stake in and shared responsibility for development goals. It describes how five levers -- communities, institutions, education, health, and capital -- all have a role to play in stimulating broader societal ownership of development agendas such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the U.N.’s planned Sustainable Development Goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015.

The InterAcademy Council, a multinational organization of the world’s science academies, also released a report at the conference titled “Enhancing the Capacity of African Science Academies: The Final Evaluation of ASADI.” The panel that authored the report concluded that ASADI succeeded in meeting its objective to increase the African academies’ capacity to be effective sources of evidence-based advice, thus allowing them to occupy a unique civic space in their respective societies. The report also draws on lessons learned during ASADI to make recommendations about the future shape of science academies in Africa.

“We are pleased that our collaboration has resulted in African science academies being increasingly well-positioned to offer authoritative advice to their respective governments,” said Enriqueta Bond, chair of the ASADI board and president emeritus of the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund. “African science academies also are well-positioned now to engage at the international level to help address the many global challenges facing the world. We hope the impact of ASADI will last for many years to come.”

The national science academies of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and the regional African Academy of Sciences are partners with the U.S. National Academies under ASADI, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The U.S. National Academies are made up of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council.

The Network of African Science Academies also helped organize this year’s annual meeting. More information about the conference including an agenda and copy of the African academies’ report on country ownership can be found atwww.ugandanationalacademy.org and www.nationalacademies.org/asadi. The InterAcademy Council report is available at www.interacademycouncil.net.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Ann Nsubuga 
AMASA 10 Coordinator
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
annsubuga@unas.or.ug
tel. +256 414-533044 or +256 705-409-416 (mobile)

William Kearney
Director of Media Relations
U.S. National Academy of Sciences
wkearney@nas.edu
tel. +1 202-334-2144 or +1 202-450-9166 (mobile)

Tom Arrison
Executive Director
InterAcademy Council
secretariat@iac.knaw.nl

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Myths about Ebola dispelled in Animation Film

By Esther Nakkazi
There is a call to the church and all clergy to join in the efforts to educate the world about Ebola led by the United Methodist Church. Commentaries by trusted leaders encourage cooperation with health programs they say.

Through the United Methodist Communications http://www.umcom.org the global communications agency of The United Methodist Church, and collaborations with Chocolate Moose Media http://www.chocmoose.com and iHeed http://www.iheed.org, a mobile-health-education innovator., they have created an animation in a free video http://www.ebolavideo.org that also calls for the local people to support the health workers and the scientists. The film is for West Africans and will dispel myths about how Ebola is spread and it will promote prevention efforts.

“Our goal is to provide education that leads to better understanding to prevent infections,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications in a press release.
“Ebola gains foothold in poor communities where mistrust, resistance to proper care and lack of understanding of the virus and is widespread. The church’s advantage lies in its network of trusted leaders who live in the affected regions.”

United Methodist Communications is using several approaches, including providing text messages to clergy in Sierra Leone and Liberia.



Capture.PNG
The press release further says; "I have created what I hope will be a compelling video to prevent the spread of Ebola,” said Chocolate Moose Media founder and award-winning director Firdaus Kharas. “My approach is to combine animation with non-coercive persuasion by having Africans speak to their own broader family.”

Accessed through download for local playback, all partners will distribute the video to reach as many as possible. Distribution channels include international organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society and churches and through social media using #Ebolavideo.

"Through a combination of weak health infrastructure, inconsistent levels of education and unpreparedness, this epidemic has become a global threat,” said Dr. Kunal D. Patel, medical director of iHeed. “Digital media can fill the gaps. In combination with technologies such as mobile phones, cinemas, projectors and tablets, animated information can help."

The United Methodist Church is responding in a number of other ways in a joint effort by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, West African United Methodist church leaders and regional health boards, denominational health facilities, and others.

According to the World Health Organization, 7,470 cases of Ebola had been reported as of Oct. 3 (http://goo.gl/ni3P1M), with 3,431 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads through person-to-person transmission. Contact with the body of a deceased person can also play a role in transmission.

ends



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cancer; World Oncology Forum: “Treat the treatable”

Press release 13 October 2014

Fifty global leaders in research and treatment of cancer will gather at the Second World Oncology Forum in Lugano, 24–25 October, to draw up policy recommendations for getting effective and affordable cancer care to everyone who needs it.

The Forum has been convened by the European School of Oncology, in collaboration with The Lancet, in response to the global cancer epidemic, which is hitting low- and middle-income countries particularly hard. It is backed entirely by independent, non-commercial sponsors.

Over the course of one and a half days, participants will hear from key players about a variety of initiatives from countries across the globe that have shown to be successful in recent years. These range from new business models that help speed discovery and development of affordable new treatments, to healthcare models that deliver the best possible outcomes for the money available – across prevention, early detection, treatment and follow up – together with new models of healthcare financing that can provide close to universal coverage on a sustainable basis.

The participants will assess how such initiatives can be adapted for use in other settings, including the world’s poorest and most under-served communities. The Forum will conclude with a consensus statement on key policies that are urgently needed to get a grip on the rising tide of suffering and death from cancer.

Franco Cavallia, chair of the Forum’s Scientific Committee, said: “In recent years governments across the world have belatedly been waking up to the reality of the rapid rise in cancer cases among their citizens, and the toll it is taking on the social and economic life of their countries. But in many of the worst-hit countries, ill-founded assumptions not just at the level of governments, but also in association with international aid agencies, has skewed the policy response almost exclusively towards prevention. Even the richest countries are realising that providing the best quality cancer care for their citizens is becoming unsustainable, as more people need treatment for longer periods with therapies that offer incremental improvements at very high prices.

“This Forum, entitled ‘Treat the treatable’, is focused on the needs of all the men, women and children who have cancer, and need access to early detection, effective treatment, and good follow-up care.

“It will highlight examples from countries such as Thailand, Mexico, and India that show how, with the right policies, public healthcare systems can deliver very good quality screening and care for all citizens. It will look at what lessons can be learned not just by other middle-income countries, but also by low-income countries, e.g in sub-Saharan Africa, on the one hand, and by countries in the developed world on the other."

And it will also look at the balance of public-private partnerships that can facilitate the speedy and effective development of scientifically rational approaches to innovative treatments, to speed progress towards more effective and more affordable treatments.

“Governments and international policy bodies and aid agencies have the power to greatly reduce the personal, social and economic burden of cancer among their citizens by adopting policies that have been shown to work. The policy statement that will come out of this Forum will be based on experience and evidence, and will have the backing of 50 international leaders in cancer control. We will be calling on world leaders and everyone in a position to help make a difference to play their part.”

The policy statement will be published in The Lancet and Cancer World. The Lancet will also publish the presentations of the keynote speakers

ENDS

For further information and interview requests:

In English: Anna Wagstaff, ESO media team: +44 (0)1865 723450 or +44 (0)790-860 3790, annawag1@gmail.com
In Italian: Alexandra Zampetti, ESO WOF Secretariat: +41 (0) 91 820 0954, wof@eso.net

NOTES
a Franco Cavalli is the Scientific Director of the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European School of Oncology

Monday, October 6, 2014

From Ebola Now Uganda has Marburg

MINISTRY OF HEALTH
PRESS STATEMENT
5th October 2014

The Ministry of Health would like to inform the general public that there is a confirmed case of Marburg in the country.
This initial case follows laboratory tests done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) on September 30th 2014 which confirmed that one person, a health worker, had died of the viral hemorrhagic fever.

The index case is a 30-year-old male Radiographer, who originally was working in Mpigi Health Centre IV, Mpigi Town Council but had been recruited by Mengo Hospital two month ago as a Radiographer. He started feeling unwell on September 17th while at Mengo Hospital and travelled back to Mpigi HCIV on September 18th to seek treatment since he felt more comfortable with a facility that he had worked with for a long time.

He was treated at Mpigi Health Center IV but when his condition worsened, he was transferred back to Mengo Hospital where he was admitted on September 23rd. He presented with Headache, Epistaxis, abdominal pain, vomiting blood and diarrhea. His condition deteriorated on September 27th and a Viral Haemorraghic fever was suspected. Blood samples were removed for further analysis on September 28th; unfortunately he died on the same day. His body was taken to Munkunyu 1 Village, Munkunyu Sub-county, Kasese district for burial.

Preliminary reports also show that his brother, one of the contacts so far listed has developed signs. He has been quarantined and isolated for further monitoring. Samples have been taken from him and are being tested at the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The public will be informed of his status. Altogether 80 contacts have been listed from Mengo, Mpigi and Kasese for follow up.

Marburg Viral Haemorraghic fever is a fatal illness caused by the Marburg virus which belongs to the filoviridae family together with the Ebola virus. The incubation period ranges from 2 to 21 days while the Case fatality rates vary from 24% to 88%. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural hosts of Marburg virus. The Marburg virus is transmitted to people from the fruit bats and spreads among humans through human-to-human transmission by direct contact with wounds and body fluids like blood, saliva, vomitus, stool and urine of an infected person.

A person suffering from Marburg presents with sudden onset of high fever with any of the following;
1. Headache
2. Vomiting blood
3. Joint and muscle pains
4. Bleeding through the body openings, i.e. eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus and the skin.
There is no specific antiviral treatment or vaccine available; patients are usually given supportive treatment.

The Ministry of Health is undertaking the following measures to control the spread of the disease;
• Yesterday, a team of epidemiologists and surveillance officers were sent to Mpigi Health Center IV, Mengo Hospital and to Kasese district to investigate the case and list all people who got into contact with the dead.
• So far, a total of 80 people who got into contact with the initial confirmed case have been identified and isolated as a precautionary measure and for follow up for any signs and symptoms within the 21 days incubation period. These include 38 health workers from Mengo Hospital, including his brother and 22 health workers from Mpigi Health Center IV and 20 people from Kasese district. They are currently being monitored by a team of epidemiologists from the Ministry of Health.
• Arrangements have been put in place to transport all suspect cases to the National Isolation Facility in Entebbe should they occur. The facility is already stocked with the necessary infection control materials and other supplies to handle any incoming patients.
• Arrangements have also been made at Mengo Hospital to isolate any suspect with symptoms. Health workers have been asked to effect all infection control measures.
• Preparations are underway to train all health workers at Mengo Hospital and Mpigi Health Center IV on infection control starting tomorrow 6/10/2014 at 9.00am
• Government working with partners and specifically Medicens San Frontiers (MSF) are in the process of revamping the isolation facility at Mulago National Referral Hospital under the leadership of Kampala Capital City Authority in readiness and the facility will be ready in three days time.
• MSF is also mobilizing additional resources to assist with infection control and case management at all the isolation facilities that have been set up.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical assistance and logistical support (PPE’s) to all the affected facilities.
• In Kasese, a team has been dispatched to work with the district official and Kagando Hospital to trace for any other suspects.
• Personal Protective Equipments (PPE’s) and other supplies have been mobilized and sent to Mengo and Mpigi health center IV and Kagando HCIV.
• National Medical Stores will supply additional infection control materials to Mengo Hospital and Mpigi HCIV by tomorrow morning.
The Ministry of Health however informs the general Public that Mengo Hospital is safe and all measures have been taken to ensure that there is no further spread of infection. Patients are encouraged to continue to receive services from there.
Ministry of Health urges the general public to observe the following protective measures;
• Report any suspected patient to a nearby health unit
• Avoid direct contact with body fluids of a person presenting with bleeding tendencies or symptoms of Marburg.
The Ministry of Health once again calls upon the public to remain calm and be on alert amidst this epidemic. All suspect cases can be reported on the Ministry hotline on +256750996034.

Hon. Elioda Tumwesigye
Minister of State for General Duties &
Holding the Portfolio of Minister for Health

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Corruption is now Slims (HIV/AIDS) in Uganda says Ambassador Scott DeLisi


Remarks for Buy America Expo
By Ambassador Scott DeLisi
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Sheraton Hotel, Kampala, Uganda

Esteemed Guests, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocols observed.

Good Afternoon. Let me begin by saying what a thrill it is to be here at the Buy America Expo—the first of its kind in Uganda and a testimony to the ever-growing economic ties between the United States and Uganda. This event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the American Chamber of Commerce and I’d like to particularly thank President Abhay Agarwal and Vice President Meg Jaquay for their leadership in AmCham. The partnership between the U.S. Embassy and AmCham has never been stronger.

And it is because of that leadership and partnership that we are here today. It was just about a year ago that Captain Agarwal told our Economic Office that Uganda needed a forum to showcase the many American companies and products that are available in Uganda. Today's Buy America Expo is the direct result of that discussion.

I’d also like to recognize and welcome Chip Peters, our Senior Foreign Commercial Service Officer and Carol Kamau who works for the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Both Chip and Carol are based at the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi and we’re happy that you’ve joined us today to learn more about the opportunities available to American companies in Uganda.

But most of all, I’d like to thank all of our exhibitors here today. I was able to visit some of the exhibits this afternoon and what struck me most of all was the sheer diversity of the American business community in Uganda. We have Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and Citibank; companies that are recognized all over the world.

But we also have smaller companies started by American entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity in Uganda—companies like Pulse Village Transport that provides transportation solutions for rural communities, including an ambulance that’s pulled by a bicycle. Or Bead for Life, an organization that is processing Ugandan shea nuts into high-quality shea butter products. Or JFL, a company that is exporting Ugandan fruit to the United States to be made into healthy snacks – something Americans should eat a lot more of.

And there are a few surprises as well—I imagine that some of you might be surprised to learn that Game, one of Kampala’s largest retail stores, is owned by Wal-Mart. Or that the Protea Hotel is now part of the Marriott Hotel family.

We have companies representing the IT, agricultural, energy, and health sectors. We have companies like KFC and Crown Bottling whose products nourish or refresh us and companies like AIG, PWC, Re/Max, and Aon that provide services that enrich our lives. It’s a long and impressive list.

The investment that the American private sector makes in Uganda is critical for the future of the country. It’s through this investment that U.S. companies are creating jobs for Ugandan citizens and helping us to move closer to realizing our vision of a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and democratic Uganda.

And although we have a very impressive collection of U.S. companies in this room today, we’re not going to stop there. Strengthening economic ties between Uganda and the U. S. is one of our top priorities, and we want to see more American companies doing business in Kampala. We want to see more American firms investing in agriculture and energy. We want to see increased trade between Uganda and the United States. And we hope that the next time we hold a “Buy America Expo” we will need a much bigger room to hold all the American companies working in Uganda!

The Buy America Expo couldn’t come at a better time, as it follows on the heels of last month’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where we saw hundreds of American companies taking renewed interest in the economic opportunities available in Africa. As a result of the attention generated by the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, some companies that might have overlooked Uganda as a place to do business are now saying “Let’s take a closer look at what Uganda has to offer.”

Two decades ago, major companies were chided by their shareholders if they didn’t have a “China plan.” One decade ago, companies had to have an “India plan” to be taken seriously. And now, boards are being encouraged to have an “Africa plan.” We agree. We want to see more American companies doing business here and more American products being sold in stores, not just because it’s good for America but because it’s also good for Uganda.

Business is about making choices. And we think that--when given the choice--many Ugandans will choose American-made products. American companies offer products that are high quality and backed by years of innovation and expertise. They may sometimes be more expensive, but the reliability, quality and customer service that come with American products make them the most sensible, the most cost-effective and the most popular choice time and again. Making a cheap product is easy, but making the best product with the best value for the price is a challenge at which American innovators excel.

But a key question remains: how do we encourage more U.S. firms to actually come to the Pearl of Africa? Many American companies might see Uganda as being too far away, too small, or presenting too challenging a business environment. However, although there may be an element of truth in all of those points, the companies here today have shown that these concerns need not be a bar to investment, to growth or to profits.

But if we truly want to attract American investment and grow this economy significantly there is one overarching challenge that is cited by virtually every business person I talk to and that is the single greatest deterrent for potential investors.

Now this is the point where I could rhetorically ask "and what is that greatest challenge?" but you already know the answer. Corruption, corruption, corruption. Corruption is routinely leading serious major investors, who have their choice of investment destinations, to turn away from Uganda. And why wouldn't they? Corruption distorts economic activity, reduces competition, eats up profits, erodes trust, and sullies corporate images. Potential investors need only to look at the press to see daily reports of corruption in government ministries and throughout the society at every level. Just as sadly, Uganda has slipped even further in Transparency International’s index on corruption -- the nation now ranks 140th out of 177 countries worldwide. And if that isn't discouraging enough, very few of the people I meet have faith that corruption will be punished and perpetrators held accountable even in the most blatant cases.

Just yesterday, Parliament grilled representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office who were unable to account for over 27 billion shillings from their 2012/2013 budget. Unfortunately, these scandals go much farther and wider than the few people who are punished, and continue to undermine faith in the government.

If we truly hope to fill even bigger rooms with American products in the future and if we really want to fuel economic growth that will create the jobs desperately needed for this very youthful population, we need to change the picture.

Twenty years ago, the government of Uganda saw Slims disease, which we now know as HIV/AIDS, as an existential threat to Uganda's future. Corruption is now Slims. It is also an existential threat to the nation and we must treat it with the same determination, commitment, and energy that we bring to the fight against HIV. We need to change the mindset that accepts theft of public resources or donor funds as an acceptable norm or an inevitable cost of doing business. We need to treat corruption as the pervasive and destructive evil and abuse of power and trust that it is, rather than allowing it to hide behind far less damning terms like "rent seeking".

We need visible and resolved leadership from the government and we need businesswomen and men -- like all of you -- to champion honest, transparent investments, to expose corrupt practices, and to ensure that integrity is at the heart of your transactions.

If we can change the underlying ethos that encourages and accepts the culture of impunity when it comes to corruption, we can make Uganda's tremendous potential a reality. And that’s where you come in. I believe that the American business community, led by AmCham, is now at a point where it can take a much more active role in advocating directly to the government on behalf of the international business community. In fact, I think this is the perfect time for AmCham to take on this role as we seek to build on the momentum created by the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The time is right. President Museveni is meeting in New York this week with our Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and I know he wants to talk with her about AGOA, about trade, about infrastructure, and about economic growth and investment. He and I have discussed frequently the importance of more American investment, of more U.S. companies coming to set up shop in Uganda and I know that he, and Prime Minister Rugunda, will both be partners willing to help make that happen. And all you have to do is look around this room, to see the many U. S. companies who are already doing well here. You can feel the buzz of new contacts being made, new economic connections being discovered, and new opportunities being explored.

Now, more than ever, we need to encourage the public-private dialogue that can help to energize policy and spark action. Government leaders need to hear your voice and so do I. We need to know the challenges you are facing and how government can help to create a better business environment. We need your thoughts on how we can work together to reduce corruption and on what policy initiatives can help to draw more American companies to Uganda. You are the ones with the knowledge and expertise on doing business in Uganda and you can pave the way for more companies to come here.

I remain committed to working on behalf of American companies already invested in Uganda, as well as with those interested in doing business here. In my two years here I have been an unrelenting advocate on behalf of American companies competing for contracts with the Ugandan government and am pleased to say we have had some notable successes. I want to see more.

I also want to continue to build on our already stronger partnership with our American Chamber here, of which I am so very proud. Thank you again for your fine work.

Thank you once again as well to all of the American companies represented here at the Buy America Expo. We wouldn’t have been able to hold this event without your energy and enthusiasm. All of you play a vital role in strengthening the economic ties between Uganda and the United States and I look forward to working with all of you to find ways to encourage stronger business ties between our two nations.

Together we can help improve the business climate in Uganda and I know that when we combine quality American products like those on display today, with American values, energy, and talent, success is virtually guaranteed.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A new Africa wide programme to boost the seed sector

PRESS RELEASE

[NAIROBI, KENYA, September 18, 2014] 
Access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across Africa. This affects their agricultural productivity, income and resilience. Addressing this challenge is a complex task and cannot be done at national levels alone.

A new Africa-wide programme aims to support the development of a vibrant, market oriented and pluralistic seed sector in Africa. Launched on 18 September in Nairobi, it will use an Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) approach to address the challenges.

The ISSD approach is endorsed by the African Union Commission as contributing to the implementation of the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP) program and the seed agenda of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

The Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) aims to enhance reliable access of smallholder farmers to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at an affordable price.

The programme — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch Government — will be conducted in phases.

The Piloting Phase of ISSD Africa -running from September 2014 to August 2016, will contribute to the development of the five-year Comprehensive Programme.

During the piloting phase, ISSD Africa will work with existing seed programmes in 8-10 countries to explore how seed sectors can be integrated at local and national level. The organisers hope to draw out lessons that will inform international dialogues on seed policy.
Four priority themes have been identified:

· Promoting entrepreneurship in the seed value chain
· Access to varieties in the public domain
· Matching global commitments with national realities
· Supporting African Union programmes and seed sector development

Addressing these themes will be done through action research, innovation trajectories, policy dialogues, capacity strengthening, and joint learning in eight to ten pilot countries.

The project aims to set up an Africa-wide network of experts, seed programs and related organizations, and encourage those working in the seed sector to learn from each other and work together.

“A well-functioning seed sector is vital to food security and farmers’ livelihoods, but making it work is a complex challenge. Governments, businesses, farmers and researchers all need to work together to make Africa’s seed sector more vibrant, dynamic and resilient for many years to come,” said Marja Thijssen, ISSD Africa Coordinator based in the Netherlands.

The project will be coordinated by a consortium of an African-based secretariat working closely with the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR), the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC).
The Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development — a policy research institute of the Kenyan-based Egerton University — will host the African-based Secretariat.

ISSD Africa will operate under a set of Guiding Principles on seed programs and policies. These stress the importance of pluralism, diversity and interaction between formal and informal systems. They also focus on entrepreneurship and markets, policies to support a dynamic sector, and high-quality evidence.

Media contact:
Beatrice Ouma,
Mobile: +254 721463952
Email: b.ouma@future-agricultures.org