Also In Global Health News: Ebola In Congo; Asia Pacific Food Security Meeting; Niger Food Emergency; Kenya’s Infrastructure Scale-Up; Zambian Bicycle Ambulances

Congo Launched Epidemiological Investigation After Authorities Identify 5 Suspected Cases Of Ebola

Congo authorities have launched epidemiological investigations and infection control measures after five men were suspected of having Ebola but tested negative, Agence-France Press reports. “We have taken response measures as if it were Ebola fever because it is not far from the Odzala National Park,” where cases of Ebola were previously seen in gorillas and humans, Elira Dokekias, Congo’s health director said. According to the news service, the five men fell sick and died after returning from the national park and were from an isolated village (7/5).

Leaders To Discuss Asia-Pacific Food Security

“Hundreds of policymakers, development experts, and representatives from the public and private sectors will meet in the Philippines this week [to discuss] how to boost investment in the Asia Pacific’s agriculture sector,” GMANews.TV writes. The event is organized by the Asian Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. GMANews.TV includes comments from leaders of the conference, who said the forum will discuss barriers to food security, ways to overcome them and provide governments and the private sector opportunities to “work together and discuss concrete investment plans” for countries in the region (7/5).

WFP Classifies Work In Niger As ‘Emergency Operation’

The World Food Program (WFP) on Friday said its work in Niger has now become an “emergency operation” after a survey found that malnutrition rates in young children has increased, the Associated Press reports (7/2). “New Government data released last week showed that nearly half of Niger’s 7.1 million people are currently affected by acute food shortages caused by prolonged drought and crop failure in the arid Sahel region,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “It also found that the global acute malnutrition rate in Niger has reached nearly 17 percent for children under the age of five, which is far above the 15 percent warning threshold and the 12.3 percent rate estimated last year.” Josette Sheeran, executive director of the WFP said the agency is “doubling” its operations and “ramping up already significant interventions, to take even swifter action to protect these children” (7/2).

Reuters AlertNet writes that aid groups believe “giving out cash rather than food is a quicker way” to help Niger’s hungry, adding that while food, “imported from neighbouring countries, is available to buy in village markets,” the problem is that “many in the agriculture-driven economy can’t afford it as the drought has hit their sources of income – farming and livestock” (Fominyen, 7/2). 

Kenya Invests In Agriculture, Water, Other Infrastructure

“Kenya is significantly scaling up investments in agriculture, energy and water projects to hasten the nation’s recovery from the global recession and a regional drought,” writes Greenwire/New York Times. The Kenyan government’s 2010/2011 fiscal year budget includes 32 billion Kenyan shilling [$400 million] for agriculture and rural development and $51 billion shilling [$620 million] for environment, water and sanitation projects. “The robust commitments come as Kenya struggles with an increasingly volatile cycle of droughts and floods that is making electricity and agricultural production less predictable,” which Kenyan policymakers and scientists attribute to global climate change (Burnham, 7/1).

Bicycle Ambulances Piloted In Zambia

“Recognizing a lack of reliable transportation to bring women to hospital, a pilot program in Luumbo funded by NGOs will see three bicycle ambulances, or Zambulances,” brought into the Zambian region, CTV News reports. A “Zambulance” is a yellow mountain bike fitted with a trailer, single mattress and removable canopy. Despite difficulty getting the bike up mountainous roads and seasonal floods that will render the bikes inoperable, “the attitude of hospital staff and health workers … is that something is better than nothing” to help curb the country’s high maternal mortality rate, the news outlet reports (Wintonyk, 7/1).

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