Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

WHO’s politically appointed country heads in Africa dropped the Ebola ball

October 18, 2014
Dr Louis Sambo

Dr Louis Sambo, WHO Regional Director Africa

Why are the WHO’s Regional Directors (for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo) not answerable to the head of the WHO in Geneva?

The first indications that the Ebola ourbreak was getting out of control were raised in April by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

BBC: Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned in April that the outbreak was out of control – something disputed by the WHO at the time.

…… In the worst affected countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the Ebola virus has now killed 4,546 people with cases of infection numbering 9,191, according to the latest WHO figures.

AP carries a damning story of the complacency of the African WHO representatives who seem to have been unwilling to even acknowledge that there was a problem on their turfs. That the country heads of the WHO are mainly political appointments is not perhaps so surprising, but even all the Regional Directors around the world are apparently not responsible or accountable to the WHO head in Geneva.  That does not seem to be an organisation very conducive to taking actions on medical reasons alone. Presumably the African Regional Director is himself a political appointee (from Angola in this case) and  was elected to his position in 2005. It would seem that the position of Regional Director primarily reflects some political balance rather than just competence for the job to be done.

The outbreak began at least in January and by April had already killed 69 just in Guinea (around 70% fatalities of those infected).

AP:

In a draft document, the World Health Organization has acknowledged that it botched attempts to stop the now-spiraling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.

In the document obtained by The Associated Press, the agency wrote that experts should have realized that traditional infectious disease containment methods wouldn’t work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.

“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” WHO said in the document. “A perfect storm was brewing, ready to burst open in full force.”

The U.N. health agency acknowledged that, at times, even its own bureaucracy was a problem. It noted that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan.

 ….. The document — a timeline on the Ebola outbreak — was not issued publicly but the AP was told the health agency would be releasing it earlier this week. However, WHO officials said in an email Friday that the timeline would now probably not be released publicly. No official at the agency would comment Friday on the draft report.

Dr. Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, agreed in an interview Friday that WHO acted far too slowly, largely because of its Africa office.

“It’s the regional office in Africa that’s the front line,” he said at his office in London. “And they didn’t do anything. That office is really not competent.” 

WHO’s other regional directors — the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific — are also not accountable to Geneva and are all elected by their regions.

Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also questioned why it took WHO five months and 1,000 deaths before the agency declared Ebola an international health emergency in August.

“I called for a state of emergency to be declared in July and for military operations to be deployed,” Piot said. But he said WHO might have been scarred by its experience during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, when it was slammed for hyping the situation.

In late April, during a teleconference on Ebola among infectious disease experts that included WHO officials, Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, questions were raised about the performance of WHO experts, as not all of them bothered to send Ebola reports to WHO headquarters, according to the draft document.

In the timeline, WHO said it was “particularly alarming” that the head of its Guinea office refused to help get visas for an expert Ebola team to come in and that $500,000 in aid was being blocked by administrative hurdles. ….

In fact the outbreak dates back at least to the beginning of this year. In Guinea, 69 people had already died between January and April 21st of Ebola:

MedicalDaily: Apr 21, 2014

Sixty-nine people have died since January of Ebola in the West African country of Guinea with 109 cases now confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). … WHO’s Dr. Rene Zitsamele-Coddy said in a press release. “As soon as the outbreak was confirmed on March 21, we started to work with [Guinea officials] and other partners to implement necessary measures,” she said. ”It is the first time the country is facing an Ebola outbreak, so WHO expertise in the area is valuable.”

 

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The Mediterranean is the graveyard of the Château d’EU

October 12, 2013

Washington PostDozens were feared dead after a boat filled with migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea about 70 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, just a week after more than 300 migrants died when their boat sank near the same island south of Sicily.

At least 50 are known to have died yesterday including at least 3 small children.

Map of migrants routes

Europe’s Graveyard

The EU – we should not forget –  won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Which only goes to show how ridiculous the Nobel Peace Prize and the Norwegian Nobel Committee has become. And while the EU rests on its laurels, the Mediterranean is fast becoming the graveyard of the Château d’EU (with apologies to Alexandre Dumas).

lampedusa-map.jpg

A ship carrying migrants capsized Friday near the Italian island of Lampedusa. (GoogleMaps)

It is not that I am advocating open borders for the EU (though there will be a time in the distant future when nation states and national boundaries will become obsolete). But nearly all the countries of the EU need – in the long-term – to improve the ratio of their working population to their supported populations (notwithstanding the short-term high unemployment that currently reigns in some countries). It was the EU which supported the overthrow of the old regime in Tunisia. It was the EU itself which was so keen to bomb Libya and cannot now escape from the consequences. It is the EU which is supporting Al Qaida in Syria by supporting the “rebels” and that too will have long term consequences. When Assad’s regime prevails – as it seems to be doing – where will all the “rebel” Syrians turn? The EU was all too quick to support the overthrow of Mubarak without realising what the Muslim Brotherhood would bring.

It is in the EU’s long-term self interest to develop a pro-active – and therefore orderly –  immigration policy in the countries outside its borders. It is politicians in the ruling parties across Europe who have to stop pandering to nationalistic, short-term populism and have the courage to lead their countries to face up to the long term demographic challenges. And that cannot happen with a Fortress Europe policy.

With a Château d’EU surrounded by watery graveyards.

BBC: 

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat has said European waters close to Africa are turning into a cemetery, after another boat laden with migrants capsized. Mr Muscat said Malta felt “abandoned” by the rest of Europe and insisted that the EU had to take action.

Malta and Italy launched a rescue operation after a boat capsized on Friday, leaving up to 50 people dead. It happened 120km (70 miles) off Lampedusa, the Italian island where at least 300 migrants drowned last week.

The loss of life has renewed the debate within EU member states on migration rules.

In the latest incident, the vessel carrying more than 200 migrants is believed to have encountered difficulties in Maltese waters just before sunset on Friday. The migrants used a satellite phone to raise the alarm but the boat capsized when passengers crowded to one side as they tried to get the attention of a passing aircraft, the Maltese navy said.

…. Also on Friday, a separate boat accident off the Egyptian port of Alexandria claimed the lives of at least 12 migrants.

Piracy increasing off the West African coast

July 24, 2011

AFP reports that another Italian tanker has been seized by pirates off the coast of Benin.  It remains inexplicable to me in this world of satellite navigation and GPS and Rapid Reaction Forces and instant news that piracy can still not only continue but actually flourish.  

Why do I wonder if the insurance industries actually come out of this with increased profits??

AFP: Cotonou -Pirates seized an Italian tanker with a crew of 23 off Benin in the Gulf of Guinea Sunday, the Benin navy said. Navy commander Maxime Ahoyo told AFP that after receiving distress signals from the vessel, the navy sent two patrol boats in pursuit of the pirates. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” he added.

Three pirates managed to board the ship 23 nautical miles south of Cotonou (AFP/Graphic)

Earlier, the Italian news agency ANSA first reported the capture of the Rbd Anema e Core and its crew comprising 20 Filipino seamen, two Italians and a Romanian captain. It said three pirates managed to board the ship, which was carrying fuel, 23 nautical miles south of Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin. Italy’s foreign ministry said its crisis unit was in touch with the Naples-based shipowner and following the situation closely.

Italy stepped up its measures against piracy earlier in July, clearing commercial ships sailing through dangerous waters to use private security guards or soldiers for protection. It is not clear whether the Rbd Anema e Core was carrying armed guards. Pirates have seized several Italian boats over the last few years. Earlier this month, a Greek oil tanker hijacked by gunmen off the coast of Nigeria was released along with its 20-strong crew. The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Aegean Star owned by Endeavour Marine Agency was returning to the Ghanaian port of Tema. On April 21 Somali pirates captured an Italian cargo ship headed for Iran with 21 crew members on board, including six Italians, in the Arabian Sea near Oman. In February, pirates wielding rocket-launchers seized a large Italian oil tanker with a crew of five Italians and 17 Indians east off the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.

 


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