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Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:08 Published in BlogSpot


poverty is_not_a_diseaseAs can be seen in the way the UN talks about poverty in its Sustainable Development Goals draft, its understanding of the problem is profoundly misconceived.

Right now, a long and complicated process is underway to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015, with new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These will set the parameters for international development for the next 15 years and every government, UN agency, large corporation and NGO, not to mention billions of citizens on the planet have a stake.

Judging by what’s being produced, though, we have a serious problem. The best way to describe it is with an old joke: There’s a man driving through the countryside, trying to find a nearby town. He’s desperately lost and so when he sees a woman by the side of the road he pulls over and asks for directions. The woman scratches her head and says, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here."

The best evidence of where the SDGs are starting from is the so-called “Zero Draft” document, first released on 3 June and currently undergoing exhaustive consultation.

First things to note are the big differences with the MDGs. Most strikingly, the SDGs suggest an end to poverty is possible in the next 15 years, whereas the MDGs aimed at halving it. The implication is that we’ve made amazing progress and are now on the home stretch. Secondly, the SDGs get serious about climate change. This is a major paradigm shift and, what’s more, they aim squarely at the heart of the problem: patterns of production and consumption. Impressive. Thirdly, reducing inequality “within and between” countries is included, with a goal of its own. This suggests another paradigm shift, and a controversial one because it opens the door, just a crack, to the idea that the extremely rich might be making an undue amount of their money off the backs of the extremely poor.

Of these three goals, it is fairly certain that two will disappear before the process concludes. There is no way the world’s rich governments and corporations will allow a meaningful challenge to production and consumption patterns, or a focus on reducing inequality. This is a given.

However, there is an even more important problem in the Zero Draft document which is that the very starting point of the issue is profoundly misconceived. How do we know? Because of the language. Language is a code that contains a lot more than its literal meaning, and an analysis of semantic frames in the Zero Draft exposes the logic upon which it is built.

For the full article:

By Martin Kirk, Joe Brewer
Source: Think Africa Press

Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:03 Published in Ebola

ebola rageWashington, DC — Imagine this choice. Your child has Ebola symptoms. You have no protective gloves to help keep you alive to care for her. But she needs comfort, so you wash her and wipe away her vomit – and you both die.

Liberia, one of the three most-affected countries, doesn't have enough gloves even for medical staff. Overwhelmed international caregivers – like the uniquely engaged Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – are expressing disbelief at the 'too little, too late' international response.

"We are completely amazed by the lack of willingness and professionalism and coordination to tackle this epidemic," the group's operations director, Brice de le Vingne, told the Financial Times, saying Liberia, where MSF is scaling up treatment centres, is a country on the verge of collapse. "We have been screaming for months," he said.

The group says there is nowhere near the assistance needed, despite recent efforts. Only after a traveller from Liberia took the virus to oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and host to large international investments and businesses, did the global response reach even the current modest levels.

The World Health Organisation this month is launching a U.S. $100 million disaster plan, after exhausting previous contributions of $7 million. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has sent 19 people to work in Liberia, and Public Affairs Director Barbara Reynolds says at least 60 CDC people are in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, plus Nigeria.

Nobody who has been working on the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia thinks that's close to what's needed.

Contrast that with the world response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Over $3.5 billion was donated by governments, organisations and individuals. Within 24 hours, the small nation of Israel had equipped a plane with emergency medical supplies, and 40 doctors and 20 nurses and 20 medics were able to set up a field hospital on arrival – including a patient identification system and electronic medical records. More than 300 CDC staff went to Haiti to assist in the recovery, including battling the ensuing cholera epidemic. In much of North America, Latin America and Europe, commercial businesses put out collection boxes for relief donations. Individuals responded massively.

For the full article: 

Source: All Africa

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 09:41 Published in Ebola


ebola liberiaLiberia was desperately searching for 17 Ebola patients on Monday who fled an attack on a quarantine centre in the capital Monrovia, as the outbreak appeared to overwhelm authorities in West Africa's worst-hit nation.

Searches of the teeming West Point slum have so far failed to turn up any of the missing victims as neighbouring Guinea said a wave of sick Liberians had begun crossing the border, which it had officially closed 10 days ago.

Club-wielding youths raided a medical facility set up in a high school in the dense-populated Monrovia slum on Saturday, some shouting “there's no Ebola”, echoing wild rumours that the epidemic had been made up by the West.

Officials are considering sealing off the area - home to 75 000 people - to stop the nightmare scenario of people with the highly contagious disease wandering the city where unburied corpses have lain abandoned in the streets.

Information Minister Lewis Brown said: “All those hooligans who looted the centre are now probable carriers of the disease... They took mattresses and bedding that were soaked with fluids from the patients. To quarantine the area could be one of the solutions.

“We run the risk of facing a difficult-to-control situation,” he warned.

Community leaders, however, said the patients have long gone.

Wilmont Johnson, head of a youth association in West Point which organised a search for the patients, told journalists on Monday that “those who saw them passing told us that they have gone into other communities”.

The head of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams, said of the 29 patients in the raided unit “all had tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.

Fallah Boima, whose son Michel was among the patients who fled, told AFP: “I am afraid that he could die somewhere and I will not know.”

Outside the capital in Caldwell, relatives of the dead criticised the government for the slowness of its response, claiming that bodies were being left uncollected there for days.

Sheikh Idrissa Swaray, the father of one victim, slammed the way the government was handling the crisis as “completely wrong”.

He said in one case a man had died and his wife, possibly infected herself, had run away.

“We don't even know where the wife has gone and the body is still here. Three days now and the body has not been taken.”

Liberia already has the highest death toll in the epidemic, which has killed at least 1 145 people across West Africa since the start of the year. Its toll of 413 dead last week overtook that of Sierra Leone and Guinea where the outbreak began, despite a state of emergency being declared.

Dr Sakoba Keita, who is heading Guinea's fight against the epidemic, told AFP that a wave of sick Liberians were crossing the border in the Macenta district in the south of country, where Ebola had up till now been on the wane.

“We are very worried about this situation of sick people arriving from Liberia. We are having more and more suspected cases in the area,” he said.

A Guinean military doctor on his way to the border said: “We are doing everything we can but there is a huge gulf between the rhetoric and the situation on the ground.”

Guinea announced 10 days ago that it was closing its borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, a forested region notoriously hard to police, and it was unclear how the sick patients made it into the country.

Now Cameroon also has closed all its land, sea and air borders with its neighbour Nigeria, and will restrict travel to other affected countries, a government spokesman told AFP on Monday.

The virus has claimed four lives in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. So far Cameroon has escaped unscathed.

The new travel bar comes as the World Health Organisation said it had set up a task force with global airlines and the tourism industry in an effort to contain the spread.

The outbreak has also led the African Union to cancel its summit scheduled for September 2 in Ouagadougou, although Burkina Faso to date has been unaffected.

There is no known cure for Ebola, a haemorraghic fever which can be spread through bodily fluids including blood and sweat.

The epidemic is the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has also claimed 380 lives in Guinea and 348 in Sierra Leone, according to WHO figures released on August 13.

By Zoom Dosso

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