Category Archives: Community

EbolaWatch: Numbers, warnings, cases, money


We begin with the latest numbers, via the World Health Organization [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola

Next, a warning from the U.N. News Center:

Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.

“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent update Nearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.

From the Guardian, excoriation:

US quarantine for Ebola health workers ‘morally wrong’

  • Bioethics commission blasts 21-day confinement for medical staff and says government must prepare better for health emergencies

Quarantine restrictions imposed in the US on healthcare workers returning from saving lives in the Ebola epidemic in west Africa were morally wrong and counterproductive, according to Barack Obama’s bioethics commission.

A comprehensive report on the US response to Ebola at home and in Africa found there was no good scientific evidence for the mandatory 21-day quarantine imposed in states including Maine, which tried to confine nurse Kaci Hickox to her home on her return from Sierra Leone. Hickox defied the order and went for a bike ride, later challenging the restrictions in court and winning permission to move freely while regularly monitoring her temperature.

The presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues said the US must be better prepared for a future emergency, arguing that the federal government has a moral and prudential responsibility to get involved in the global response.

From the Guardian again, a notable example:

New York Ebola doctor criticises ‘vilification’ by politicians and media

  • Dr Craig Spencer says his case was ‘caught up in election season’
  • Controversy included quarantine rules imposed by Christie and Cuomo

Craig Spencer, the doctor who was found to have Ebola days after returning to New York City from Guinea, wrote in an essay published on Wednesday that he was mistakenly cast as a “fraud, a hipster, and a hero” by the media as he fought for his life from a hospital bed.

“The truth is I am none of those things,” Spencer wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.”

In the essay, Spencer details how his diagnosis and illness affected him physically and psychologically during the 19 days he spent recovering at New York’s Bellevue hospital.

“Though I didn’t know it then – I had no television and was too weak to read the news – during the first few days of my hospitalization, I was being vilified in the media even as my liver was failing and my fiancée was quarantined in our apartment,” he wrote.

GlobalPost covers strategy:

EU, African countries to convene on Ebola recovery

The European Union (EU) has invited African countries for a high level conference in Brussels to review current efforts of fighting Ebola and place a plan to help Liberia and the other African countries to recover from the hit of the disease.

An emailed EU statement reaching Xinhua on Thursday said the presidents and ministers of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo as well as representatives of the African Union Commission, the UN, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the European Union will all be attending at the very highest level.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf will co-chair the conference on Ebola and she will be speaking as spokesperson for the Mano River Union (MRU).

During this High Level Conference, the 11th European Development Fund National Indicative Program for Liberia 2014-2020 will be signed between Liberia and the EU.

From the New York Times, some notably good news:

Fatality Rate in West Africa Ebola Clinics Is Dropping

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa wanes, physicians from Doctors Without Borders are confronting a mystery: More of their patients are surviving. They do not know why.

“The reasons are really unclear,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, who helped run the agency’s response in Liberia and gave a presentation describing its experience at an AIDS conference here.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières — has cared for more Ebola patients in West Africa than any other organization. At its peak, it was running 22 centers; it now runs eight.

Since last March, the average death rate at those remaining centers has dropped to 52 percent, from about 62 percent.

On to Liberia, first with a withdrawal from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: U.S. military ends mission in Liberia months early

  • More than 4,000 Liberians have been killed by the virus

The U.S. military officially ended a mission to build treatment facilities to combat an Ebola outbreak in Liberia on Thursday, months earlier than expected, in the latest indication that a year-long epidemic in West Africa is waning.

Washington launched the mission five months ago and the force peaked at over 2,800 troops at a time when Liberia was at the epicentre of the worst Ebola epidemic on record.

“While our large scale military mission is ending…the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought that will be sustained in the future,” said U.S. Army Maj.- Gen. Gary Volesky.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers some numerical good news:

Only 2 Ebola Confirmed Cases Now…Mont. Goes 7 Days Without New Outbreak

It has been announced in Monrovia that of the nineteen Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) spread through the country, only two confirmed Ebola cases are being treated as of February 14, 2015.

Acting Information Minister, Isaac W. Jackson told the daily Ebola press briefing yesterday that this is an indication that Liberia is making significant progress in the fight against the Ebola demon.

Minister Jackson used the occasion to dispel rumors that there is a new outbreak of Ebola in Margibi County but noted that there were only two cases which have since been dealt with.

Minister Jackson also disclosed that for the past seven days there has been no new case of Ebola in Montserrado while Lofa County which was the epicenter for the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has had no new case in more than forty days.

More numbers, first from the New Dawn:

Liberian households return to work

-as Ebola wanes

The World Bank Group says nearly 20 percent of Liberians, who had stopped working since the Ebola crisis, have returned to work in the last month.

The Bank’s report is contained in its most recent round of cell-phone surveys, signaling both important progress and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

The report, released Tuesday, described this improvement as an encouraging sign of a shift toward economic normalization, mainly driven by a large increase in wage work in urban areas.

According to the World Bank Group, a substantial percentage of those working pre-crisis remain out of work, however; those in self-employment continue to be the hardest hit by the Ebola crisis, pointing to a lack of working capital and a lack of customers as the main barriers to their operation.

More from AllAfrica:

Liberia: World Bank Spots Food Insecurity in Liberia

The World Bank says food insecurity will persists nationwide in Liberia as nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.

The World Bank in a release noted that despite improvement in the outlook of Ebola cases in the country, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed believe that their harvest would be smaller than the previous year.

However, the 65 percent fear is a decrease from the 80 percent in the previous survey in December 2014.

The survey noted labor shortages and households inability to work in groups.

After the jump, giving the press a vaccination briefing, finds for assessing psychological impacts, on to Guinea and a debunking of deadly Ebola myths, on to Sierra Leone and a call for a corruption purge and a case of missing connections. . .   Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, violence, politics, laws


We begin with an image, via Sailor Lunita, of family members with images of their missing students in a protest in Mexico today, held as part of the global day of action on behalf of the missing students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa who were disappeared on 26 September 2016:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, marking an anniversary:

Mexico Protests Mark 5 Months Since 43 Students Disappeared

  • The forced disappearances have brought to light the deeply entrenched state violence and corruption in Mexico.

Families and supporters of the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students continue their fight to find their loved ones in demonstrations Thursday, marking exactly five months since they went missing.

The families called for a national day of action on Feb. 26 to pressure the Mexican government to be more transparent about the details of the case and to put more resources into locating the students. Mass protests are scheduled in Mexico City to begin at 4 p.m. local time.

Tensions have grown in the country since the students went missing, which has become the highest profile example of the entrenched corruption within Mexico’s government.

So far, Iguala’s mayor and his wife, which is where the students went missing, have both been arrested for their involvement in the disappearances and allegedly ordering local police to arrest them and hand them over to a local drug gang called United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos).

From AJ+, anger over a protester’s death:

Anger Continues In Guerrero Mexico After Protester Is Killed

A 65-year-old man has died after sustaining injuries at a protest in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, demanding better pay. The region has seen near-daily protests ever since 43 students disappeared five months ago.

From teleSUR, more revelations:

Mexico: Photos Shed Light on Military Role in Ayotzinapa 43

  • New photographs suggest the military knew more about the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa 43 than previously thought.

Mexico’s military released previously unseen photographs of students who survived a massacre in Guerrero state Wednesday that have sparked renewed controversy over the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa teachers training college students.

Published in Mexican newspaper Milenio, the photos allegedly show 25 students that survived the initial shoot out in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26, 2014.

From teleSUR again, more protests planned:

Mexican Teachers Union Preparing for Civil Disobedience

  • Angered at the violent repression unleashed by police against teachers, unions in Mexico have put their members on maximum alert.

A teachers’ union in Mexico announced Thursday that it will escalate its tactics, declaring itself on maximum alert and preparing its members for civil disobedience and rebellion.

The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) issued its warning in response to the violent repression against teachers by federal police in Acapulco earlier this week.

Mexico News Daily covers a law we suspect, given the vote, to be yet another instance of impotent window dressing:

Anti-corruption plan approved by deputies

  • Legislation to establish the national system will now move on to the Senate

A National Anti-Corruption System was approved today by the Chamber of Deputies after ironing out a number of differences that have stalled its passage.

It was approved by 409 of the 500 deputies.

The legislation establishes a system to coordinate efforts to implement policies to prevent and deter corruption and to promote integrity, and strengthen the Public Administration Secretary to allow it to audit, investigate and apply sanctions against crimes of corruption.

Finally, another image, this time from Insurrection News, with and image from today’s protest in Mexico City, bearing a message we suspect is true, tranlsating as “Justice will come when the blood of the bourgeois begins to run.”:

BLOG Ayotz 2

MexicoWatch: Pope, protests, violence, arrests


We begin with an ongoing search, via AJ+:

Searching Every Inch Of Mexico For The Missing

Program notes:

In Mexico, people aren’t searching just for the kidnapped Ayotzinapa students. Mario Vergara shows AJ+ how the Committee of Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearances of Iguala is scouring the region for family and friends – like his brother Tomas, who was last seen in 2012. The UN estimates that more than 23,000 have gone missing in recent years. From video journalists Alba Tobella, Sara Pedrola and Pepe Jiménez in Mexico.

Borderland Beat covers a notable arrest:

Iguala mayor finally charged in the disappearance of normalistas; if justice was served in another case the students would be alive

  • Infamous former Iguala mayor, José Luis Abarca, has finally been indicted for crimes connected to the case of the missing normalistas.

Mayor Abarca is charged in the murder of activist Arturo Hernández -witnesses testify Abarca shot and killed  Hernández, and now is charged  in the disappearance of 43 normalistas

BB reporter Chivis has long contended that the case of the normalistas against the former Iguala mayor and his wife was worrisome, lacking strong evidence.  She hoped that the case of Mayor Abarca killing a social activist,  Arturo Hernández Cardona, in front of witnesses, would go forth, as it was the easier of the two cases to successfully prosecute.

And that perhaps the winning of a conviction in the Hernández case would lend credence to the normalistas case, and fearful witnesses would then come forward.

From the Associated Press, a violent protest:

In Mexico, protesters drive bus into police lines

Protesters drove a bus into police lines in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, injuring at least seven officers, according to Mexican federal officials.

The Interior Department said that five protesters also were injured in the confrontation Tuesday evening, which came after thousands of protesters had tried to block entrances to the Acapulco airport, prompting police to ferry tourists to the terminal in trucks.

When police tried to open the entrance roads, a protester drove a bus into them. The department said some protesters had been detained, but did not give a precise number.

The estimated 4,500 demonstrators belong to two radical unions protesting the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students. Those students were detained by police in the city of Iguala in the same state. The city police turned them over to a drug gang, which apparently killed them and incinerated their remains.

Followed by lethal violence, via teleSUR:

Mexican Teacher Killed After Police Attack Protestors

  • The victim was an active participant in protests in the Mexican state of Guerrero and was known for leading chants during marches.

On Wednesday, an official with the government of the Mexican state of Guerrero confirmed the death of a teacher after police violently attacked a protest by teachers.

The victim has been identified as Claudio Castillo Peña, a retired 65 year-old teacher. According to the secretary of civil protection, Castillo died as a result of head trauma.

“Comrade Caludio Castillo Peña died as a result of blows at the hands of the Federal Police, a comrade who had poliomyelitis, who as a result could not defend himself nor run due to his physical condition and his age,” said a statement posted online by the teachers’ union.

A later development, via Fox News Latino:

Most jailed teachers freed after deadly clash with police in Mexico port city

Authorities have released the vast majority of the more than 100 teachers arrested after clashes with police in the southern Mexican port city of Acapulco, an incident that left one protester dead, union officials said Wednesday.

A member of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero, or CETEG, told Radio Formula that 65-year-old retired teacher Claudio Castillo Peña died as a result of Tuesday night’s crackdown on the protest.

“He lost his life at 4:00 a.m. (Wednesday) due to the blows he received,” said Manuel Salvador Rosas, who added that Castillo Peña was one of the detained protesters who were taken to hospitals in Acapulco, a Pacific port located in the southern state of Guerrero.

From VICE News, analysis:

Fatal Protest in Acapulco Shows Tensions Remain High in Troubled Guerrero, Mexico

The clashes showed that tensions have far from subsided in the state since a group of 43 rural teaching students were abducted by police and turned over to a drug gang in the city of Iguala last September.

Tuesday’s demonstration was called because teachers said they wanted federal officials to guarantee that wages would not be delivered late, as occurred in January, according to La Jornada Guerrero.

Members of CETEG have clashed with authorities at demonstrations across the state in recent months. In December, the teachers union set fire to several police vehicles in the state capital of Chilpancingo, leaving more that half a dozen people injured, including one police officer.

And from neomexicanismos, an image:

BLOG Ayotz gun

The Los Angeles Times covers a papal apology:

Vatican apologizes to Mexico over pope’s comment on drug trafficking

The Vatican is issuing a mea culpa in a spat with Mexico over critical remarks by Pope Francis on the “terror” engulfing the Latin American country.

In a private email to a friend, Francis had warned against the “Mexicanization” of their native Argentina, a reference to the dominance of drug-trafficking and violence.

The friend, Gustavo Vera, an activist in Buenos Aires, published the pope’s email on his foundation’s website, touching off anger within the Mexican government. The Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Vatican, asking for an explanation and expressing “sadness and concern,” Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said.

“The pope did not mean to hurt the feelings of the Mexican people, nor did he intend to minimize the efforts of the Mexican government” in the fight against drug trafficking, papal spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters in Rome.

Fox News Latino covers the acceptance:

Mexico: Any differences with pope now “completely settled”

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said Wednesday that any differences with the Vatican were now “completely settled,” after Pope Francis had warned in a private letter of the risk of the “Mexicanization” of Argentina, and he added that the invitation for the pontiff to visit Mexico “remains open.”

In a meeting with reporters, Mexico’s top diplomat said that after the pope made reference to the increase in drug trafficking in his native Argentina, any “difference that there could have been” with the Holy See had been “completely settled” through dialogue.

“Mexico’s relationship with the Vatican … (and) with the pope is a relationship of great importance, … fond and close, as the Vatican said” on Tuesday, he noted.

From teleSUR English, organizing:

Mexican youth mobilize in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

The Inter-University Assembly, which includes more than 90 institutions of higher learning throughout Mexico, has been a very useful tool for students to express their outrage over cases such as the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The assembly has been an organizing center for mobilizing youth and is currently a key player in the protests demanding the return of the Ayotzinapa students.

EbolaWatch: Politics, cases, food, fraud, schools


And more, starting with sex, via Reuters:

Fear of Ebola’s sexual transmission drives abstinence, panic

Worries over sexual transmission risk adding to the stigmatisation Ebola survivors already face, and are protracting the emotional burden of families often struggling to overcome the deaths of relatives.

While men like Pabai have taken the WHO’s advice a step further by separating themselves from their loved ones, some traumatised communities have imposed more draconian measures.

“We’ve got people being treated horrendously,” said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman on Ebola for the WHO. “In Sierra Leone particularly male survivors have been put in a form of concentration camp.”

Harris said men had been detained in Bombali, a district northeast of the capital Freetown, highlighting how public hysteria had become a real danger.

From SciDev.Net, a failure to engage:

Ebola struggle hit by failure to involve local people

Efforts to save lives in the West African Ebola outbreak have been undermined by a failure to involve local people more closely in communication about treatment and ethical decisions about trials, says a report published last week (17 February).

The report’s authors, who are all involved in Ebola vaccine work, made recommendations focusing on Ebola vaccine research, manufacturing and the process of getting vaccine approval in the developed world. They were convened by UK medical research funder the Wellcome Trust and the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, United States.

Considering real human and social factors is vital for stemming the Ebola outbreak, says Clement Adebamowo, the chairman of the Nigerian National Health Research Ethics Committee and one of the report’s 26 advisers.

The New Dawn in Monrovia, Liberia, covers visitors:

US Health officials Visit Liberia, Guinea

The U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Karen DeSalvo,  Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, Jimmy Kolker, and Deputy Chief of Staff Dawn O’Connel will visit Liberia and Guinea for three days this week to visit Ebola response sites in the region, the U.S. embassy here has disclosed.

In Liberia, they will tour the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU), a 25-bed field hospital dedicated to providing care to health care workers who become infected with Ebola, and the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, one of only a few laboratories in Liberia where Ebola specimens are sent to be tested. They will also meet with key representatives from the Government of Liberia, the World Health Organization and additional U.S. agencies involved in the Ebola response.

The MMU is staffed by the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, an elite uniformed service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Deputy Surgeon General RADM Boris D. Lushniak is currently the commanding officer of the MMU.

From StarAfrica, the newest hot spot:

Liberia: Four new Ebola cases discovered in Margibi County

The Margibi County Health Team has disclosed that four new confirmed cases of Ebola have been discovered in the county.Margibi Community Health Services Director Joseph Korhene told the county weekly Ebola Taskforce meeting in Kakata that the new cases could be traced to a lady, who brought her sick husband from Monrovia to the county on February 4, this year.

Korhene told stakeholders at the meeting that the lady took her husband to a local clinic in Kakata upon their arrival in the county on a commercial motorbike and then to a village known as Gaygbah Town in the county where he later died.

He said in line best practice, Gaygbah Town and nearby villages have been quarantined by the County Health Team (CHT) and that the victims are currently receiving treatment at the Kakata Ebola Treatment Unit.

From FrontPageAfrica, a notable number:

509th Patient Recovered From Ebola in ELWA III in Liberia

For the 509th time an Ebola survivor has left ELWA3, the Ebola Centre managed by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Monrovia. A thirteen year-old boy was driven home by a MSF vehicle on 19February to be reunited with his big sister and two younger brothers.

“He has been our only confirmed patient for a few weeks. The entire medical team was caring for him,” said Gloria Lougon, head nurse in ELWA3. “All our energy and determination was put into helping this boy fight the virus and recover.”

As the young patient is a football lover, the team organized the screening of a legendary football game (Brazil – Germany in the World Cup 2014). Three days later his blood sample finally tested Ebola-negative, meaning the kid could be brought home. Before leaving ELWA3, the last survivor left his tiny handprint on the walls to remind everyone an important message: yes, it is possible to beat Ebola.

SOS Children’s Villages Canada covers a complication:

Lack of clean water takes toll on Ebola-stricken Liberia

As schools in Liberia start reopening after nearly six months of closure due to the Ebola epidemic, one challenge still looms: access to clean water.

In response, SOS Children’s Villages is constructing a hand pump for Managbokai Elementary School. The school offers formal education to 200 children from marginalized families in a rural region of the country.

“This is the only school for children in Bomi County,” said the vice principal of the school, Kona Goll. “We appreciate the contribution of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia. The installation of a hand pump at the school is vital for the health and academic achievement of everyone here.”

Even before the Ebola crisis, access to safe water was a challenge. Managbokai Elementary School only had four teachers and the problem of water added to this difficulty and the progress of the students. Teachers would have to leave their classrooms and walk with student for 10 minutes to get drinking water. Students were also becoming ill from drinking the unsafe creek water that runs through the village. Fortunately, access to clean water will soon improve for children living in Bomi County, Liberia.

And FrontPageAfrica covers education in education:

Liberia’s MCSS Schools Get Ebola Prevention Training

In continuation of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, especially with the resumption of schools, the Monrovia Consolidated School System, a conglomerate of public schools in collaboration with Lone Star cell MTN Foundation is currently conducting a three day workshop in Monrovia on Ebola prevention.

Speaking during the start of the workshop, the Superintendent of the MCSS School system, Benjamin Jacob said the workshop is aimed at providing training for employees and staffs of the MCSS to enable them deal with any possible Ebola related cases.

“We are trying to run safe schools in the midst of Ebola by enlightening teachers, principals and other administrators. Doctors will be talking about the preventative methods, to all those people who are in the MCSS schools” Jacob said.

While the News covers an ongoing weakness:

Our Laboratories Had Challenges Before Ebola

… Coordinator

The National Laboratory Coordinator of the National Incident Management Team, Henry Kohar has highlighted the challenges laboratories in Liberia faced prior to the Ebola outbreak.

Mr. Kohar told the Ministry of Information regular press briefing Tuesday that operational funding was a serious problem for laboratories in the country.

According to him, prior to the outbreak, laboratory technicians had problem with the maintenance of equipment, noting “you will find out that most of our microscopes and other machines were non-functional due to the lack of maintenance.”

He disclosed that most of the laboratories machines were broken down due to the lack of electricity.

The National Coordinator also cited the lack of water supply as one of the problems technicians were faced with prior to the Ebola outbreak.

StarAfrica covers another:

W/Bank wary of Liberia food shortage

The World Bank has warned that food shortages will persist in Liberia where nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.The Bank issued a statement Tuesday noting that despite improvement in the outlook over the Ebola epidemic, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed in December believed that their harvests would be smaller than it had been in the previous year.

The fear is based on 80 percent labour shortages and the inability to work in groups due to Ebola infection which continues to pose a problem for agricultural households.

The bank also recalled the lack of money by households for food as a cardinal problem in buying enough to feed their families.

On to Sierra Leone and a call for vigilance from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

In Kono: VP Sumana admonishes more vigilance as Ebola ebbs

Addressing hundreds of stakeholders at Kaiyima in Sandor Chiefdom, and Kangama in Gorama Kono Chiefdom while on his social mobilization tour of Kono district, Vice President Chief Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana thanked the Chiefdom Ebola Task Force, nurses, contact tracers and Paramount Chief Sheku A.T. Fasuluku Sonsiama III, and chiefdom authorities for their tremendous role in the fight against Ebola.

The vice president informed the large crowd that the Ebola virus may be gradually declining in size, strength and power across the country, yet the battle against the invisible enemy was still raging as “the virus still exists with us and we are in the most dangerous period of the fight”.

He thanked His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma “for his fabulous work in leading the fight against Ebola”, thus admonishing the people of Sandor, Nimikoro and Gorama Kono chiefdoms to be more vigilant “during this causal period in the fight against the Ebola virus”.

StarAfrica covers a crisis of corruption:

S/Leone parliament to discuss Ebola funds report

Sierra Leone’s parliament is set to begin looking at a controversial report on how funds meant to fight the Ebola epidemic were used. Deputy Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in parliament, Komba Koydeyoma, was quoted in local media Tuesday saying that they would start hearings on the Ebola audit report on Wednesday.

It followed heated debate after the report was released earlier this month revealing how millions of US Dollars went unaccounted for after been used without proper documentation.

The report has set the government, particularly MPs, against the public, after the House of Representatives attempted to prevent public discussion of its details. The MPs argued that the PAC must first look at it and makes its own findings before it could be public document.

And some praise, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Defence Secretary praises UK troops for efforts in Salone

UK Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has said that UK personnel have made a vital contribution to tackle Ebola, during a visit to Sierra Leone.

Arriving in Freetown, Mr. Fallon met with President Ernest Bai Koromo at State House. Their meeting began with an ‘Ebola handshake’, a greeting now widespread in Sierra Leone where elbows are offered to avoid any potential transmission of the disease through body contact.

Mr. Fallon then visited sites where the British military has provided key support, including the Kerry Town Treatment Unit (KTTU) where regular and reserve military medics are treating healthcare workers with Ebola; the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus which deployed in September and has been providing reassurance and aviation support to the people of Sierra Leone; and the District Ebola Response Centre (DERC) in the northern town of Port Loko.

And on to Guinea with the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

First Ebola survivors talk of hope and despair in Guinea

Lying in an Ebola treatment centre in southeast Guinea, hidden behind thick plastic sheets and surrounded by nurses in yellow protective suits, Rose Komano feared she would not survive the virus that had robbed her of so many loved ones.

“Everyone before me had died, I was terrified,” Komano recalled.

But the 18-year-old became the first person to beat Ebola in the region of Gueckedou, where the latest outbreak of the disease was initially detected in March 2014.

Almost a year after she was released from a treatment centre run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Komano, who contracted the virus while caring for her sick grandmother, still mourns the deaths of her relatives.

MexicoWatch: Protests, artists, and politicians


We begin with the protests, first from teleSUR English:

Mexicans call for another global action day in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

Social organizations, relatives of the missing students and general supporters are using social media to call for a massive protest to continue demanding answers from the government about the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa. The march will take place this Thursday, five months to-the-day since the disappearance of the teaching students.

Here’s a poster for one of the events, from the Asamblea Popular de Houston:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, a dubious presidential legacy in the making:

Violence on the Rise in Mexico Under Peña Nieto

  • Over 130,000 kidnapping cases took place in Mexico in 2013, while 173 have been executed in two weeks.

Violent crimes, including kidnappings and executions, have increased exponentially under President Enrique Peña Nieto according to Mexican newspaper Reforma Tuesday.

The new statistics show one kidnapping was reported every five hours in January 2015 alone. The recent spike has seen kidnappings increase 7.2 percent compared to December 2014, while over 170 executions took place in the last two weeks.

“In the first month of 2015, 163 kidnappings have been reported, which is 7.2 percent more than December 2014,” said the anti-kidnapping coordinator, Renato Sales Heredia.

From Mexico News Daily, a reasonable move:

PRD rejects candidate: her husband’s in jail

  • The ex-mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas was arrested on suspicion of criminal links

The national council of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has the edge on its state-level officials in Michoacán when it comes to recognizing bad optics.

On Friday, the party’s state council approved the list of proportional representation candidates for the federal Chamber of Deputies. No. 2 on the list was Nalleli Pedraza Huerta, whose husband, Arquímedes Oseguera, is a former mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas.

He became a former mayor after he was jailed last April on suspicion of kidnapping and extortion and for having links to organized crime. One piece of evidence is a video showing Oseguera at the side of Servando Gómez, “La Tuta,” leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel.

And from the Washington Post, politics by other means:

Mexican party turns to lottery to pick candidates

Mexican political parties are desperate to convince voters their candidates aren’t tied to drug gangs, violence or corruption. But one party has gone to extreme lengths to pick candidates in an open, transparent way: It held a lottery.

The National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, had some 3,000 vetted hopefuls put their names in a drum on Sunday, and the names of more than 100 candidates for the June 7 congressional races were pulled out at random. Many have little previous experience in political office.

“We have decided to break the mold, and break with the corrupt way politics has always been done in our country,” said Morena leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “The candidacies going to be decided by a lottery.”

Reuters covers a complaint:

Mexico complains about remarks attributed to pope over drug image

Mexico said on Monday it would send a letter to the Vatican to complain about remarks attributed to Pope Francis about the risk of Argentina suffering a criminal “Mexicanization” due to the spread of drug gangs there.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said his government had expressed concern that the country was being “stigmatized” as a land of drug traffickers in an email attributed to Francis published in Argentina over the weekend.

“We had a meeting with the (papal) nuncio and we will indeed send a note, and what worries us is that the drug trafficking challenge is a shared challenge. It’s a challenge that Mexico is undertaking massive efforts on,” Meade said in Mexico City.

While Mexico News Daily looks at the other side of the rhetorical coin:

Poppy cultivation grows with demand

  • It’s a lucrative crop for rural farmers in Guerrero and other states

The only publicly available statistic that gives some indication of opium poppy production in Mexico is that which reveals how many hectares of poppies were discovered and destroyed.

And in 2014 that figure was up 46% over the previous year for a total of 21,425 hectares. In terms of worldwide cultivation, that’s 7% of the total, well behind No. 1 producer Afghanistan with 70%, but still in third place behind Myanmar with 57,800 hectares.

Colombia was at one time the biggest producer in Latin America (although it never came close to Afghanistan’s output) but that changed in 2005 when its production began to drop. A year later, the area under cultivation in Mexico began to climb, rising from 3,300 to 5,000 hectares between 2005 and 2006.

Via Borderland Beat, another awards ceremony, another opportunity to call out for justice:

BLOG Ayotz 2

And from teleSUR, the response:

Mexico Ruling Party on Defensive over Inarritu’s Oscar Comments

  • The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI responded sharply to the critical comments made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at Sunday’s Oscar awards ceremony.

In response to critical comments made on Sunday night at the Oscar awards ceremony by Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI published a sharp congratulations on Monday morning on its Twitter feed. Later, the country’s PRI president Enrique Pena Nieto responded to the acclaimed director’s message.

When accepting the Oscar trophy for best film for the highly acclaimed Birdman, Inarritu told the crowd, “I want to dedicate this award to my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico … I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve.”

The response given by the PRI party, which returned to power in 2012 with Pena Nieto after a 12 year hiatus from a 71 year long stint, was, “Rather than just deserving it, it’s a fact that we’re building a better government, Congratulations #GonzalezInarritu.”

And one more image to close, via Camilo José Villa:

BLOG Ayotz 3

EbolaWatch: Numbers, food, borders, schools


We begin with the latest case counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from the Guardian, an ongoing concern:

Ebola: how to prevent a lethal legacy for food security

  • The World Food Programme warns that 1.4 million people could become malnourished because of Ebola. We must act quickly to avoid catastrophe

The Ebola outbreak did what outbreaks do: affected movement. People were afraid of the virus and governments made concerted efforts to contain Ebola’s spread. In doing so, food-producing parts of the countries found themselves isolated from urban cash economies. Traders willing to maintain trading routes, or with sufficient stock, often hiked prices to capitalise on the increase in demand as people panic-bought. Stocks decreased, prices rose and the purchasing power of people decreased as income-generating activities were affected by the outbreak.

The resilience of communities and national and international aid efforts helped to mitigate the effects of these shocks, but only temporarily. There is growing evidence that the number of food-insecure people in these countries is rapidly increasing. In October 2014, a report released by Action Against Hunger and the University of Naples Federico II estimated that Ebola could make up to 700,000 additional people undernourished across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Recent estimates by the World Food Programme suggest that the number of people who could become food-insecure by March 2015 could be as high as 3 million, 1.4 million because of the effect of Ebola. If WFP’s estimates prove correct, Ebola will have doubled the number of food-insecure people in these three countries.

As new Ebola cases start to decrease – along with much of the media attention – the wider and longer-term implications for the people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are becoming increasingly clear. And the picture that is emerging is troubling. The World Bank estimates that the final economic toll from the epidemic will be over $30 billion by the end of 2015, an amount three times larger than the combined GDP of these three countries in 2013. The inability of Ebola-affected countries to single-handedly absorb the economic costs has led to high-level requests to the International Monetary Fund to cancel their debt. While the world debates the viability of that, the challenges for the average citizen are more stark: how to put food on the table.

From the Guardian, conditions declared:

Aid donors say Ebola-hit countries must direct effort to rebuild their economies

  • With Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea due to present economic plans, donors do not want to dictate terms despite fears that corruption will undermine recovery

Leaders of the three west African countries worst affected by Ebola will meet donors and partners in March to discuss how to regenerate their economies.

The outbreak of the disease in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, combined with a fall in commodity prices, has interrupted a period of growth in economies worn down by decades of war and corroded by corruption.

The countries will present recovery plans at a summit in Brussels, which will bring together representatives from the UN, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and NGOs.

Medication news from NBC News:

Pill May Help Save Patients with Early Ebola Infections

The experimental flu drug favipiravir doesn’t help patients with advanced Ebola infections but it may help patients if they get it a little earlier, a trial from Guinea in West Africa shows.

French researchers tested the drug, made by a Japanese company, in 80 real-life Ebola patients hit in the ongoing epidemic.

The drug did not appear to help people who arrived for treatment already very ill with high levels of virus in their blood, the team at the French medical institute INSERM said. Even with treatment, 93 percent of them died. But if they weren’t already seriously ill, only 15 percent of them died.

From BBC News, an investigation broadens:

UK Ebola medics under investigation

Five UK Ebola nurses and doctors are under investigation by regulators, Public Health England says.

They are looking into the screening of medics who flew back to England on 28 December after treating patients in Sierra Leone.

On this flight was Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey – who developed Ebola – and some of her colleagues. Questions have arisen over the health assessments and protocols that were followed.

From the Asahi Shimbun, Japanese Ebolaphobia prevails:

Japan shelves SDF deployment to Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone

Facing political opposition, the Defense Ministry decided on Feb. 23 not to dispatch Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Sierra Leone for assisting international efforts to battle an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The ministry was considering dispatching a GSDF transportation unit to be tasked with ferrying doctors and medical supplies in the western African nation, which has experienced more than 3,000 deaths from Ebola.

But opposition arose from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s inner circle, as well as the SDF, out of concerns for the risk of infection to GSDF members and possible public opposition to the deployment.

On to Sierra Leone and the latest alarm from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone orphanage quarantined

An orphanage run by a UK charity in Sierra Leone has been quarantined after one of its local staff was diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus. Augustine Baker is said to be in a stable condition at a local treatment centre after becoming ill last week.

St George Foundation orphanage co-founder Philip Dean told the BBC that 33 children and seven staff were now in isolation.

“Augustine collapsed at a staff meeting and several of his colleagues helped get him to hospital,” UK-based Mr Dean told the BBC. “It’s possible that they have been exposed. It’s a very worrying time,” he said.

And a border still closed, at least for now, via Shanghai Daily:

Ebola-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone border remains closed

The Sierra Leone-Liberia border is still closed, local residents said on Monday.

Jubilant crowd who had trekked long distances from villages near the Sierra Leone-Liberia border Sunday to witness the reopening of the bridge linking the two Ebola-hit countries were disappointed because it did not take place.

Witnesses told Xinhua the Sierra Leone side of the border is still closed Monday despite meeting held Sunday between officers of the two countries at the border post.

Citizens on both sides of the bridge upon receiving information that the bridge would be reopen Sunday, embarked on a cleanup campaign to give the vicinity a face-lift.

But FrontPageAfrica has a contradictory story from the other side of the border:

One Thermometer; No Handwash Station, As Liberia Reopens Borders

Citizens of Liberia and Sierra Leone rejoiced at their respective sides of the borders as Liberian government officially opened entry points with neighboring Sierra Leone. But the goodwill on the Liberian side was not reciprocated as the Sierra Leoneans kept their side of the border closed. A Sierra Leonean soldier was seen forcibly preventing Liberians from going over into the country and warning his citizens that if they crossed over into Liberia, they might not have the chance to go back.

“As far as I’m concerned my border remains closed. I have not received orders to reopen this border,” he shouted. “We are awaiting word from Freetown that is the only way they border will reopen. Anyone who crosses this point will not enter Sierra Leone.”

Though the government of Liberia has reopened the border with Sierra Leone, there are serious binding constraints that have not yet been addressed. As the border on the Liberian side opened and people from the Sierra Leonean side tried to get in, there were no buckets or hand washing stations at the border entry for hand washing. People walked through the gates without their temperatures tested.

George J. Reeves is an officer responsible for Port Health at the Bo-Waterside crossing in Grand Cape Mount County. At a short meeting with stakeholders before the border was reopened, Reeves complained that he was not fully equipped with the right tools needed to fight Ebola at the border with Sierra Leone now that it is open.

StarAFrica covers numbers:

Liberia: 8 Ebola cases reported in three weeks-Official

Liberian Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson, has disclosed on Monday that about eight confirmed Ebola cases were reported from the 19 Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) across the country in the past three weeks.

He explained that Margibi and Montserrado Counties are now the epicenters where the new cases are being recorded. “That shows a good sign that Liberia is on the verge of getting to zero cases,” Jackson said at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola press briefing at the ministry Monday.

He however cautioned that citizens still need to desist from complacency and continue to adhere to the preventive measures outlined by health authorities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

And a pair of videos, first on the reopening of the nation’s curfews and borders from Agence France-Presse:

Liberians rejoice as Ebola curfew is lifted

Program notes:

It is the early hours of the morning and bars in the Liberian capital are packed as revellers drink, sing and rejoice their first night of freedom with the Ebola curfew lifted.

And from IRIN Films, a back-to-school report:

Liberian students return amid Ebola fears

Program notes:

Schools in Liberia have begun to reopen for the first time in more than six months, due to the Ebola outbreak.

From StarAFrica, a quota exceeded:

Liberia: Vaccine trial exceeds estimated target – official

The co-investigator on the Liberia-U.S. Clinical Research Partnership team, Stephen Kennedy, has disclosed that in addition to the projected 600 people being targeted in the phase two clinical trials of two vaccines to prevent Ebola, a total of 120 persons are on the stand-by to be vaccinated.

Kennedy affirmed that the additional 120 persons means that the vaccine trial has exceeded its target, which signifies that the team of experts supervising the process had done exceptionally well since the lunch of the trial.

He made the statement at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola press conference held at the ministry in Monrovia on Monday.

Giving statistical details, Kennedy disclosed that 108 persons were vaccinated during the first week, while 96 persons were vaccinated during the second week.

Economic concerns from the central bank, via Heritage:

CBL Boss: Ebola has put Liberia’s economy in new territory Featured

The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. J. Mills Jones,  has asserted that   the Ebola virus has put Liberia’s economy  in a new territory,  and as such, it was necessary for a forceful action in order to restore it to normalcy.

The CBL Governor said the situation (poverty) still remains and that effort to restore Liberia’s economy cannot be overemphasized.

“That is why the Board of the CBL decided to take step to help put new life into the microfinance sector of the country, he added.

And from the Monrovia Inquirer, help promised:

China Vows To Help In Post-Ebola Recovery

The Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China to Liberia, ZangYue, has announced China’s commitment to contribute meaningfully to Liberia’s post Ebola recovery program especially in medical assistance.

The Chinese Ambassador noted that China will be sending medical personnel to Liberia to help in this regard coupled with assistance to refurbish Liberia’s health delivery system.

Ambassador Yue said doctors who will be sent to Liberia will also assist in the training of medical personnel while playing a pivotal role in revamping the overwhelmed Liberian Health sector as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

MexicoWatch: An anniversary, allegations, & art


From teleSUR English, an anniversary nears:

5 months since Ayotzinapa students forcibly disappeared

Program notes:

Family members and activistis continue to demand the return of the 43 Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared last September 26. Instead of helping the families, the entire political system has affected their lives for the worse, says lawyer Vidulfo Rosales.

Mexico News Daily covers a curious story:

‘Journalists on payroll of Coahuila criminals’

  • Fake videos meant to discredit elite police unit, says government official

Some journalists in Coahuila are being paid by organized crime gangs, and the state’s government secretary says he has a list to prove it.

Victor Zamora says some reporters and media outlets are being paid by criminals to broadcast videos designed to discredit the efforts of a tactical police unit known as GATE.

The latest such video shows what appears to be members of that unit and soldiers engaged in executing civilians in a pickup truck. Several shots are fired but none of the officials appears worried about getting hit as they are seen milling around the truck.

But all the videos showing GATE officers have been analyzed and found to be fake, said Zamora, adding that there was a campaign under way by Los Zetas and their followers against tactical police units in Coahuila.

From Mexico News Daily, a textbook case:

Union’s textbooks replace official ones

  • Michoacán’s dissident teachers reject ‘neoliberal model’ and its school texts

Textbooks supplied by the federal Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) are being removed from schools in Michoacán and replaced by books produced and printed by the teachers’ union.

About 150,000 students in preschool, primary and secondary levels will be provided with texts that do not teach “a neoliberal model,” says Section 18 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE.

The SEP said last year it had distributed 97% of the books required by state schools, but all are to be discarded, said the union, which warned last year that its teachers would not use them.

The new books are accompanied by a letter from the union to parents: “The education project of neoliberal governments is not designed to respond to the needs and interests of the vast majority of the country. To achieve its purpose workers who have attained higher levels of study are not required, and intelligent human beings with a transforming spirit are needed even less.”

And to close, a graphic from graficamazatl:

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.