Uganda partners with African countries to set up medicine agency

Uganda partners with African countries to set up medicine agency

Uganda has partnered with African countries to come up with a single African medicine Agency (AMA) aimed at strengthening the quality and safety of medicines for patients.

AMA is a patient-centred body expected to be launched next year by the African Union (AU), the Agency will protect public health and promote pharmaceutical sector development in Africa by ensuring that medical products in use meet internationally recognized standards of quality, safety and efficacy.

Uganda is part of the process in setting up the African Medicine Agency since it is a member state to AU.

Speaking during the African Regional meeting on harmonisation for Patient-Centred Universal Health Coverage in Africa at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe on Tuesday, the Commissioner planning at the ministry of health Dr Sarah Byakika noted “the Agency gives an opportunity to harmonise the establishment of patient universal health coverage and improve access to safe and acceptable medicines in Africa,”

She said that the body will address some of the entrenched inequality and inequity faced by many patients in Africa with regard to access to quality medicines.

Joshua Wamboga, the board member for International Alliance of patients’ organisation (IAPO) emphasised that the move will minimize unregulated medicines that come on the market.

“This agency will help emerging local industries grow locally in our country and Africa as a whole. Expanding access to the medicines that is one thing that we will see happening,” Wamboga said.

The meeting attracted delegates from Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.

World Health Organisation (WHO) medical officer Dr Mugaga Kaggwa said WHO has established tools for accessing the safety, effectiveness and acceptability of medicine before they enter into countries for consumption.

He said globally 1 in 10 hospitalised patients experience harm caused not only by medicine but also by equipment which may be faulty.

Margaret Olele representing pharmaceutical companies said there is a need to empower patients by making them to know their rights and universal health coverage.

Trimming these invasive flowers could help curb malaria

Trimming these invasive flowers could help curb malaria

Trim a tree, save a life. Biologists working in Mali are proposing an unorthodox strategy to rein in malaria: gardening.

The team found the flowers of an invasive tree, which has overrun African villages, can double as a buffet for mosquitoes. Their calls for extra horticulture to eliminate these havens, published Tuesday in Malaria Journal, could halve malaria-carrying mosquito populations and provide a new income source for villagers.

Malaria, a parasite transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes, infects up to 300 million people each year. Toddlers are particularly susceptible to the disease, with more than two-thirds of malaria deaths occurring in those under the age of five. The World Health Organization lists mosquito control as the best way to prevent the disease.

But malaria-carrying mosquitoes feed on more than just blood — and this hunger can be exploited. “Mosquitos obtain most of their energy needs from plant sugars taken from the nectar of flowers,” Gunter Muller, a biologist from Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School said in a press release.

Muller’s team knew a spiny, invasive mesquite tree — Prosopis juliflora — flourishes in Mali villages. Its flowers provide abundant sweet nectar to insects, particularly during the dry season when native trees are not in bloom. Introduced to the area 30 years ago from Central and South America to reduce deforestation and provide construction materials and firewood, Prosopis juliflora became rampant in its new environment. Now, it overtakes crop and pastureland, prompting villagers to abandon their fields.

Muller suspected more nectar means more and longer-living mosquitoes, but, no one had checked for sure. Could cutting off the mosquitoes’ non-blood food supply curb the bugs?

So, Muller’s team took a head count. The scientists trapped mosquitoes in nine villages in central Mali every night for close to a week. They compared average mosquito population numbers and the sugar content in the mosquitoes’ guts from villages with and without the invasive tree. Villages with the invasive flowering tree had four- to seven times more sugar-fed mosquitoes than villages without the tree.

The risk for catching malaria increases in places with older female mosquitoes, so the researchers evaluated the ages of the bugs they caught. Villages with the flowering invasive plant had about six times more of these older females than villages without the tree.

“By introducing mesquite trees in these areas, [humans] may have inadvertently and massively increased the potential mosquito risk,” Karl Malamud-Roam, manager of Interregional Research 4, a public health pesticide program, and ecologist at Rutgers University, who was not involved in the study, said.

After this initial mosquito population survey, the team cut the flowering branches from the trees in three of the villages and made a re-count. Without the flowers, the Anopheles mosquito population dropped by nearly 60 percent.

Male mosquitoes took a particular punch in the gut. While the female mosquito population bombed by five-fold, the male mosquito population plummeted by eight-fold. The older female mosquitoes were also hard hit, dropping by three-fold.

“It’s a bit of a wake up call…The results are really quite dramatic,” Dan Strickman, a medical entomologist at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who was not involved in the study, said. “It’s hard to argue that the presence of flowering mesquite trees are not a positive influence for important malaria vectors.”

Removing this sugary food source may not only shift areas from high- to low-risk malaria status, but could also recover agricultural and pasture lands the invasive tree had taken over.

Africa’s New Frontier of Mobile Healthcare

Africa’s New Frontier of Mobile Healthcare

The rapid evolution of technology across the globe and its mergence with solving health disparities has reconfigured the medical landscape in Africa. While prior medical needs in Africa only catered to those with private insurance or funds to afford top-grade care, companies are beginning to realize the potential of investing into the region’s healthcare market. According to McKinsey, the undeveloped medical services industry on the African continent is worth around $35 billion. With an increased demand for medical services at affordable costs, digitalization of basic healthcare needs serves as a tool to bridge the gap between patients and quality care.

Indeed cost can prove to be a challenge for Africans willing to seek healthcare, making the need to provide pre-paid private health insurance of paramount importance. One organization that’s beginning to recognize the potential of taking affordable aid online is the international company Sphera Bluoshen. The business implemented a program called M Health into the healthcare market of Africa, which provides 24/7 consultation for medical and pediatric needs through their own digital app. This online service allows patients to interact with doctors and receive once out-of-reach medical information in a matter of minutes. During the consultation, the medical specialist will provide detailed information and answer any health-related questions the individual might have. Additionally, the program is personalized because the connection between professional and patient is based on specific diagnoses. Companies, like Sphera Bluoshen, are starting to understand the impact of an integrated approach to healthcare on the continent by combining global knowledge with local expertise.

Additionally, location is a barrier for doctors seeking to aid individuals who are simply out of reach for their services. This can prove fatal as Africans seeking hospital care or basic medical needs are simply unreachable as a result of geographic location.

CNN describes how the new frontier of mobile healthcare is helping reshape the lives of those isolated from quality medical service. The reality is in some parts of the continent, even if aid is provided, there is no guarantee medical images will be seen by health officials who can correctly diagnose the patient. With the emergence of digitalized healthcare, however, now even remote regions of Africa can receive reports or attain consultation from doctors by using available technologies.

Across the continent nearly 65%-89% of adults are equipped with cellphones according to the Pew Research Center. The growing use of these mobile devices has allowed for the online services to be widely accessible to the African population.

For example, Kenya has fully embraced the multiple innovations that technologies provide for addressing health disparities. The country recently piloted a kit that transforms an individual’s cellphone into a medical tool that can examine eyes. Other provided services include reminding pregnant mothers to contact health professionals if they experience medical issues via smartphone or receiving calls as a reminder to take medicine at specific times of day.

Access to affordable and efficient healthcare still proves to be a problem to individuals across Africa, but technology provides an opportunity to create effective solutions. By using creativity, companies could begin discovering ways to make medical services mobile, not only reaping substantial financial gains but also equipping thousands of African people with the medical care they need.

SA’s EMGuidance scaling e-health platform across Africa

SA’s EMGuidance scaling e-health platform across Africa

Initially launched in July of last year, and last week named the winner of the South African leg of the Seedstars World competition, EMGuidance provides a centralised, digital access point for locally relevant clinical guidelines on behalf of a wide range of medical institutions, and detailed medicines information, equipping doctors with up to date information that can help to reduce inaccurate decisions at the point-of-care.

Its proprietary, interactive and consistently updated Medicines Section guides medical professionals in providing the correct prescriptions. This resource has been put together by an in-house team of doctors and pharmacists, working with a national network of specialists.

The startup claims the EMGuidance Medicines Section is South Africa’s first, free, interactive and consistently updated mobile medicines resource available. It currently has over 800 active ingredients listed, each with full prescribing and dosage information, and plans to have around 1,200 active ingredients by the end of August.

“The platform is geo-location enabled, and we are therefore able ensure that our users see the most relevant content to them. The geo-location aspect also enables us to roll the platform out to new territories,” chief marketing officer (CMO) Howard Moodycliffe told Disrupt Africa.

“Our vision is to improve patient care globally by providing medical professionals free, instant access to locally relevant clinical guidelines and medicines information.”

The platform – which is accessible via Android and iOS apps – has seen over 5,000 medical professionals register and use the platform since its launch, with at least 80 per cent of this user-base growth via word of mouth. More than 20 medical institutions, as well as the South African Department of Health, publish their clinical guidelines through EMGuidance.

Moodycliffe said the startup is currently focused on South Africa, but has released a slimline version of the platform in Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Rwanda, Sudan and Zambia.

The problem which EMGuidance solves is that of information access.

“Medical professionals, to date, have had no single, digital point through which to access point-of-care clinical and medicines information. Traditionally they have had to trawl websites, run Google searches and rely on medicines information sources with are either incomplete, or are non-digital and only updated every two or three years, or are of an international nature and not accurate for the South African region,” Moodycliffe said.

“We have been very careful to ensure the integrity of the platform. A lot of effort, thought and strategy has gone into ensuring that the clinical and medicines information is 100 per cent inclusive, and that any paid engagement and value add opportunities taken up by pharmaceutical companies are supplementary – and clearly marked as coming from a 3rd party.”

He said EMGuidance, which has raised two funding rounds thus far and is in the process of raising a further one right now, provides the platform and app to medical professionals and clinical guideline content producers for free.

“We generate revenue through providing highly contextual opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to add value and information to medical professionals – when they are looking for it. We currently have five clients, including a number of multinational, ethical companies. It is important to point out that this bringing together of medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industry can only be done effectively within the context of a highly trusted and inclusive environment. Industry engagement must add value to our users,” Moodycliffe said.

Local supplement to reshape medical treatment

Local supplement to reshape medical treatment

Let me start by giving you a straight answer. Yes, Jobelyn can help in your condition, and more. An example is that of Fola Adebisi (not real name), who is 46 and was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by her family physician. Adebisi, a widow and school teacher, lives in Western Nigeria and earns just enough to keep herself and her family of six children financially afloat.

Symptoms have been ongoing probably for years, beginning with poor vision, tingling sensations in her limbs and excessive urinating. But she had ignored the symptoms due to her inability to afford the medical bills. Her medical records also showed that she suffered from rheumatism, for which she self-medicated with over-the-counter aspirin or ibuprofen. Beyond that, her complete blood count showed that she has anaemia, probably as a result of her chronic ailments as well as several bouts of malaria she suffered.

Now, Adebisi is in a quandary– should she spend all her available income and savings in pursuing expensive, orthodox medical care? What about the upkeep of her family? The diabetic condition, her doctor warned, “will not go by itself” without proper treatment. Enter Jobelyn, a.k.a Sorghum bicolor, the herbal formulation being touted as remedy for countless medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.

Well, the herb is not quite new, but only enjoying a renaissance, owing largely to the fact that modern alternatives are prohibitively expensive. Sorghum bicolor has been used for centuries in Africa and North America for treating and preventing sundry medical ailments.

The key expressions in understanding the underlying mechanism of Jobelyn’s action are “antioxidant effect”, “free radicals” and “oxidative damage”, believed to be at the root of numerous disease entities. Free radicals are thought to be by-products of oxidative metabolism (ie, processes involving oxygen). They are perceived to be the excess oxygen species that are surplus to requirement, following some metabolic processes.

However, these free radicals turn out to be “too much of a good thing” as they appear, paradoxically, to be the drivers of inflammation which, in turn, has been implicated in the genesis of several disease states, including asthma, chronic lung disease, autoimmune diseases including type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc; as well as oncogenesis (the onset of cancer). Although inflammation is the body’s intelligent in-built mechanism of fighting disease, these can all get out of hand and go awry. Which is where Jobelyn comes in.

Jobelyn has been shown to have a very high Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) as compared with other agents that are known to possess free-radical “scavenging properties”.

Owing to its medicinal potential, Sorghum bicolor has been studied intensively by scientists both in test tubes and humans. Results have shown that the active ingredients revealed potent COX-2 inhibitory powers. The COX-2 or cyclooxygenase enzyme is one that is involved in chronic inflammation and pain as witnessed in rheumatism.

The drawback with orthodox treatment options with so-called non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is that they sometimes have “off-target” effects such as causing stomach ulcer and bleeding as well as acute kidney failure, and may exacerbate latent heart disease. Taken according to recommendation, Sorghum bicolour, owing to its rather “modulatory” effects, doesn’t seem to show these deleterious effects.

Furthermore, this herbal formulation contains three amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), which have been proven to protect red blood cells (the carriers of oxygen in mammals) that do not possess a nucleus of their own and therefore, cannot produce proteins. This may help to explain why the red cells have a lifespan of only 120 days. In sickle-cell anaemia, this lifespan is even shortened, leading to the “crises” (cardio-respiratory and circulatory problems above all) that plague such patients time and again. Sorghum bicolor seems to offer protection against these crises.

In immuno-suppressed states, where white blood cells that help in fighting infection are known to be depleted, Jobelyn, at least, in a small number of patients, has been shown to boost the levels of these cells (so called T-Lymphocytes). Sequel to this, a role has been proposed for it in the treatment as varied as HIV/AIDS and other disease conditions where the immune system could do with some help.

In cardiovascular health, or lack thereof, free radicals have been implicated in arteriosclerosis (severe thickening and hardening of the artery walls). Anti-oxidants such as Jobelyn do not only slow down this process, but help in preventing the breakdown of nitric oxide, which helps in smooth muscle relaxation of blood vessels. It is also interesting to note that the same mechanism is involved in the action of the block-buster drug, used in the treatment of impotency in men.

Meanwhile, free radicals have been implicated in at least 60 diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, the leading causes of death worldwide. Jobelyn and other antioxidant products with proven efficacy, one might surmise, lead to the enhancement of cell function, which is essential to not only the aforementioned cellular processes, but to the elimination of toxic wastes via the kidneys, liver and thereby maintain good health.

So, who would want to bet against Jobelyn being effective against myriad ailments that the manufacturer claims?

The uniqueness of Jobelyn is its “naturalness”. The formulation has, according to the manufacturer’s pamphlet, been based on the herb in its whole form. In so doing, it goes on to say, “the body can then utilise the full undiminished balance of ingredients provided by nature. Herbal remedies are more effective and tolerable that their orthodox alternatives”. Not to mention more affordable.

Made and marketed by Health Forever, based in Lagos, Nigeria, the firm also has a range of medicinal products in its stable. But Jobelyn seems to be the brightest star in its firmament. The marketing catalogue refers to very positive results from laboratories in Germany and the United States (US). Some of its promised effects are no doubt overstated and one cannot discount the effect of countless other conditions that are effectively the origin of diseases, especially in low-resource settings.

For starters, Jobelyn or any antioxidant drug, for that matter, will not run on an empty stomach. Malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions and low socio-economic status remain the bane of good health in Africa and much of the Third World.

However, this should not detract or distract from the promises that Jobelyn has shown, especially in preliminary clinical studies. The formulation catalogue is awash with references to peer-reviewed journal publications that have testified to its health-promoting effects.

According to Health Forever Managing Director, Otunba Olajuwon Okubena, plans are under way to partner Nigerian health agencies to conduct multi-centre clinical trials, the “gold standard of clinical research”. Meanwhile, the drug has since been approved for marketing by National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

According to scientific data made available in journal publications, it appears good: no teratogenic (harmful effects to the embryo) have been noticed so far; although there are mild sedative effects at higher dosages (important for people who drive or operate heavy machinery).

For Adebisi and millions of others, including the inquirer, suffering from some of the chronic medical conditions outlined above, hope seems to be on the way.

Tedros can draw on Ethiopia’s lessons on abortion

Tedros can draw on Ethiopia's lessons on abortion

The past decade has seen tremendous progress toward women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world, especially access to safe abortion. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus takes the helm of the World Health Organization as its new director-general, we can’t go backwards. Women’s and girls’ lives are at stake. Tens of thousands of women die, and millions more are injured when they have no choice but to turn to unsafe “back-alley” abortions.

In Ethiopia, the government, health providers and civil society worked together to make abortion safe and accessible. Why? As in many countries in Africa and other parts of the world, unsafe abortion was a major cause of death or injury for women in Ethiopia. Women who are young and poor are most affected. And we know from experience and research that restricting access to abortion doesn’t make it safe and doesn’t make it rare.

Tedros’ leadership at this time, when many countries “are stepping up their efforts to roll back progress on women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights,” is vital. We must not let the unprecedented expansion of the United States “global gag rule” and other countries’ regressive efforts deny women their right to health and block their ability to obtain a safe abortion, if they choose.

Ethiopia is a success story that highlights how, in a short time and with limited resources, strategic introduction of legal abortion integrated with contraceptive counseling and service delivery can produce significant public health benefits. When Ethiopia’s abortion law was liberalized in 2005, the contribution of unsafe abortion to maternal death was 32 percent. After 10 years of implementation of the revised law this figure has gone down to 10 percent.

Consider the lessons we learned. Since 2005, thousands of health care providers have been trained and hundreds of thousands of women have received high-quality legal abortion services. Efforts to introduce and scale-up safe legal abortion were spearheaded by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health — led by then-Minister Tedros — with contributions from several international NGOs, including Ipas.

Some of the things we did together have proved particularly important: Decentralizing abortion care; training mid-levels or non-physicians to provide abortion; integrating contraceptive services with abortion care; offering women the option of medical abortion — abortion with pills; and selectively introducing second-trimester abortion.

Although challenges remain, Ethiopia’s experience builds the global evidence on the positive health impacts of legal abortion. National health system statistics and other research point to steady improvement in abortion services, for example, and an increase in the number of women obtaining postabortion contraception. Mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion was cut by two-thirds.

There is still work to be done, including achieving sustainability of these services and total ownership of this care by the Ethiopian government, including allocation of budgetary resources toward this area.

As WHO director-general, I hope that Tedros will encourage other countries to follow this example. Countries should legalize abortion — it saves lives. They should allow midwives and non-doctors to provide abortion, as the WHO guidance on task-shifting suggests to address critical health worker shortages.

Tedros should advocate for making medical abortion pills widely available and link abortion with long-acting reversible contraception provision and counseling.

The WHO has so far led the way to improve abortion access. In Ethiopia, we closely followed the WHO Safe Abortion Guidance, which has informed the revision of national standards, guidelines, and clinical protocols, as well as legally restrictive abortion laws. The WHO guidance strongly supports Ipas’ and other partners’ work to promote access to safe abortion.

Now, in 2017, Ethiopia has increased access to abortion, including medical abortion, and has successfully integrated contraception into comprehensive abortion care. We have witnessed the benefit of making safe abortion to women and girls. This is a great achievement; though we know we must do more. But with strong support from the WHO, we’re up for the challenge.

And in turn, I hope that the new director-general, Tedros, will speak out on the global need for safe, legal abortion; call for rigorous research and better data on abortion; stand up to the U.S. government; and support women and girls around the world.

Lancet Group of Labs invests heavily in international accreditation

Lancet Group of Labs invests heavily in international accreditation

Medical laboratory service provider Lancet Group of Labs is investing heavily in international accreditation of its facilities all over East Africa to support the health sector in the region.

Lancet’s main facility in Dar-es-salaam’s Conservation House in Tanzania becomes the latest service point of the independent lab network with regional headquarters in Nairobi to achieve international rating, the first private entity to achieve the feat in Tanzania and among the few in the region.

This brings the number of Lancet’s facilities in the region to achieve the rigorous global rating to six, with the bulk of them being in Kenya.

Accreditation to international standards often costs between Sh2.5 million to Sh4 million per facility, including direct fees as well as preparations for the exercise. Lancet has about 40 branches in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and offers routine and specialised laboratory diagnostic services for the doctors, clinics, hospitals, corporate, insurance and occupational health sectors. Lancet’s East Africa Managing Director and Consultant Pathologist Dr Ahmed Kalebi said they are investing substantial resources to achieve international accreditation for all its service points in the region.

“The exercise is costly and demanding but we are determined to match international standards to better support the health sector in the region with reliable and quality diagnostic services,” he said. He added: “Even before the accreditation, our internal quality controls are stringent guaranteeing our lab results.

Accreditation gives us an independent and external validation.” The accreditation for the Dar facility was carried out by the Southern African Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS), an accreditation body of the regional bloc SADC while those in Kenya were rated by the Kenya Accreditation Service (KENAS) using the same international standard for medical labs (ISO15189:2012).

Labs that achieve the rigorous international ratings produce test results of guaranteed quality, reliability and safety and can be accepted anywhere in the world.

Incidences of misdiagnosis and mismanagement of patients arising from inaccurate lab results continue to negatively affect the health sector in the region. Lancet Tanzania Country General Manager said other Lancet facility in the country is undergoing final stages of internal audit and scheduled for external audit by SADCAS later in the year, after which other laboratories including those in Arusha, Moshi, Dodoma and Zanzibar will follow suit.

Lab Manager of the accredited facility in Dar Ms. Esuvat Severe said that the international rating for the lab will not only boost the health sector in Tanzania and the region but also attract research work and collaborations locally and internationally since the lab is now on the global map.

The ISO15189:2012 rating is the highest international standard for medical laboratories meaning it guarantees that the systems, processes and infrastructure of a lab meets the global threshold.

The standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). It involves upgrading equipment, staff skills and attitudes to create the right culture for quality assurance and customer service and ensuring accountability.

WHO declares an end to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

WHO declares an end to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The announcement comes 42 days (two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus) after the last confirmed Ebola patient in the affected Bas-Uélé province tested negative for the disease for the second time. Enhanced surveillance in the country will continue, as well as strengthening of preparedness and readiness for Ebola outbreaks.
“With the end of this epidemic, DRC has once again proved to the world that we can control the very deadly Ebola virus if we respond early in a coordinated and efficient way,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Related to the outbreak, 4 people died, and 4 people survived the disease. Five of these cases were laboratory confirmed. A total of 583 contacts were registered and closely monitored, but no known contacts developed signs or symptoms of EVD.

On 11 May 2017, WHO was notified by the Ministry of Public Health of the virus among a cluster of undiagnosed illnesses and deaths with haemorrhagic signs in Likati Health Zone. Likati is a remote, hard to reach area, which shares borders with the Central African Republic and two other provinces of DRC. Cases of the disease were reported in four health districts. This is DRC’s eighth outbreak of EVD since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976.

The effective response to this latest EVD outbreak in Africa was achieved through the timely alert by local authorities of suspect cases, immediate testing of blood samples due to strengthened national laboratory capacity, the early announcement of the outbreak by the government, rapid response activities by local and national health authorities with the robust support of international partners, and speedy access to flexible funding. Coordination support on the ground by the WHO Health Emergencies Programme was critical and an Incident Management System was set up within 24 hours of the outbreak being announced. WHO deployed more than 50 experts to work closely with government and partners.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, who visited DRC in May to discuss steps to control the outbreak, said the country had shown exemplary commitment in leading the response and strengthening local capacities. “Together with partners, we are committed to continuing support to the Government of DRC to strengthen the health system and improve healthcare delivery and preparedness at all levels,” she said.

Work with the government of DRC continues to ensure that survivors have access to medical care and screening for persistent virus, as well as psychosocial care, counselling and education to help them reintegrate into family and community life, reduce stigma and minimize the risk of EVD transmission.

Announcing that the outbreak of Ebola in DRC was over, Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the country’s Minister of Health said, “I urge that we now focus all our efforts on strengthening the health system in Bas- Uélé province, which has been stressed by the outbreak. Without strengthening the health system, effective surveillance is not possible.”

WHO coordinated international technical support for the outbreak with Partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the Dangerous Pathogens Laboratory Network. Other key Partners supporting the DRC government in their response included Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA); European Union (EU); the government of the People’s Republic of China; the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Médecins sans Frontières (MSF); Red Cross of the DRC; UNICEF; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID); the University of Québec, Canada; and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP/Logistics Cluster and UNICEF supported warehousing capacity in Buta and Likati and the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) set up a base for air operations from Buta, while the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) helped transport response teams and urgently needed supplies to the affected zone.

Two million African children saved from U.S. Malaria Donations

Two million African children saved from U.S. Malaria Donations

This is contained in a study published by PLOS Medicine in June and copied to the Ghana News Agency.

The study looked at the long-term effects of the President’s Malaria Initiative, a programme started by President George W. Bush in 2005 that had spent over $500 million a year, since 2010.

The results debunked one of the persistent myths of foreign aid: that it has no effect because more children survived each year anyway as economies improved.

The researchers-economists from the University of North Carolina and Harvard — looked at death rates for children under five, contrasting the 19 countries that got American malaria aid (mostly in the form of mosquito nets, house spraying and malaria pills) with 13 countries that do not.

They adjusted the data to filter out neonatal deaths and lives saved by other medical interventions, such as childhood vaccines supplied by donors or HIV drugs paid for by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, or by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was also initiated by Mr Bush.

Dr Harsha Thirumurthy, a health economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead author said “The researchers found that countries helped by the malaria initiative had 16 percent fewer deaths in that age group, which amounted to about 1.7 million lives of babies and toddlers saved since the programme began.”

The study was not commissioned or paid for by the malaria agency, Dr. Thirumurthy added. “We thought it was essential to evaluate how P.M.I. was working,” he said, referring to the President’s Malaria Initiative.

“We gave them a heads-up that we were doing the analysis, but we didn’t share the results with them till they were in print.

“I welcome this independent external analysis,” said Rear Adm. R Timothy Ziemer, Coordinator of the initiative from its inception until early this year. “P.M.I.’s effective approach demonstrates to all what can be accomplished in fighting malaria with U.S. leadership.”

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Eran Bendavid, a health-policy specialist at Stanford University, called the study’s conclusions “striking.”

Health-related foreign aid, he noted, amounted to less than a penny of every taxpayer dollar spent but paid dividends in two ways; relatively small contributions saved many lives, and countries that received such aid had overwhelmingly favourable views of the United States.

In the Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes and Trends surveys over the last 15 years, Dr Bendavid said in an email, 75 percent or more of residents of Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Senegal regarded the United States favourably.

African Officials Seek Tougher Penalties Against Fake Drug Imports

African Officials Seek Tougher Penalties Against Fake Drug Imports

Lawyers from around Africa gathered in Cameroon this week to call for tougher legislation against counterfeit medicine.

Sixty tons of counterfeit medicine was burned after being seized by customs officials in Cameroon, who say the stockpile had an estimated value of $80,000.

Customs official Marcel Kamgaing said the imitation medicine was being used to treat everything from diabetes and hypertension to cancer and erectile dysfunction. He said the forged drugs were destined for sale at shops and roadside pharmacies.

He says illicit drugs are very dangerous to the health of consumers and may even kill due to poor packaging and preservation. He says importers should be informed that Cameroon’s customs laws give them the authority to destroy all fake drugs.

Counterfeit drugs conference

The burning was scheduled to coincide with an international conference this week in Yaounde on the problem of phony drugs in Africa.

Jackson Ngnie Kamga, president of the Cameroon Bar Association, says the current penalties are not enough of a deterrent. He said traffickers should face jail time.

He says because of its deadly consequences, it is high time for Cameroon to join African states to start considering the transportation and commercialization of bogus drugs as a major crime, not a simple offense punishable by fines and seizure of the illicit goods. He says the number of people who die because of such drugs makes them consider it another form of homicide, which the international community should help Africa tackle.

The World Health Organization says falsified medical products may contain no active ingredient, the wrong active ingredient or the wrong amount of the correct active ingredient. The WHO says about 100,000 deaths-a-year in Africa are linked to counterfeit drugs.

Asian source

Issouf Baadhio, an attorney from Burkina Faso, represented the International Association of Lawyers as its vice president. He said the counterfeit drugs are primarily manufactured in Asia, especially in China, and so African countries need to focus on stopping importation.

He says besides the fact that this trade is illegal, importing fake drugs has disastrous economic consequences and as such civil society organizations and professional groups like the International Association of Lawyers should join states and make sure that markets are protected and custom controls are set up at entrances to all states to detect and stop the sale of all dangerous drugs.

Identifying counterfeit medicines can be difficult. The WHO urges officials and consumers to look for signs like misspelled words on the packaging and to check that the manufacture and expiration dates inside and outside packaging match.