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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From Russia With Love; Uganda Nuclear Power Plant

By Esther Nakkazi

On April 19th, the leading Uganda daily newspaper, The New Vision carried on its front page a story ‘Russia to build Nuclear plant for Uganda’. The story went ahead to state that talks about the project are in the final stages.

When I read the story I did not react much but an expat in energy and infrastructure from Holland hung onto the story and was perplexed. He asked me about the Chernobyl disaster and I knew nothing about it but later found time to read about it.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred in April 1986 and is recorded as the most disastrous nuclear plant accident in history. It spilled over the whole of Europe and was costly in terms of cash and casualties. And its still consuming money and causing damage to humans and wildlife.

We could say that the Russians learnt a lot since then and they are the best country to teach us on how to avoid a similar scenario, read- ‘everlasting disaster’ but there are some issues that are so ‘Ugandan’ I do not know that my country can handle nuclear technology, which requires the highest level of safety.

If you travel on Ugandan roads you would be sorry with the level of careless accidents, safety does not exist! If you watch our construction industry you will be alarmed at how buildings collapse half way and kill workers. So you clearly understand that safety is not an issue in Uganda. For the Chernobyl disaster to happen there was among other things an overlap in safety.

If Uganda has to go ahead with this project there some key questions; who will own the nuclear plant? Is it Uganda or Russia?. If it is Uganda do we have the money to sustain it for hundreds of years after the Russians leave? We must be aware that it continues to eat money even when it is generating no money at all. 

The plant will generate radio active waste, which is harmful to people and the environment. Do we have the capacity to handle such waste which causes cancer if it is not well managed?

Where will the it be built? It has to be built near water because it operates with pressurised water, generates steam and needs water for cooling. So I suppose it will be on Lake Victoria or River Nile, all water bodies shared with partner States. The politics of that will be interesting to watch.

Nuclear energy is good so don’t get me wrong. It is the cheapest form of energy and is carbon-dioxide free during production. You can also use its radiation to treat cancer.

But it is also high end technology, requires discipline and I repeat 'maximum level of safety', which at this point I am afraid to say Uganda does not have. So hopefully the Uganda Ministry of Energy officials who are okaying this project have the capacity to question some of these issues and others that I may not mention here before the project takes off.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stellenbosch University Software Donation troubles Makerere

By Esther Nakkazi

Makerere University will upgrade or all togather overhaul its system responsible for storage of administration, finance and student data, officials said.

The International Tertiary System (ITS) that integrates finance, human resource and academic data was brought in to Makerere from Stellenbosch University about ten years ago. It was a donation costing about $700,000.

However, Makerere University officials say their staff in the academic Registrar’s department who have already been arrested, allegedly tampered with the system which, caused a delay in issuance of transcripts to students who graduated in February this year. But some sources say this is not the case.
The staff also allegedly altered students’s marks and listed some 58 students into the 67th graduation booklet. Makerere administration has been apologising to the affected students and promised quick action.

Now the University wants to upgrade the ITS, which is unique and was tailor-made for Stellenbosch university, and has also since become obsolete.

“We have been operating a system purchased from South Africa but it is now obsolete that is why some unscrupulous staff managed to beat it. So we shall either upgrade it in the medium term or buy a new system,” said Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance.

Prof Nawangwe explained that either decision would rely on the cost but only if they failed to agree on upgrading the ITS with a new version would they buy a new system.

When Makerere administration realised that there were anomalies on the 67th graduation list, they halted the issuance of transcripts which affected over 14,895 students.

Prof John Ssentamu Ddumba, Makerere University vice chancellor, instructed the IT team to clean up the system and ensure that it is not tampered with again.

In mid March, Mr. Alfred Masikye, the academic registrar wrote to all university stakeholders alerting them on a temporary shut down in processing transcripts which alarmed the recently graduated students who wanted their transcripts for either further studies or to apply for jobs.

According to Masikye’s communication the university management had discovered that names of 58 students had their marks altered and henceforth withdrew them pending further investigations.

Press reports show that as early as 2015, Makerere withheld about 14,000 students’ transcripts until they verified their results. Prior to that incident, in 2008 a meeting had noted that the ITS was insecure and ill functioning.

A source who did not want to be named told this reporter that since inception, the ITS has always had major flaws and was incompatible with Makerere University.

One of the reasons is that the ITS was never configured to Makerere’s requirements but implemented the way it was working at Stellenbosch University, the source said. “It was like do it here as you did it there. It was also a donation and the administrators could not refuse it.”

Stellenbosch University and Makerere University have major variables. As a software that was tailor-made to Stellenbosch, its failures or repairs meant calling someone from South Africa, which was costly, the source said.

She said the two universities with major differences could not be aligned to fit the ITS at Makerere. For instance while the ITS was using the calendar year in Stellenbosch, Makerere uses an academic year so data inout and storage was a challenge.

Makerere university, as its legacy, has always registered students using registration numbers but the ITS system uses a ten-digit student number. When this anomaly was realised the Makerere administration started issuing student numbers on top of the registration numbers to fit the system.

Users at the administration level complained and they requested that one of numbers be dropped but Makerere had to keep its legacy of registration number so both of them were maintained causing more chaos.

The other issue is that the ITS would allow students to register online only after paying at least 60 percent of the tuition fees. The way the ITS was modelled is that it would automate registration with that data input from finance and enable the student to register.

Since Stellenbosch University is a state-subsided most of its students would have no problem with that requirement but Makerere has been in running battles with students to pay their school fees on time. 

However, another source who also preferred anonymity says the students results management system responsible for input, storage and administration of student marks and production of transcripts was locally designed.

He said Makerere is just not saying the truth about the problem and not effectively managing issuing of transcripts to graduated students on time.

Makerere University officials, however said the two were aligned so the locally made system, which was tampered with by its staff was aligned to the ITS and students records would be imported into it. But the matter would soon be resolved.

Ends.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ebola Vaccine induced longest reported immune response

By Esther Nakkazi

An investigational “prime-boost” Ebola vaccine regimen, induced a durable immune response in 100% of healthy volunteers over one year, the longest duration follow-up reported researchers said.

The data was reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on 14th March. The Phase 1 study is the longest duration follow-up reported for any heterologous prime-boost Ebola vaccine regimen.

This follows recent evidence of the persistence of Ebola virus in bodily fluids and the potential for sexual transmission among Ebola survivors, which reinforce the urgent need for a robust and durable vaccine for the disease.

“The world needs a vaccine to help prevent or mitigate future Ebola outbreaks, and ideally it should provide sustained protection for at-risk populations,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson in a press release.

Janssen’s investigational Ebola vaccine regimen was developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The regimen is based on Janssen’s AdVac® technology and MVA-BN®technology from Bavarian Nordic A/S. Johnson & Johnson’s partners in the Ebola program also include Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Inserm, and BARDA.

In the Phase 1 study, led by the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, UK, healthy volunteers were given one vaccine dose to prime their immune system and the alternative vaccine to boost their immune response.

The Phase 1 study enrolled healthy participants aged 18 to 50 years. Of 75 active vaccine recipients, 64 attended follow-up at day 360, the latest time point analyzed. No vaccine-associated serious adverse events were observed from day 240 to day 360. All of the active vaccine recipients maintained Ebola virus-specific antibody (immunoglobulin G) responses from the first post-vaccination analysis conducted through to day 360. 

Dr Matthew Snape, Chief Investigator of the study reported that this is the longest duration follow-up for any heterologous prime-boost Ebola vaccine regimen yet published. 

Phase 1, 2 and 3 studies are ongoing to confirm these findings.

A total of 10 clinical studies are being conducted on a parallel track across the U.S., Europe and Africa in support of potential eventual registration for the Ebola vaccine regimen. The first study of the vaccine regimen in a West African country affected by the recent Ebola outbreak began in Sierra Leone in October 2015.

In September 2016, Janssen completed a submission to the World Health Organization (WHO) for Emergency Use Assessment and Listing (EUAL) for the investigational preventive Ebola prime-boost vaccine regimen. 

Janssen in partnership with Bavarian Nordic rapidly scaled up production of the vaccine regimen and now has approximately 1,800,000 regimens available, with the capacity to produce several million regimens if needed.
ends

EU funding to combat illegal fishing on Lake Victoria

Fisheries Managers from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania



















By Esther Nakkazi
The European Union (EU) will contribute 100,000 Euros to improve monitoring, control, and surveillance of Lake Victoria to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. More funds are expected from partner states.

The EU funds to be available for eight months from April to November 2017, will be managed by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LFVO) and given to SmartFish one of the largest regional Programmes for fisheries in Africa.

At a regional consultative meeting held in Entebbe (28-29th March), fisheries managers from three partner states that share Lake Victoria of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania agreed on a joint action plan.

The fisheries managers agreed to carry out joint patrol activities, registration of fishers, enforcement, and support to comply with licensing, marking licensed fishing boats as well as to create awareness and encourage voluntary surrender of illegal fishing gears.

“Pooling of assets, information, and knowledge between different countries enables countries to share surveillance and control of fishing,” said Fanjanirina Jérômine, IOC-SmartFish monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) Assistant.

Patrick Kimani the Kenya regional representative IOC-SmartFish said there is need to sustain MCS activities being undertaken although in spite of these illegal fishing on Lake Victoria persists.

Paul Okware the acting assistant commissioner in charge of regulation and control at the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries commented on how illegal users are increasingly using strange illegal methods and gears.

And while these have also increased catching and trading in immature fish,  harmonizing all agencies in enforcement for all partner states has become a nightmare, he said.

Fisheries situation in Uganda:

Lake Victoria partner states currently have different standards. This is true especially in Uganda in November 2015, suspended all operations of Fisheries Officers, Beach Management Units (BMUs) and police - these are pending reforms.

But prior to this, there was harmony as fisheries management in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania were on a single spine command as by 2004, co-management, BMUs and other institutions were in place and harmonised.

However, in Uganda, with time these did not function well as parallel and uncoordinated enforcement systems and officers emerged who pushed the technical officers and BMUs to the sidelines thus causing a gap for fisheries illegalities to escalate.

In 2015, Uganda's suspension of BMUs was announced by President Yoweri Museveni who also issued a directive requiring fisheries to form a Fish Protection Unit (FPU) led by an officer from the Presidents office. To that effect, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was prepared and in the long run, the Fish Bill incorporating reforms will be passed.

BMUs helped to; improve sanitation to meet Fish Quality Assurance and safety requirements, maintain and update registers of BMUs and vet fishers to be licensed, provide fisheries catch and marketing data, implement fisheries regulations and management measures at landing sites as well as develop local fisheries management plans.

Museveni also directed that special courts for fisheries be introduced. He abolished importation of fishing gears and announced imprisonment of 7 years for fisheries offenders. According to Okware, after Museveni's announcement over 300 illegal gears were impounded in 2015/2016.

In the meantime, only 0.3% vessels are licensed in Uganda waters, however, if all vessels were licensed and a formidable enforcement was in place, Uganda would collect Ushs 5 billion annually.

Godfrey Monor, the executive secretary LVFO said it was awkward that only 0.3 vessels are licensed by Uganda because it creates a situation of ‘free for all’ which is not healthy for an ecosystem.

But the meeting heard that licensing in Uganda is also used as a management tool, more like, the less the licensing the more the fish stocks will grow.

Uganda has also introduced a mobile licensing system and TradeMark East Africa will soon train fisheries people on the e-licensing system.

Kenya and Tanzania Monitoring, Control and Surveillance status report;

In the Kenya waters, according to the 2016 frame survey, gill-nets increased by 2% from 188,984 in 2014 to 192,987 in 2016 of these about 40% are undersized or illegal; monofilaments increased from 58 in 2004 to 20,842 in 2016; beach seines increased by 24% from 724 in 2014 to 901 in 2016.

The number of fishers increased by 9% from 40,133 in 2014 to 43,799 in 2016; boats increased by 7% from 13,402 in 2014 to 14365 in 2016. Over 300 illegal gears were impounded in 2015/2016 and Kenya fisheries are in the process of boat registration to give specific identities to crafts for licensing to commence.

This comes at the backdrop that Kenya since the inception of the devolved system of governance no meaningful MCS has been done as well there is little information exchange between counties and national governments.

Meanwhile, Tanzania has the highest MCS activities compared to Uganda and Kenya on Lake Victoria. For instance, for the period January 2016 to March 2017, Tanzania patrols resulted in confiscation of 19,250 beach seines, 3,171 undersize gill-nets, 9,459 monofilaments, 44 dagaa nets, 84,140 kgs of immature fish and apprehension of 777 culprits.

In Tanzania, fishing vessel licensing is done by a competent authority in collaboration with BMUs. According to the frame survey report 2016, the total number of fishing crafts operating in Tanzanian waters were 31,773.

A total of 18,452 or 58.07% of the total Fishing Crafts are registered and licensed, the highest number on Lake Victoria.

Way forward for MCS on Lake Victoria;


The meeting heard that in spite of all activities including joint regional patrols by partners states on Lake Victoria there is increased illegal fishing as well as catching and trading in immature fish.

Susan Imende deputy Director at Ministry of Fisheries Development Kenya said fisheries managers have to think ‘outside the box’ as illegal users are ahead of them, which is pushing down fish stocks and while joint regional patrols could be effective and are a normal procedure the arrested fishers say they are being harassed.

Samson Abura the LVFO Communication Director said this time it should be ‘ business unusual’ and suggested a database for MCS operations and IUUs to be set up as well as a good plan to show partner governments what is being done.

However, Monor from LVFO was skeptical about sustainability and if suggested activities would create any change. “We have done many activities but get the same results. We shall first increase the appetite of illegal fisheries but what happens after November?,” he asked after the EU funds are used up.

“This is like a ‘knee jack reaction’ because the funds are available. Will it be sustainable and have effective outcomes?” wondered Monor.

ends