Rural Africa Weekly Report: Ebola Resurgence and Other Reports
Every week, Rural Reporters collate reports on development in rural Africa and its environs. The reports include some of our top picks from recent must-read research, interviews, reports, blogs and in-depth articles which have been carefully selected to help you keep up with global issues. Here are some of the updates you may have missed from the previous week:
A Sierra Leone patient has tested positive for the virus after he died.
A new case of Ebola has emerged hours after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the West African outbreak was over.
But two tests conducted on a boy who died in northern Sierra Leone proved positive for the virus, a health ministry. Neither the gender nor age of the deceased was released.
On declaring the end of the epidemic on Thursday – Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO Special Representative for the Ebola Response said: ‘The risk of re-introduction of infection is diminishing as the virus gradually clears from the survivor population, but we still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.
The yearly scourge of Lassa fever has struck at the heart of the country once again, leaving in its wake the usual trail of deaths and wailing by the bereaved families. At the last count, no fewer than 41 people had been reported dead in about 86 cases of infection in 10 states across the country; and the number is expected to increase.
By any standard, this is quite alarming. But in a country that has become so immune to shock, due to the frequency of mass death from plane crashes, road accidents, communal and sectarian clashes, suicide bombings and other forms of Boko Haram terror attacks, there is the tendency for that number not to stir the right kind of emotion. This is perhaps why Abdulrahman Nasidi, the Project Director, National Centre for Disease Control, was quoted as saying that it had not reached the level “to declare a national emergency.”
People in South-East Asia and central Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk of viral diseases carried by bats, a map shows.
The global risk map is designed to support research into avoiding the transfer of diseases from bats to humans and to help health workers pinpoint infection hotspots and target pre-endemic measures, its creators say.
Analysing data published between 1900 and 2013, the scientists measured each region’s risk level (see map below) and identified factors that contribute to infections from bats, such as increased human encroachment on areas where bats roost.
Mobile money has made lives easier for most people in Africa, but this has not come cheap for the users with con tricksters forever devising means and ways of stealing the money. In Kenya, for example, con men are applying tricks that are more advanced than service providers and users.
The worst affected are Kenyans living in rural areas, who are unaware of the schemes and trust easily, therefore, are gullible.
“Pliz nitumie hiyo pesa kwa hii namba. Ile ingine Mpesa pin imeblock (Please send me the money on this number, for the other one my mobile money PIN has been blocked),” Collins Ombiro, a resident of Busia, recounted Tuesday he received the message a week ago.
Principal Nhlanhla Dube is head of Amangwane High School in Bergville, in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.
In a bid to produce quality matriculants and more university passes, Dube came up with a programme called the 6-4-6 turnaround strategy. Pupils attend school from 06:00 to 14:00, take a break until 16:00, then go back to school until 18:00.
He overcame a tiny government subsidy, a serial rapist in the community, a scarcity of textbooks and no laboratory to achieve a 92% matric pass rate in 2015.
There is no harm of a new balance of power in the education sector with the emergence of new giants (schools). However, from the look of things, the under achievement in traditional, mostly public schools, has more to do with the quality of learning taking place in these schools compared to new and, especially private schools.
In the latest Uwezo survey report entitled, ‘Are Our Children Learning; Literacy and Numeracy Across East Africa 2013’, it notes that in Uganda, we often see that Primary Six children are unable to read Primary Two paragraphs, indicating that pupils are not learning, which is quite astonishing. The survey also cited financial constraints as the most prominent factor explaining both non-enrolment and high dropout rates of Uganda’s primary school children.
USAID protests, Internet gambles and election controversies: This week in development news
The new year is off to a fast start. Here’s a rundown of the top stories making headlines in global development this week.
The largest-ever USAID award that was under protest…
… isn’t anymore. Three days before Christmas the Court of Federal Claims ruled not to uphold a bid protest filed by the Partnership for Supply Chain Management. PfSCM is a coalition of government contractors, including John Snow, Inc., which previously held a contract to implement global health supply chain services on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development, a massive suite of health programs worth about $10 billion. As Devex reported last spring the group protested USAID’s decision to award the project to a new coalition, led by Chemonics International. After the Government Accountability Office denied the protest, the partnership appealed, freezing start-up activities on the new project. The Court of Federal Claims ruling means that transition can now get underway. “With the resolution of the appeal, we are now moving forward in collaboration with USAID to ensure smooth, highly-coordinated transitions over the next 14 months between the old and new projects,” said JSI’s Washington Office Director Carolyn Hart in a statement.
“Who could possibly be against this?”…
… is what Mark Zuckerberg is asking Indians about Facebook’s new “Free Basics” plan. In India, Zuckerberg has worked with Reliance Communications, the country’s fourth-largest telecoms company, to offer basic Internet access that people can use without paying for data — so long as they use the Facebook portal to get online. Not everyone is ready to throw him a parade though. A vocal cohort of critics question Zuckerberg’s right to serve as gatekeeper to the Internet for the world’s disconnected; and they’ve pressed for alternative connectivity solutions that don’t insert a private company’s interests between citizens and the public utility of the Internet. In late December, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India put free basics on hold. Facebook’s spokespeople say their plan is being misrepresented, and that 86 percent of Indians support free basics. In a statement to The Hill, a Facebook spokesperson disputed that the principle of net neutrality “was ever intended to deprive poor people of the opportunity to experience the benefits of basic Internet services.”
This month Devex will be reporting from India on this and a range of other critical issues facing a country on the front lines of the battle for inclusive growth. Stay tuned.
“Donor darling” for life?…
… is what Rwandan President Paul Kagame could become. Kagame officially announced his intention to run for a third seven-year term in 2017, and then promptly took to Twitter to defend his decision against criticism from the U.S. State Department. The Rwandan government’s tendency to buck certain democratic principles in favor of “development,” “stability” and “security” has stood out as the inconvenient truth of a post-genocide nation that is otherwise credited for achieving some of the most significant global health and development victories in the world. It is not yet clear whether Kagame’s decision will prompt a change in policy among the world’s donor nations who have held Rwanda up as an example of what integrated development can achieve. Kagame’s announcement was no surprise; it followed on the heels of a national referendum in which Rwandans voted for a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to stay in office until 2034. With such broad support — whether genuine or partly coerced — Kagame’s reelection next year looks like a foregone conclusion.
The Ebola virus of 2016…
… could be a formerly obscure mosquito-borne illness called Zika virus, which last year spread from Africa and Asia to South America and has now infected more than 1 million people in Brazil. A virus once considered relatively non-threatening — with mild symptoms for only some of those infected — Zika has now been tentatively linked to a condition called microcephaly, a birth defect associated with small heads and brain underdevelopment that is afflicting Brazilian infants in numbers never seen until the arrival of Zika last year. Some researchers say the spread of Zika is just one example of climate change driving mosquito-borne illnesses to new parts of the globe, expanding their ranges and generally making global health a more difficult proposition.
Welcome to the “hardest job at the UN”…
… Filippo Grandi! The Italian diplomat officially took over this week as United Nations high commissioner for refugees, responsible for coordinating a global response to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. “Other challenges include critical shortfalls in humanitarian funding, fewer voluntary returns than at any time in more than three decades, people staying in exile for longer periods of time and the increased politicization of refugee issues in many countries,” a UNHCR press release soberly noted. Devex has long speculated about who would take on this challenging role. In his own remarks Grandi acknowledged the threat “growing xenophobia” poses to sensible refugee relocation, settlement and services, recalling a recent UNHCR statement criticizing U.S. presidential candidates such as Donald Trump for their anti-refugee rhetoric. Grandi also committed to looking at how UNHCR can tackle root causes driving refugees away from their home communities.