Category Archives: Health

EbolaWatch: Numbers, aid, desperate measures


We begin with a number from Bloomberg:

70: The Magic Number That Could End the Ebola Epidemic

There are a lot of scary numbers floating around about Ebola. Take 1.4 million: the CDC’s worst-case scenario for Ebola cases in Western Africa by the end of January. Or two: the approximate number of healthy people infected by each new Ebola patient.

But perhaps the most important Ebola number right now is 70 percent. That’s the proportion of patients who need to be isolated — in treatment centers or at least in their homes — in order to put a quick end to the Ebola outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Once 70 percent of patients are effectively isolated, the outbreak decreases at a rate nearly equal to the initial rate of increase,” researchers wrote today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. If 70 percent of the current outbreak was achieved by late December, the epidemic “would be almost ended by January 20.”

From AllAfrica, just what’s needed, another czar:

West Africa: Obama to Announce Ebola Czar As Businesses, Senators Press for More

President Obama will announce the appointment of a high-level coordinator to manage the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak when he visits Atlanta on Tuesday, administration sources have told AllAfrica.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the president is visiting the Atlanta, Georgia-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive a briefing from officials at the organization, whose director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, visited the region last month.

Obama will also discuss U.S. assistance to fight the Ebola virus and will thank the doctors, scientists and health care workers who have been engaged in the effort to stop its escalating spread. A stepped-up administration plan, which has been discussed by officials from across the executive branch for more than a month, received higher level attention this past week as the scope of the outbreak became more widely acknowledged – at least partly in response to pressure from private sector companies engaged in the most-affected countries and from members of Congress.

From Agence France-Presse, a videographic of a prototypical Ebola treatment center:

Ebola treatment centres

Program notes:

An American doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been admitted Sunday to a clinic outside Washington as a precautionary measure. He had been volunteering as a physician in a unit treating those suffering from the tropical fever that has already killed more than 3,000 people in west Africa since the end of last year. Despite being trained in strict infection control practices, medical staff in the region are at constant risk of infection

The Washington Post embraces the military approach:

Will AFRICOM’s Ebola response be watershed moment for international action on human security?

On Sept. 18, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held an unprecedented emergency meeting on a public health crisis and officially declared the Ebola epidemic that has killed an estimated 2,803 people in West Africa a threat to international peace and security. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), which he tasked with treating the infected, containing the disease and preserving stability. Last week, President Obama announced the deployment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which will set up a joint force command in Liberia to coordinate the activity of 3,000 U.S. forces; expedite the transportation of equipment and supplies; and train an estimated 500 health-care workers per week.

Although Kim Yi Dionne, Laura Seay and Erin McDaniel raised concerns in The Washington Post last week about U.S. military forces engaging in a large-scale humanitarian operation, the deployment of AFRICOM and the creation of UNMEER are different from previous militarized humanitarian missions. The emphasis on human security, supported by the recent UNSC proclamation, shifts the policy conversation. This is a potential watershed moment for future humanitarian interventions if key actors recognize the core comparative advantages of both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and militaries and work together in a partnership.

Shanghai Daily covers an opening:

UN opens Ebola headquarters in Ghana

THE UN mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters yesterday in Ghana, where it will coordinate aid for the accelerating West African crisis.

The spread of Ebola has spiraled into the worst ever outbreak, and the World Health Organization says it has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease, although that is likely an underestimate of the true toll. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.

Some have criticized the response to the outbreak as too slow and haphazard. Ebola was first identified in March in Guinea. But more recently promises of aid have poured in, with many countries committing to sending health care workers, building hospitals or providing much-needed supplies, like protective suits for doctors and nurses.

From the Japan Times, on the ground:

Beds, staff scarce in Ebola-hit Monrovia

The Island Clinic recently opened. By the next day, its 120 beds were full.

“As of Friday, we had 206 patients,” a spokesman for the U.N World Health Organization, which runs the center, said.

Like all the NGO-run Ebola centers in Liberia, the Island Clinic is under-resourced and overrun by demand, forced to fill in for a public health infrastructure that has been decimated by 14 years of civil war and grinding poverty.

“There is supposed to be a system to allow the patients to talk to their families while keeping a distance of several meters (yards) — but apparently it’s not up and running yet,” a clearly embarrassed WHO official there says.

More from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Liberia’s newest, largest treatment clinic already at capacity

  • CBC News was granted access to the Island Clinic in Monrovia

Liberia’s newest and largest Ebola treatment centre was desperately needed to combat the spread of the fatal virus, yet the facility has barely helped to stop the worst outbreak in recorded history.

The centre, known as Island Clinic, was exactly seven days old when CBC News toured the “green zone,” or safe zone, of the facility on Sunday. It has almost doubled the Ebola treatment capacity in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, a major urban centre overwhelmed by an exponentially increasing number of cases of the deadly virus.

When it opened, there were 120 beds available. Within hours, the clinic was already stretched — every space available filled with the city’s most frightened and seriously ill. Somehow, room was made for more patients and currently, by adding beds and sofas where possible, staff estimate the total number is likely closer to 200.

AllAfrica covers another facility in another country:

Sierra Leone: President Koroma Commissions Mobile Lab and Holding Centre

As Government continues to intensify its efforts in the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), President Ernest Bai Koroma on Friday 26th September 2014, commissioned the BSL-3 mobile laboratory at the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital at Jui.

The occasion also saw in attendance officials from the Ministries of Health and Sanitation and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Medical team from China.

President Koroma noted that the facility will increase the response time in sample throughput, especially during this trying moment of the Ebola outbreak and also create opportunities for capacity development of health workers in the country. With this, President Koroma urged Sierra Leoneans working at the Hospital to exploit the opportunities and develop their various capacities.

From the Guardian, a public health basic:

Media and communications: the first line of defence against Ebola

  • As well as healthworkers, journalists are on the frontline of the Ebola outbreak and have vital role in stopping the epidemic

Misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in west Africa as rumours and speculation exacerbate the epidemic. In such a climate, local media can help to save lives.

In recent weeks, fear and misunderstanding have claimed new kinds of victims, including the three journalists killed in Womme, Guinea, along with five health workers, after they were attacked by villagers so terrified of the disease that they feared any outsider could infect their village.

In Womme, a local policeman said villagers believe that Ebola is nothing more than an invention of white people, to kill black people.

On Monday, a Liberian official said misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the outbreak there, citing rumours that an educational film shown to villagers is intended merely to distract people while officials literally poison the wells.

TheLocal.de encounters an obstacle:

Germany’s Ebola mission stranded in Gran Canaria

Germany’s military transport planes are causing embarrassment for yet another Bundeswehr mission. The military’s much-heralded delivery to help Ebola-stricken countries in western Africa has stalled in Gran Canaria.

The poor state of the Bundeswehr’s Transall planes led to delays last week to Germany’s delivery of arms and soldiers to northern Iraq. Two of the 50-year-old planes broke down.

And on Monday it emerged that a flight delivering medicine and field tents to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has been stuck in Gran Canaria since Friday.

The Transall C-160 plane has a defect and technicians and a replacement plane are being flown to the Spanish island.

Star Africa News covers another aid infusion:

China grants DRC $900,000 to fight Ebola

The Chinese government has disbursed $900,000 to help the Democratic Republic of Congo’s fight the Ebola epidemic, which has ravaged the north-east of the country, an official source informs APA on Sunday.A funding agreement was signed on Friday in Kinshasa between Congo’s International and Regional Cooperation vice-minister, Dismas Mangbengu and China’s ambassador to the DR Congo, Wang Ying Wu.

President Joseph Kabila, on Thursday claimed in an address at the 69th United Nations General Assembly that the Ebola epidemic has been contained in its area of origin, located in Djera sector, about 1,200 km from Kinshasa, in Equateur Province.

About forty people have died of the disease there.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, aid from closer to hand:

35 train in handling Ebola cases

A team of health workers from East Africa have completed training in prevention and control of diseases, especially epidemics such as Ebola. Majority of them will be sent to West African countries to help to manage Ebola that has killed thousands of people.

The team of 35 personnel from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, as well as other participants from the US and UK were trained on infection prevention and control measures.

Twenty three of the participants said they were ready to be deployed in West Africa where they will be expected to train another 300 health workers.

Yet another alarm in Europe from TheLocal.se:

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus.

The patient is understood to be at least the fifth case investigated in Sweden since the virus started spreading rapidly in Africa earlier this year.

They have been been transferred to the infectious diseases clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, according to news agency TT.

“Despite the fact that there were very low suspicions, we decided to take the test. We will get the answer within a day,” Åke Örtqvist, spokesperson for doctors dealing with infectious diseases in the Stockholm region.

Science covers a lamentation:

Ebola vaccine tests needlessly delayed, researchers claim

Stephan Becker is tired of waiting. The virologist at the University of Marburg in Germany is part of a consortium of scientists that is ready to do a safety trial of one of the candidate vaccines for Ebola. But the vaccine doses he’s supposed to test on 20 German volunteers are still in Canada. Negotiations with the U.S. company that holds the license for commercialization of the vaccine—which contains a gene for the Ebola surface protein stitched into a livestock pathogen known as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)—have needlessly delayed the start of the trial, Becker and several other scientists tell Science. “It’s making me mad, that we are sitting here and could be doing something, but things are not moving forward,” Becker says.

Today and tomorrow, Ebola scientists and representatives from companies and regulatory bodies are meeting at the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss how to speed up clinical development of vaccines, a process that normally takes years. More and more public health specialists believe that vaccines will have an important role to play in stopping the catastrophic outbreak in West Africa, which has so far caused at least 6553 cases and more than 3000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. (Those are the reported numbers; the real toll is known to be much higher.)

Given the urgency, it’s inexplicable that one of the candidate vaccines, developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in Winnipeg, has yet to go in the first volunteer’s arm, says virologist Heinz Feldmann, who helped develop the vaccine while at PHAC. “It’s a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,” says Feldmann, who now works at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Hamilton, Montana.

And Punch Nigeria has help anticipated:

2,000 German volunteers expected in Africa over Ebola

Over 2,000 Germans have heeded the German government’s call to register as volunteers, indicating their readiness and availability for deployment to fight against Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, said AU in a statement on Monday.

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has informed AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, after the Chairperson briefed him on AU’s ongoing efforts to fight the disease.

The two officials met on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, said the statement.

On to coverage of day to day life via the African media, starting with this from The Analyst in Liberia:

Bassa Ebola Toll Rises -Six Survivors Rejoin Families

Six persons who survived the Ebola virus in Grand Bassa County have been reunited with their families and communities, a county health official has disclosed. Speaking during the Ebola Task Force briefing held in Buchanan at the weekend, Joyce Garblah, a member of the County Health Team, said the six survivors who earlier tested positive with Ebola, were transferred to the Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.

She said after undergoing treatment and observation, they were pronounced free of the virus and allowed to rejoin their families. Madam Garblah has disclosed that 26 confirmed Ebola deaths occurred in Grand Bassa County from July to September 26, 2014. She said out of the 26 confirmed Ebola deaths, 15 were males and 11 females, while 44 Ebola probable and suspected cases were recorded in the six districts of the county.

According to statistics, Buchanan District recorded 20, Owensgrove District six, District #One, seven; District #Two, six; District #Three, four and District #Four, one. Meanwhile, Garblah has disclosed that five samples taken to the National Diagnostic Lab in Marshall are awaiting results.

AllAfrica covers a process of elimination:

Liberia: Police Barrack Cleared

Some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road as a result of the deadly Ebola virus, were last week Friday, September 26, 2014, declared free of the virus after intensive medical treatment and thorough observation by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Monrovia.

Those police officers were quarantined along with their relatives at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road after one of their colleagues’ wife died there as a result of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Director of the Liberia National Police, Clarence Massaquoi, disclosed that those officers along with their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days in the Police Barracks did not complain, but were taking the preventive measures as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the WHO.

From the New Republic in Liberia, political concerns:

Cape Mount Ebola Death Toll Troubles Caucus — Sen. Dagoseh

Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dagoseh says the County Legislative Caucus is concerned about the Ebola death rate in the county.

He disclosed that the caucus is formulating strategies to proffer to the County Task Force that will help avoid the further spread of Ebola and destruction of lives.

“The County Legislative Caucus is doing everything possible to seek financial and medical supplies, including PPEs and drugs, for health facilities in the county,” Senator Dagoseh told reporters in Garwular District at the weekend.

Senator Dagoseh is, meanwhile, appealing to health workers in the county to return to work so that health facilities that have been shut down as a result of the Ebola outbreak will re-open to provide services to the people.

The Analyst covers an epidemiological spread in Liberia:

1st Ebola Case Confirmed in Gbarpolu County

Gbarpolu County has registered its first case of the Ebola disease with a 14-year-old boy confirmed positive with the virus. Medical authorities in the county told the Liberia news Agency that the boy contracted the virus from his father who reportedly died of the disease in Parker Farm in Gbarma District.

The authorities said several family members of the boy, including his mother, have been quarantined in the same area by the County Ebola Task Force to avoid the spread of the disease to other parts of the county.

According to the Task Force, the boy was confirmed Ebola positive when the result from his blood specimen test was received by medical authorities working with the Task Force recently. The authorities said modalities are being worked out by the Task Force to have the boy transferred to the new Ebola Center at the old Island Clinic on the Bushrod Island for treatment.

New Republic covers help from another quarter:

Agriculture Ministry Joins Ebola Fight

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), has disclosed that it has embarked on a nationwide Ebola awareness campaign aimed at helping to eradicate the virus.

In a statement, the Assistant Director of Communications, Ken Kumeh said the outbreak is a national disaster that requires the collective efforts of each and every Liberian regardless of status, religion or political affiliation, indicating that, “the disease does not discriminate.”

Mr. Kumeh said as part of the ministry’s campaign, it last month donated two heavy duty trucks and several food items to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

And for our final item, CCTV Africa has the not-unexpected:

Ebola: Liberians Turn To God for Healing

Program note:

A Plague from God. More Liberians have been expressing their fear of Ebola. They say it is affecting the fabric of society and despite warnings to stay away from public gatherings, Liberians are turning to religion for comfort.

Chart of the day II: Latest Ebola estimates


From the Centers for Disease Control [PDF]. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Ebola

EbolaWatch: Arts, shortages, suffering, more


We begin today’s coverage with two videos from CCTV Africa focusing on the Ebola crisis and the performing arts.

Our first offering focuses on Ugandan playwright Phillip Luswata’s Get Away from Me, a dramatization of the Ebola crisis and its impact on everyday life:

Ebola Crisis: Fighting Ebola Through Theatre

Program notes:

Until this outbreak, Uganda had suffered the greatest number of ebola flare-ups. But this time, it’s managed to avoid any cases. Officials attribute that to good awareness among the population. The virus has even inspired a stage-play in Kampala. CCTV’s Leon Ssenyange reports.

Next, a report on the use of music to educate an anxious and often-misinformed public:

Ebola Crisis : Songs of Awareness on The Virus

Program notes:

Authorities have been resorting to drastic measures to try and curb the spread of Ebola. In Sierra Leone, a full two million people are to be sealed off – and quarantined. Yet some are convinced there are more effective ways to save lives. CCTV’s Jane Kiyo has more

From CBC News, tragic failure:

Ebola outbreak: Clinics still short on doctors, supplies 6 months later

  • Bulk of promised global aid has yet to materialize on the ground

Doctors are in short supply. So are beds for patients. Six months after the Ebola outbreak emerged for the first time in an unprepared West Africa and eventually became the worst-ever outbreak, the gap between what has been sent by other countries and private groups and what is needed is huge.

Even as countries try to marshal more resources, those needs threaten to become much greater, and possibly even insurmountable.

Statistics reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with experts and those on the scene of one of the worst health disasters in modern history show how great the needs are and how little the world has done in response. Some foreign medical workers have bravely fought on, a few even contracting Ebola themselves as they cared for patients.

IPS Inter Press Service News Agency raises more aid questions:

Militarising the Ebola Crisis

It’s unclear whether any U.S. healthcare personnel will actually treat patients, but according to the White House, “the U.S. Government will help recruit and organise medical personnel to staff” the centres and “establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week.”

The latter begs the question of practicality: where would these would-be health workers be recruited from?

According to the Obama administration, the package was requested directly by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (Notably, Liberia was the only African nation to offer to host AFRICOM’s headquarters in 2008, an offer AFRICOM declined and decided to set up in Germany instead).

Punch Nigeria makes a plea:

Ebola: Lab scientists want more protection for members

Chairman of the Association of Medical Laboratories Scientist in Nigeria, Oyo State Chapter, Akinbola Idowu, has called on the federal and state governments protect the interest of health workers especially laboratory scientists in their efforts to end the spread of Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

During a workshop held in Ibadan on Ebola for health laboratory workers and other categories of health workers who are considered vulnerable to the disease, because of the hazard involved in treating a suspected case and handling test samples, Idowu called on participants to be on the alert and take necessary precaution against possible infection.

He said, “It is highly important to appreciate the timing of this program because of the collective fight against EVD in our country.”

While the Guardian raises questions:

Liberian Senate calls for more transparency over Ebola funds

  • Full disclosure demanded over how $5m of government funding allocated for fighting outbreak has vanished so quickly

Stately and unassuming, Liberia’s national Ebola taskforce coordinator James Dorbor Jallah announced at a press conference in late August that the government’s initial $5m (£3m) contribution to contain the disease had been spent.

As he fumbled with the numbers in his expenditures report, the blogosphere exploded with queries about how all that money could vanish so quickly. Now, the Liberian Senate is demanding full disclosure of the Ebola funds’ whereabouts. To his credit, however, Jallah was attempting something that donors have yet to do: answer to the people in whose name “the war on Ebola” is being fought in west Africa. As we have seen all too often in international emergency response operations, the stakes are too high to forgo systems of accountability.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the leading health relief organisation in Liberia, has complained for weeks that resources committed to the Ebola crisis have been “entirely insufficient”. The latest projections from the UN indicate that almost $1bn will be needed to contain the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Significant amounts of money have now started pouring in, with the fanfare we have come to expect in such situations. But commitments have not been matched with relevant tools and reports to track the flows of promised aid disbursals.

RFI covers those already marginalized:

Most vulnerable in Sierra Leone suffer under Ebola quarantine

As ordinary Sierra Leoneans navigate government-imposed curfews and quarantined areas in a new reality shaped by the deadly Ebola virus, the country’s most vulnerable are getting left behind.

Health ministries in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have made an effort to educate the public, calling on them to wash their hands and avoid physical contact. But this has caused problems for the most vulnerable.

Voice of America covers crisis compounded:

Life Harder for Liberians Post-Ebola Quarantine

In West Point, one the Liberian capital Monrovia’s poorest neighborhoods, the situation is calm a month after the government forced quarantine on its inhabitants. But residents complain that businesses, social life and entertainment have suffered and other Monrovians treat them like outcasts.

On a cloudy day in the coastal city, fishermen can be seen offshore. Fishing is one of the city’s main livelihoods.

West Point made global news last month, when the government forced a quarantine on the entire community, following a high number of diagnosed Ebola cases.  The community rebelled with violent protests.

And a didactic headline from Angola Press News Agency:

Angola: Passengers At Airports Learn About Ebola Danger

The Angolan health authorities are is conducting awareness raising campaigns with passengers and workers at airports around the country about the danger posed by the Ebola epidemic hitting several West African nations.

The measure that includes the floating of banners in strategic locations near airports migration, check-in counters, embarking and disembarking lounges, is intended to inform the citizens and avoid the entry of the epidemic into the country.

With the outbreak of the disease in various African countries, the Angolan Health Ministry adopted strict surveillance measures at ports, airports and transports from regions with Ebola prevalence.

For our final item, another impact from New Zimbabwe:

Daring Sex Workers Introduce ‘Ebola Risk Allowance’

Commercial sex workers at Nyamapanda Border Post have started charging “Ebola risk insurance” in a bid to use the deadly outbreak to shake down truck drivers from outside Zimbabwe for extra cash.

Nyamapanda, on the border with Mozambique, is one of the access points used by truckers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak that has now killed more than 3,000 in West Africa.

The sex workers said they decided to use Ebola to make more money because business was down with local clients who have decided to zip it because of the country’s economic challenges.

Surviving Ebola: The grim reality in Sierra Leone


From Channel 4 in Britain, a stunning documentary conveying the stark realities on the ground as the deadly epidemic wreaks havoc in West Africa.

From 4oD Documentaries:

Surviving Ebola

Here’s the Guardian’s review by Sam Wollaston:

Unreported World: Surviving Ebola review – nightmare hospital where ambulances double as hearses

  • ‘I’m feeling cold, sir’ said the little girl … This brave documentary reminds us the Ebola crisis is vividly real and heartbreakingly sad

A makeshift jungle hospital – tents, corrugated iron roofs and bright orange barriers – looks more like some kind of sinister detention centre. The people here are even more sinister-looking, in orange plastic suits, white boots, green gloves, headdresses, masks, ski goggles, and not an inch of actual person visible; they could be aliens. But these are the staff, the doctors. They’re like this because we’re in Sierra Leone and this is Unreported World: Surviving Ebola (Channel 4).

It looks like a nightmare. It is a nightmare – if anything, the title is misleadingly optimistic. The death ledger book is filling up. There have been 73 deaths in the past month alone. The body of the latest, a nine-year-old boy, still highly infectious, is carried to the morgue, a small bundle in a white plastic sheet. He will be buried round the back in a clearing that is rapidly running out of space.

Victims have been hiding at home and infecting their families. More patients arrive, six members of one family, staggering out of an ambulance, very sick and very scared. The ambulances double up as hearses.

Some people come in a van that is sprayed with chlorine after every journey. Like this mother and her daughter. But she, the mother is already dead. As her body is carried to the morgue, the seven-year-old child cries out: “I’m feeling cold, sir, I’m feeling cold.” A tiny utterance, but one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. She dies later, too. The van is sprayed.

And as if that wasn’t hell enough, there’s a rumour in the nearby town that Ebola is just a hoax, devised by doctors so that they can steal blood from people. They’re rioting. Civil unrest to add to the terror, vomit, blood, diarrhoea and death, while Médecins Sans Frontières doctors fight a battle it appears they cannot win.

Shaunagh Connaire and Wael Dabbous’s short film is a chilling and bleak one. It is also brave – there must have been some risk involved. And it is important. Of course you knew the Ebola story, but perhaps, like for me, it was just that – a news story, distant, and a name. This was a rude, visceral wake-up to the terrible reality.

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, fuels, GMOs, ills


We begin with the latest from the GMO front via Common Dreams:

Second Discovery of GMO Wheat Reveals ‘Failed Policy’ That Threatens Farmers: Watchdog

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday revealed that it was opening an investigation into the appearance of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Montana.

It marks the second time the USDA is issuing notice of a discovery of rogue genetically engineered (or GMO) wheat. There is no commercially-approved GMO wheat.

According to a statement issued by the USDA, the discovery of the Roundup-resistant GMO wheat was made in July at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana. That location was the site of Monsanto-led GMO wheat trials, approved by the USDA, from 2000 to 2003.

The Latin American Herald Tribune delivers a warning:

Agriculture Experts Warn of Lack of Food Security in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is far from achieving food security because it imports between 85 percent and 87 percent of its daily food consumption, partly due to neglect of the island’s farm sector as well as to increased urban development in recent decades, several experts told Efe.

Gladys Gonzalez, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), said in an interview with Efe that the island’s geographical limitations prevent it from producing enough food to feed the entire population.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census, the amount of farm land in Puerto Rico expanded to 584,988 acres but only 433,563 acres were under cultivation. The 2014 amendment to Puerto Rican Law 550 requires that between 600,000 and 700,000 acres of land throughout the commonwealth be set aside for growing crops.

On the beach with Star Africa News:

SLeone: Environmental body alarmed by sand mining

Sierra Leone’s environmental and tourism authorities have warned that a resurgence of illegal sand mining threatens to destroy the country’s beaches and hence its tourism industry.The tourism ministry, which is on a joined monitoring of communities where sand mining is predominant, said the country’s beaches are a major component of its tourism potential.

A spate of illegal sand mining activities last year attracted wide spread concern, prompting a temporary ban.

The government has identified three places were sand mining could be allowed but under strict conditions. Report now say dealers in sand have been violating the ban and some carry out their illegal act in the dark of night.

From the Los Angeles Times, a non-eruption story, hopefully:

Mammoth Lakes earthquake swarm tied to water pressure, tectonic stress

The more than 600 earthquakes that have struck the Mammoth Lakes region over the last 24 hours are an indication of tectonic, not volcanic, stress, an expert said Friday.

At least 109 of the earthquakes were magnitude 2.0 or greater, with smaller quakes making up the bulk of the activity, said David Shelly, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Science Center. At least six, however, were greater than magnitude 3.0.

The largest, a 3.8 temblor six miles from Mammoth Lakes, occurred at 9:21 p.m. Thursday.

The swarm of quakes, which began Thursday in the 20-by-10-mile Long Valley caldera east of the central Sierra Nevada Range, isn’t uncommon for the region. About 200 small quakes — the largest a magnitude 2.7 — shook in Long Valley Caldera in July.

And from the Japan Times, the first of two lethal eruptions:

Volcano eruption on Nagano-Gifu border kills hiker, wounds 46; Abe mobilizes SDF

Mount Ontake, a volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures, erupted on Saturday, spewing ash and small rocks into the air, killing a female hiker, leaving at least 16 people unconscious and 30 others seriously injured, and stranding more than 40 on the mountain, officials and media said.

Following the eruption at 11:53 a.m., a thick, rolling gray cloud of ash rose high into the sky above the mountain close to where hikers were taking pictures, TV footage showed. Hikers and residents were warned of falling rock and ash within a radius of 4 km.

Rescue headquarters on the Nagano side of the mountain said it had received information from rescue workers that a female hiker was killed in the eruption. Further details, including her identity or cause of death, were not yet available.

Japanese vlogger Kuroda Terutoshi was climbing the mountain when the eruption happened, and his clip is understanding a bit shaky:

The second lethal eruption, via TheLocal.it:

Child dead after Sicily mud geyser eruption

The sudden eruption of a mud geyser at a nature reserve in southern Sicily killed a seven-year-old girl on Saturday, Italian media reported, adding that her nine-year-old brother was missing.

The two children were walking with their father in the Maccalube nature reserve north of Agrigento when a geyser spewed mud over them.

The father, a police officer, was uninjured, but the girl’s body was found shortly afterward while the boy could not be found, the reports said.

From TheLocal.dk, another outbreak:

Three deaths traced to new listeria outbreak

The new outbreak stems from soups served at two hospitals and is not connected to the deli meat outbreak that has claimed 16 lives.

Three people have died from listeria-infested asparagus soup at Odense University Hospital.

The deaths are a result of a new listeria outbreak and are not related to the one that has been traced to the deli meat rullepølse, which has claimed 16 lives.

From the Associated Press, a far larger outbreak:

New mosquito-borne virus spreads in Latin America

An excruciating mosquito-borne illness that arrived less than a year ago in the Americas is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, and infecting more than 1 million people. Some cases already have emerged in the United States.

While the disease, called chikungunya, usually is not fatal, the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals, cut economic productivity and caused its sufferers days of pain and misery. And the count of victims is soaring.

In El Salvador, health officials report nearly 30,000 suspected cases, up from 2,300 at the beginning of August, and hospitals are filled with people with the telltale signs of the illness, including joint pain so severe it can be hard to walk.

From the Guardian, blood fever for our fine feathered friends:

New controversy over Malta’s bird slaughter

  • Island MP Karmenu Vella nominated as European commissioner to head green policies, including wildlife protection

Karmenu Vella has unusual credentials for a man selected to be the next European commissioner for the environment. The 64-year-old politician is a long-serving member of Malta’s Labour government, which is accused of direct involvement in the widespread slaughter of birdlife on the island – including many endangered species.

Every spring and autumn, thousands of migratory birds – including quails, song thrushes and brood eagles – pass over Malta as they fly between northern Europe and Africa, only to be greeted by thousands of local hunters who gather in trucks bearing slogans like “If it flies it dies”. They duly open fire on the birds.

“Turtle doves have suffered a catastrophic decline in western Europe, including Britain. Yet the Maltese government continues to allow them to be shot in their thousands every year,” said Andre Farrar of the RSPB. “This slaughter has widespread implications and involves dozens of rare species, many of them regular visitors to the British Isles.”

Public Radio International gives us our first fuels story:

Fearing pollution, some local governments are demanding back zoning control over oil and gas

In eight states across the country, communities are trying to decide if new energy sources and possible economic growth from oil and gas are worth losing control of their land — and the huge changes it brings to the countryside.

Ten years ago, Ohio changed its zoning laws. It took zoning control of oil and gas operations away from local communities and gave the authority to the state department of natural resources. In 2012, Pennsylvania also tried to limit local zoning rights around oil and gas operations, as part of the controversial Act 13. But late last year, the state Supreme Court struck it down, maintaining local control. New York courts have also upheld the rights of local governments to regulate fracking.

TheLocal.no gives us our second:

Statoil freezes oil sands project in Canada

Norwegian oil company Statoil announced the postponement of an oil sands project in Canada due to rising costs and limited pipeline transport capacity.

The Corner project, located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, is being postponed for a minimum of three years, the company said in a statement late Thursday.

The production capacity of the project is 40,000 barrels per day and its delay does not affect the neighbouring Leismer project, which can produce up to 20,000 barrels per day, according to Statoil.

“Costs for labour and materials have continued to rise in recent years and are working against the economics of new projects,” Statoil Canada country manager Ståle Tungesvik said.

From the Independent, the spice of life:

Curry spice turmeric ‘could help brain heal itself’

A spice commonly used in curries could help the brain heal itself, new research has suggested.

A report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy found a compound in the curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A team in Germany say aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons during laboratory tests on rats.

And for our last item, via the Guardian, submitting the question to a jury of their pee-ers:

US city considers testing sewage to gather data on residents’ marijuana use

  • Spokane, Washington wants to test the water to get a more accurate picture of marijuana usage now the drug has been legalised

City leaders in Spokane, Washington, want to know just how much pot residents are smoking, now that it’s legal there. Sewage might hold the answer.

The primary author of Washington state’s recreational marijuana law, attorney Alison Holcomb, made this suggestion to the city’s marijuana policy subcommittee at a meeting on Tuesday. About 50 city leaders and residents make up the group, which attempts to grapple with what legalization means for the city of about 210,000.

“We don’t have really good data on usage and perceptions of harm,” said Jon Snyder, a Spokane city council member. “It’s funny how the sewage thing has really captured people’s imagination.”

EbolaWatch: Crisis, shortages, help, & more


First up, a notable quarantine from the Associated Press:

Liberia Health Chief Is Under Quarantine

Liberia’s chief medical officer is placing herself under quarantine for 21 days after her office assistant died of Ebola.

Bernice Dahn, a deputy health minister who has represented Liberia at regional conferences intended to combat the ongoing epidemic, said Saturday that she did not have any Ebola symptoms but wanted to make sure that she was not infected.

Liberia’s government has asked people to keep themselves isolated for 21 days if they think they have been exposed. The unprecedented scale of the outbreak, however, has made it difficult to trace the contacts of victims and quarantine those who might be at risk.

“Of course we made the rule, so I am home for 21 days,” Ms. Dahn said. “I did it on my own. I told my office staff to stay at home for the 21 days. That’s what we need to do.”

She’s clearly better off than most of her fellow citizens, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reveals:

Newest Liberian Ebola treatment centre overwhelmed with cases

Less than a week after opening, the 150-bed unit is already overwhelmed with 206 patients, and more are arriving each day. Some lie huddled on the dusty ground outside the gates until they are carried in, while a steady stream of ambulances, sirens blaring, bring more patients.

“We’re trying to squeeze in as many as possible,” said Atai Omoruto, the overworked Ugandan doctor in charge of the centre. “We’re still getting so many patients, every day. We’re using the corridors. Whatever space is available, we’re putting camp beds there.”

As she spoke, trucks arrived with piles of donated mattresses from a local microfinance organization and a load of wooden bed frames from a Liberian carpenters’ union. But the new treatment unit, on Bushrod Island near the city’s seaport, is making barely a dent in an ever-growing disaster that has already killed more than 3,000 people in five West African countries. Monrovia has roughly 500 treatment beds, but Liberia as a whole needs thousands and they have been slow to arrive.

It’s not just Liberia, as this clip from the Voice of America makes clear:

Sierra Leone Struggles to Care For Ebola Patients

Program notes:

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It’s a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.

Al Jazeera English covers backlash:

Guinea residents ‘refusing’ Ebola treatment

  • Residents say people frightened to go to clinics because of conspiracy theories that they will be killed by doctors

Residents of the Guinean capital Conakry, hit hard by Ebola, say they are afraid to seek treatment at hospitals for fear of being poisoned by doctors, as the death toll across West Africa passed the 3,000 mark.

Local resident Tairu Diallo said on Friday that people living in his neighbourhood refused to seek medical help and instead stayed at home, trying to alleviate their symptoms with drugs bought at a pharmacy.

Diallo said people think doctors at hospitals inject patients with a deadly poison. “If we have a stomach ache we don’t go to hospital because doctors there will inject you and you will die,” he said.

While Reuters covers the pale rider’s companions:

Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

As a result, “the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down,” according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.

Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by diarrhea, pneumonia, and particularly malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.

So it’s a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, “If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become ‘a permanent feature of life in West Africa.’”

From Star Africa News, a call from the Economic Community Of West African States:

ECOWAS calls for regional response to Ebola

ECOWAS has called for urgent mobilization of the Armed and Security Forces of Member States to strengthen the regional response and interventions against Ebola, according to a statement issued on Saturday.The body’s Coordinating Ministerial Group for the implementation of the Regional Operational Plan on the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) issued the statement on Saturday in Abuja after on Friday meeting with a Ministerial Group Chaired by Ghana’s Health Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman.

It recommended that the armed and security forces should provide, among others, medical personnel and logistics as well as mobilize the support of military engineers regiments in setting up Ebola treatment centers in Ebola-hit countries.

It added that the Ministerial Group, which considered the report of the just-ended two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Technical Monitoring Surveillance and Group on Ebola response, equally called for the provision of adequate financial incentives to National Health personnel already on ground in Member States.

Another call, this one from China, via Xinhua:

Chinese FM calls for more global assistance as Ebola epidemic rages

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday called for more global assistance to African countries as the Ebola epidemic is raging in some countries in the region.

Wang made the appeal while speaking at the ongoing annual high- level debate of the UN General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday. “The Ebola epidemic, which is raging in some African countries, has once again sounded the alarm bell for global health security,” he said.

“As a good brother and good partner of Africa sharing weal and woe with it, China will continue to stand firmly with the African people, and support and assist them to the best of its ability,” Wang said, pledging China’s active part in the international assistance efforts.

The Los Angeles Times covers those left behind:

Ebola outbreak often leaves children alone and terrified

As the Ebola virus sweeps through Liberian villages, through its towns and cities, whole families are being cut down by the disease. Parents who die leave behind children no one wants to care for, rejected by neighbors and relatives, who order them to stay away. With an acute shortage of beds, the lucky ones are picked up by ambulance and taken to treatment units. Many of the rest die on the streets.

In Monrovia, the capital, all the Ebola treatment unit beds are full, vacancies opening only as patients die or survivors are discharged. The IMC center, which opened just last week, is one of two in Liberia with available beds. It has admitted 26 patients, seven of whom have died. Two of the dead were children.

The main priority in the treatment units is to keep the workers safe. Next is to isolate infectious patients to prevent spread of the disease. Providing decent care has to come third.

And from the London Telegraph, a short clip about those children:

The abandoned children of the Liberia Ebola outbreak

Program notes:

Children whose families have been killed by outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have found themselves shunned through fear of the deadly disease.

On to Liberia, with new numbers from The Analyst:

Bong County: 21 New Suspected Ebola Deaths Reported

Reports coming from the Central Province of Bong County say there were 36 new suspected Ebola cases in the County last week. This was disclosed by the head of the Bong County Ebola Response task force Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy last Thursday. Out the number, 21 died, she said.

Superintendent Mappy also disclosed that four persons out of the number of confirmed cases that were treated at the Ebola Testing Unit have also died. Appearing on a live radio talk show, Info Box on Radio Gbarnga, Superintendent Mappy said, although the task force and other stakeholders continue to make progress in the fight against the killer disease in the County, more needs to be done to contain the spread of the virus.

The Bong County task force chairperson called on citizens of the County to desist from denial and take preventive measures to avoid further spread of the virus. Superintendent Mappy said Liberia can only succeed in combating the killer disease when citizens accept the existence of the virus and join the fight, adding that plans are underway for the construction of another Ebola testing unit in the County. The Bong superintendent said the facility is expected to be constructed by the US Army at the former UNMIL base in Maimu Salala district

The Analyst again, with evidence of spreading contagion:

Grand Gedeh Records First Ebola Case

A 35-year-old man in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, has tested Ebola positive, making it the first case in the county since the outbreak of the disease in the country in March. The man, whose name is being withheld by the Liberia News Agency, was showing signs and symptoms of the disease when the Grand Gedeh County Health Team (CHT) picked him up from the Zwedru Central Market last Friday.

In a brief interview with the Liberia News Agency Wednesday, the Coordinator of the CHT, Netus Nowena, said the man migrated from Ganta, Nimba County to Grand Gedeh County following the death of nine of his family members from the disease early this month.

According to Nowena, the health team was taking the man to Gbarnga, Bong County for treatment when they observed that he was showing signs and symptoms of the virus, adding that he later tested positive for the disease. According to Nowena, the 36 people who were at the holding center for 21 days of observation have been released without any signs or symptoms of Ebola.

The Liberian Observer covers another threat:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

FAO representative, Alexis Bonte is quoted as telling the VOA’s Joe DeCapua that Lofa County residents are “terrified at how fast the disease is spreading.” He says that “neighbors, friends and family members are dying within just a few days of exhibiting shocking symptoms.”

After the jump, calls for mobilization in Sierra Leone,  Guinea, and Gambia, Sierra Leone’s Patient Zero heads home, Ivory Coast ends airline restrictions, an HIV drug cures Ebola in Liberia, World Bank warns Nigeria over Ebola complacency, another American comes home for treatment, Cuba medical teams arrive, more cash is promised by Europe, Asia, and the IMF. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: Latest Ebola data from WHO


From the World Health Organization update [PDF] issued today:

Microsoft Word - 20140927 - Situation Report - UN Ebola Crisis C