Category Archives: Schools

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, water, fracking, nukes

We begin with the latest measles news, via the Los Angeles Times:

California measles identical to type found in Philippines

As California health officials search for the origins of the Disneyland measles outbreak, some of their detective work is pointing to the Philippines.

This measles virus shares the same genetic material as the type most commonly found in the Philippines, according to lab tests of the virus.

The highly contagious disease is a much larger problem in the Philippines, where more than 50,000 were sickened and 110 were killed in the last year.

Scientists said the findings make it likely that the virus originated in the Philippines. But they still don’t know exactly how it got into the United States and ultimately to Disneyland.

Here the latest measles numbers nationally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Measles chart

And the map of their distribution, with the Disneyland-related cases singled out:

BLOG Measles

From the Oakland Tribune, a senatorial rant:

In Emeryville, Sen. Barbara Boxer slams anti-vaccination parents

Sen. Barbara Boxer pummeled parents who refuse to vaccinate their children during a tour of a YMCA Head Start school Wednesday where she promoted her bill requiring children in the program nationwide to be immunized.

Boxer made the comments in the midst of a national measles outbreak that started in California. She criticized parents who are not vaccinating their children because of unfounded concerns spread by people outside the medical establishment.

“All I’m saying is, we have doctors we can trust and you should listen to them and not some quack who comes up with a theory that is disproven,” Boxer said. “I say to all those people who have a theory that has been disproven, you are not acting in the right way for your family or for society. People don’t understand how dangerous this disease is. It blows my mind. You are not only endangering your child, but others and that is not right.”

NHK WORLD covers measures addressing an Asia outbreak:

Health ministry compiles dengue fever guidelines

Japan’s health ministry has released guidelines for handling a possible outbreak of dengue fever.

The recommendations are the first of their kind related to the mosquito-borne disease, which is commonly seen in the tropics and subtropics.

An expert panel compiled the guidelines on Wednesday. The move comes after an outbreak that began last August in Tokyo, which was the first in Japan in about 70 years. More than 160 cases of infection were confirmed.

From the Guardian, nuke ‘em:

Tsetse fly: can castration end one of Africa’s oldest development problems?

  • Radiation castration is helping to eradicate tsetse populations that have been preventing farmers from using animals to work their land

From the Sahara to the Kalahari, the tsetse fly has plagued African farmers for centuries. Dating back to prehistoric times, this tiny insect – just eight to 17 mm long – has prevented farmers from using domestic animals to work the land, limiting production, yields and income. The economic impact of the tsetse fly on Africa has been estimated to be as much as $4.5bn. But a simple dose of radiation castration is helping to eradicate the pests in small pockets, enabling farmers to bring animals back into agriculture.

When tsetse flies bite, the parasites (trypanosomes) transferred cause sleeping sickness in humans, and nagana (animal African trypanosomiasis) in animals – mostly cows, horses, donkeys and pigs. The parasites cause confusion, sensory disturbances and poor coordination in humans, and fever, weakness and anemia in animals. Both can be fatal if left untreated.

“In areas with tsetse, people tend not to use intensive forms of agriculture where you use animals or manure on the fields,” says Marcella Alsan, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University who has researched the tsetse fly’s impact on development. Farmers in these areas use slash and burn agriculture instead but “the issue with that strategy is that you can’t constantly use the land in the production cycle, so it supports fewer people,” says Alsan.

Xinhua covers a very hopeful development:

Experimental drug shown to block all HIV strains: study

U.S. researchers on Wednesday announced “a remarkable new advance” in the development of a potent drug to protect against infection of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the deadly disease currently without cure.

They reported in the British journal Nature that an experimental protein-based drug they developed blocks every strain of HIV-1, HIV-2 and the simian version of the virus, SIV, that has been isolated from humans or rhesus macaques, including the hardest-to-stop variants.

The drug, named eCD4-Ig, also protects against much-higher doses of virus than occur in most human transmission and does so for at least eight months after injection.

And from Consumer Reports, cola cancer:

Another reason to cut back on soda

  • Some soda contains a potential carcinogen, and a new Consumer Reports’ study shows many Americans drink enough to put their health at risk

The amount of soda you sip not only boosts your sugar intake and packs on pounds—it might also increase your risk for cancer.

The culprit? A chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). This potential carcinogen is found in some types of caramel color, the artificial ingredient used to turn colas and other soft drinks brown. Every day, more than half of Americans between the ages of 6 and 64 typically drink soda in amounts that could expose them to enough 4-MeI to increase their cancer risk, according to a new analysis of national soda consumption conducted by scientists at Consumer Reports and the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study was published today in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE.

This analysis was a follow-up to testing we did in 2013 to measure 4-MeI content in soft drinks. We looked at 110 samples of colas and other soft drinks purchased in California and the New York metropolitan region. Excluding a clear soda used as a control, we found that average 4-MeI levels in the samples we tested ranged from 3.4 to 352.5 micrograms (mcg) per 12-ounce bottle or can. There’s no federal limit for the amount of 4-MeI permitted in foods and beverages currently, but California requires manufacturers to label a product sold in the state with a cancer warning if it exposes consumers to more than 29 mcg of 4-MeI per day. We submitted our test findings to the California State Attorney General’s office, and we’ve also petitioned the federal government to set limits for 4-MeI in food.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, another smoking hazard:

Thai health ministry incensed over Chinese New Year joss sticks

Thailand’s health ministry has urged people to stop lighting joss sticks and placing them near ritual offerings of food during Chinese New Year, warning that consuming the food could cause cancer.

Joss or incense sticks are burnt by the faithful during religious rituals in Asia, and are common in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, which begins on Thursday.

The public health minister said on Wednesday the consumption of food exposed to incense ash could lead to heavy metal poisoning, but he stopped short of banning the tradition.

Meanwhile, from the London Daily Mail, another kind of health crisis:

BLOG Lunches

From Environmental Health News, porcine pollution:

Pig poop fouling North Carolina streams; state permitting questioned.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources treats large swine farms – operations with thousands of pigs and up – as “non-discharge facilities,” exempt from state rules on having to monitor the waste they dump in rivers and streams. The case for that exemption is dubious, suggested Steve Wing, a professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina who co-authored the January study, published in “Science of the Total Environment.”

“You have evidence of pig-specific bacteria in surface waters, next to industrial swine operations,” he said.

For about a year, from 2010 to 2011, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina tested water both upstream and downstream from fields in eastern North Carolina where pig poop from large factory farms is applied.

From Florida Today, yet another form of oceanic pollution:

Fireproofing chemicals found in lagoon marine life

Flame retardants and pesticide byproducts are showing up at potentially toxic levels in sharks, rays and other marine life in the Indian River Lagoon and in the ocean just off Brevard County.

Little is known about the health effects of these long-lasting compounds on the marine food web or on those who eat lagoon seafood. But scientists point to their widespread presence as yet another example of the ominous effects long-term pollution is having on local waters.

Among the substances a new study found in samples of shark livers are byproducts of DDT and other pesticides banned decades ago.

From the Guardian, oh fercrissakes!:

Canadian mounties’ secret memo casts doubt on climate change threat

  • Intelligence report identifies anti-petroleum movement as a threat to Canadian security and suggests those concerned with climate consequences occupy political fringe

The US security establishment views climate change as real and a dangerous threat to national security. But Canada takes a very different view, according to a secret intelligence memo prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The memo, stamped “Canadian eyes only”, repeatedly casts doubt on the causes of climate change – the burning of fossil fuels – and its potential threat.

The 44-page intelligence assessment of Canada’s environmental protest movement was prepared for the government of Stephen Harper, who is expected to roll out new anti-terror legislation.

In the memo, obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian, the RCMP repeatedly departs from the conclusions of an overwhelming majority of scientists – and the majority of elected leaders in the international arena – that climate change is a growing threat to global security.

After the jump, a California water woes crackdown, water woes in Brazil — slightly abated, California cracks down on bird-killing rat poison, Dutch ignored fracking earthquake dangers, another California refinery explosion, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with an underage radioactive cleanup worker, a stern warning from a former Japanese prime minister, a welter of cracks in a Belgian reactor lead to a global inspection call, And Taiwan looks for an overseas nuclear waste reprocessor. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Back to school, politics, & fears

We begin with FrontPageAfrica and a study in contrasts:

Ebola Transparency: Sierra Leone Leads as Liberia Falter

The outbreak of the worse ever Ebola virus in history in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia attracted millions of dollars of donor funding through various conduit-cash, material, human resources, amongst others.

The total dollar value of donations from the international community and local sources in all three countries is yet to be established since the outbreak is not yet totally under control, but with the funding comes accountability haunting the three countries which are amongst countries facing problems of corruption and other forms of bad governance.

Amnesty international in its 2014 corruption Perceptions index placed the three countries in bad position with Sierra Leone at 119, Liberia-94 and Guinea at 145 out of 174 countries, clearly showing how all three countries have a huge task in managing domestic resources effectively and efficiently. From the ranking Liberia is the better of the three countries in 2014 but the ranking changes every year.

From Liberia’s New Dawn, survivor benefits:

995 Ebola survivors receive US$200 each

Authorities at the Liberia National Red Cross or LNRC have disclosed that about 995 Ebola survivors in Monrovia have received cash benefit from the ELWA Centers Two and Three treatment units.

The Red Cross detailed that the 995 survivors were patients, who were tested and confirmed positive of the virus.

According to the LNRC, each of the survivors received US$200 to augment their daily sustenance in their respective homes and communities, adding that the decision to give out the cash to survivors is to buttress government’s effort in eradicating Ebola from the country.

And on to schools reopening, first with the Liberian Observer:

Schools Reopen Today

At long last, schools across the country will resume “normal” academic activities today, Monday February 16 after rigmaroles between authorities at the Ministry of Education (MOE) and those in the first branch of government—the lawmakers in the National Legislature.

Government’s pronouncement a few weeks ago ordering the resumption of classes on February 2, did not hold when two different dates were announced.

The government, through the MOE announced earlier that the resumption of basic academic activities was to begin on Monday, January 12 with student registration followed by teacher orientation and other preparatory activities.

Thereafter, according to MOE, instruction would commence on February 2. With that pronouncement, school administrators and students were already being urged to observe strictly the Ebola preventive measures to be mounted at all school campuses.

More from FrontPageAfrica:

Liberian Schools to Reopen – But Many Sticking to March 2

As schools prepare to resume academic activities on Monday following nearly a year of closure due to the Ebola outbreak, not many private institutions would reopen as mandated by the government.  A survey of schools conducted by FrontPageAfrica over the weekend shows that many private schools have stuck by the March 2, date previously announced by the government, before it somersaulted to February 16th.

Many private schools, including the Joseph Jenkins Roberts United Methodist School, Ricks Institute, Lott Carey and other schools apparently would not reopen on Monday. Public schools, including the William V. S. Tubman High School, are set to reopen though about two hundred students might be without chairs to sit.

The Principal of one of the biggest public schools, the William V.S. Tubman High School, Mr. Alassis N. Goldore in an interview with FPA said that the school is prepared to open its doors to students after several months of closure due to the deadly Ebola outbreak. “According to government’s pronouncement that schools should be reopened by February 16, we are ready and prepared to provide formal instructions beginning Monday February 16,” he said.

And a state of unreadiness, via FrontPageAfrica:

Grand Bassa: Schools Without Ebola Materials and Chairs Ahead of Reopening

Schools in rural Grand Bassa County appeared a bit relief when the Ministry of Education (MOE), for the third time, extended the reopening of schools in the country following months of closure because of the Ebola Virus crisis.

Most schools in the rural parts of the county are without adequate chairs and needed textbooks while the failure of MOE and partners to distribute Ebola preventive materials to schools in time in order to implement Ebola protocols at schools are amongst other factors likely to hamper the reopening of schools in the county.

The Chairman of the Grand Bassa education school board told FrontPageAfrica in an exclusive that most schools in the county are not ready for the reopening, adding that the MOE also has a problem with the distribution of Ebola materials. Moses B.K Sawaye asserted that the MOE and partners’ method of distributing the materials to schools is faulty and may lead to many schools not receiving their share before March 2, the new date for the reopening of schools.

The Liberian Observer covers a threat:

‘We’ll Scatter Ebola Bones on the Highway’

  • Crematorium Workers Threaten, Demand Pay

Workers at the government-run Ebola crematorium once operated by the Indian Community have threatened to cause a disruption by scattering the remains of Ebola victims on to the Robertsfield Highway if Government fails to pay their salaries.

Speaking to the Daily Observer at the start of a six-month psychosocial counseling program, recently, one of the aggrieved crematorium workers, Robert Beer, noted that since government announced that there would be no more cremation of Ebola victims, crematorium workers were reportedly told to hold on until their benefits are determined.  But since then, there has been no commitment from the government, said Beer.

Since government stopped the burning of Ebola dead late December 2014 and regular burial practices were resumed, the men who carried out the cremation said they have not been paid a dime and government had allegedly owed them for two weeks.

And thence to Guinea and ongoing fear and the schools, via CCTV Africa:

Ebola: Panic And Rumours In Guinean Schools Disrupts Learning

Program notes:

There was panic in Guinea after reports that masked men were seen at a school in the capital Freetown. Text messages circulated urging parents to keep their children at home.

InSecurityWatch: Violence, hacks, war, & more

Much more.

We begin with the sadly expected, via the Guardian

One dead and three injured in Copenhagen ‘terrorist attack’

  • Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats for caricaturing prophet Muhammad, was at blasphemy debate in cafe hit by estimated 200 shots

One civilian has been killed and three police officers injured after armed men opened fire on a cafe in Copenhagen where a debate on Islam and free speech was being held.

The meeting was attended by Lars Vilks, the controversial Swedish artist who has faced death threats for caricaturing the prophet Muhammad. Also in attendance was François Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark.

“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as [the 7 January attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Zimeray told AFP.

“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200. Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor,” the ambassador added.

And an update from BBC News:

Injuries in second Copenhagen shooting

Several people have been injured after shots were fired near a synagogue in Copenhagen, Danish police say.

One person was reportedly hit in the head, and two police officers suffered arm and leg injuries. The attacker is believed to have fled.

It is not clear whether the shooting is connected to an earlier attack on a cafe in the city.

CBC News covers semantic antics in high profile Nova Scotia arrests:

Randall Steven Shepherd, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath charged in Halifax shooting plot

  • Peter MacKay calls suspects ‘murderous misfits’

Police have charged two people with conspiracy to commit murder in the case of a foiled plot to kill a large number of people at the Halifax Shopping Centre in the city’s west end.

American Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath from Geneva, Illinois, 23, and Randall Steven Shepherd from Halifax, 20, have been charged.

A third person, a 17-year-old male from Cole Harbour, has been released without charges. At this time, police say there is no evidence to link him to the charges before the courts, but the investigation is ongoing.

Police tracked down a fourth suspect, a 19-year-old, to a home on Friday on Tiger Maple Drive in Timberlea, N.S., about 20 minutes outside of Halifax. Police entered the house and found the suspect dead early Friday. His death is under investigation by Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team.

From Deutsche Welle, more semantic antics:

Thwarted Canada mass shooting ‘not linked to terrorism’

  • Police in Canada have dismissed the possibility that a plan to commit a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on Valentine’s Day was linked to terrorism. Residents have been urged to stay vigilant.

And something else Canada shares with the U.S., via CBC News:

Freddie James’s racial profiling complaint is part of larger issue inside Montreal police force

  • Montreal’s police chief Marc Parent admits racial profiling is a problem in Montreal

The Montreal police force does have a problem with racial profiling, admits Chief Marc Parent. However, he says, the department is working continuously to improve relationships with the city’s cultural communities.

“We do have a racial profiling problem… It’s not the majority, but we have to work on that every day,” Parent said on Daybreak Friday morning.

His comments capped off a week in which Montreal singer Freddie James went public with his own racial profiling complaint.

The Christian Science Monitor raises a question:

Muslim world asks: Were Chapel Hill shootings an act of terrorism?

As US authorities investigate the cause of the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina this week, Muslims around the world push for the tragedy to be treated as a hate crime – perhaps even an act of terrorism.

US officials say the motivation for the shootings Tuesday of three young Muslim-Americans by a self-avowed atheist in North Carolina remains unclear. But growing numbers of Muslims around the world are weighing in with suspicions that the murders were an American hate crime and, perhaps, as the Palestinian foreign ministry suggested on Saturday, even an act of terrorism.

The killings of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha shook the greater Raleigh metro area, a former Southern backwater turned international destination for students and high-tech workers.

More deeply, the shootings came amid a backdrop of political tension in the US, highlighted last month at Duke University in Durham, N.C., just a few miles from where the shootings took place, when university officials, amid complaints and threats, cancelled a plan to amplify the Friday Islamic call to prayer through the university’s iconic clock tower.

An ancillary concern from USA Today:

North Carolina murders revive Islamophobia concerns

Less than 24 hours after the murders of three young Muslim students Tuesday afternoon in North Carolina, Aymen Abdel Halim had counted a dozen postings on social media praising the execution-style killings.

Abdel Halim, who works with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he forwarded some of the more menacing messages to law enforcement and found himself seething over the dark perception that many Americans have about his religion.

“There were Facebook pages saying (the killer) is a hero, kill all Muslims and that we’re going to continue his work,” Abdel Halim said. “There’s a culture of violence toward Muslims that is not brewing, but that is already here.”

From Reuters, a case of domestic terrorism?:

FBI monitoring investigation of fire at Houston Islamic center

The FBI is monitoring an investigation into a fire that destroyed a building at an Islamic institute in Houston and could take a more active role, a bureau spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The blaze early on Friday at the Quba Islamic Institute destroyed one of three buildings there, but no one was injured, fire officials have said. The institute has continued operating since the blaze.

Houston Fire Department arson investigators were working to pinpoint the cause of the fire, but no official determination has been made, officials said.

SecurityWeek covers a notable statement of the increasingly obvious:

Snowden Filmmaker Says US Surveillance ‘Out of Control’

For most Oscar nominees, the weeks before the February 22 ceremony are a whirlpool of stress.

But Laura Poitras, up for best documentary for “Citizenfour,” insists it is like going for a healthy walk — compared to what she went through to get here.

When former National Security Agency (NSA) consultant Edward Snowden, who revealed the massive scope of US intelligence surveillance, contacted the filmmaker, she found her life turned into a spy novel.

And by way of more proof, this from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s DeepLinks:

Go to Prison for File Sharing? That’s What Hollywood Wants in the Secret TPP Deal

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other TPP signatories to accept the United States’ excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70 years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains DRM anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users, likely leading to more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.

Here, we’d like to explore yet another set of rules in TPP that will chill users’ rights. Those are the criminal enforcement provisions, which based upon the latest leak from May 2014 is still a contested and unresolved issue. It’s about whether users could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over allegations of copyright infringement.

The US is pushing for a broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports language in which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.

From Threatpost, vulnerability in esnl’s own blogging platform:

Lack of CSPRNG Threatens WordPress Sites

WordPress has become a huge target for attackers and vulnerability researchers, and with good reason. The software runs a large fraction of the sites on the Internet and serious vulnerabilities in the platform have not been hard to come by lately. But there’s now a new bug that’s been disclosed in all versions of WordPress that may allow an attacker to take over vulnerable sites.

The issue lies in the fact that WordPress doesn’t contain a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator. A researcher named Scott Arciszewski made the WordPress maintainers aware of the problem nearly eight months ago and said that he has had very little response.

“On June 25, 2014 I opened a ticked on WordPress’s issue tracker to expose a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator, since none was present,” he said in an advisory on Full Disclosure.

From the New York Times, barons of the bank hack:

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware

In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.

But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to Ukraine to investigate, it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems.

The bank’s internal computers, used by employees who process daily transfers and conduct bookkeeping, had been penetrated by malware that allowed cybercriminals to record their every move. The malicious software lurked for months, sending back video feeds and images that told a criminal group — including Russians, Chinese and Europeans — how the bank conducted its daily routines, according to the investigators.

Then the group impersonated bank officers, not only turning on various cash machines, but also transferring millions of dollars from banks in Russia, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands into dummy accounts set up in other countries.

After the jump, the acronyms of Obama’s cybersecurity agenda, Pakistan takes down an FBI “most wanted” cybercrook, an Oregon plea to a Pakistani suicide bombing, a hot run-up to a Ukrainian ceasefire, Washington accuses Moscow of Ukrainian dirty pool, Iraqi troops on the brink of losing Anbar, ISIS runs a bloody purge of “sexual deviants,” fears that ISIS is doing the Bitcoin, and Western fears of ISIS metastasis, Boko Haram provokes a Nigerian presidential plea to Washington, Nigerian troops repel Boko Haram attack on Gombe, an account of Boko Haram abductees, on to Yemen and more violence, Argentinian presidential woes continue, a schoolbook purge in Pakistan, could Aussie uranium shipments feed Indian nuclear arms?, China deploys electromagnetic pulse weapons, on to Tokyo and signs of dissent on remilitarization in Shinzo Abe’s coalition, Japanese textbooks hew to the government line, tensions rise between Tokyo and Okinawa over an American military base move — as opponents lose a U.S. court challenge, and Philippine survivors of Japanese World War II atrocities seek an apology from Tokyo, then on to threats to the Fourth Estate, first in Sweden, then in Spain, plus oglers infest Norwegian  tanning salons with a plague of concealed cameras. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Only scenes from the front lines

Virtually nothing coming today from the governments and NGOs of the North, so we’ll go straight to Guinea with Reuters for a story that’s all too common of late:

Crowds attack Ebola facility, health workers in Guinea

Crowds destroyed an Ebola facility and attacked health workers in central Guinea on rumours that the Red Cross was planning to disinfect a school, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

Red Cross teams in Guinea have been attacked on average 10 times a month over the past year, the organisation said this week, warning that the violence was hampering efforts to contain the disease.

During the incident on Friday in the town of Faranah, around 400 km (250 miles) east of the capital Conakry, angry residents attacked an Ebola transit centre and set ablaze a vehicle belonging to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

More Guinean anger and concern, this time for their children, via Agence France-Presse:

Ebola rumors cause panic in Guinean schools

Program notes:

More than 1.3 million children have returned to school in Guinea since the restart of lessons following the Ebola outbreak according to UNICEF. But there are rumours that Red Cross treatments are spreading the deadly disease.

On to Sierra Leone and an angry denial, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone reacts to claims of human rights abuse

The Sierra Leone government has denied allegations that the President Ernest Bai Koroma was using prevailing state of emergency rules to stifle human rights.

The reaction comes after a report by a researcher with Amnesty International highlighted a case involving the mass arrests of alleged protesters in the diamond-rich Kono district over an anti-Ebola

The incident, according to reports, occurred in October 2014. Over 30 people were detained, among them two women who still languish in jail.

At least two people were killed in the incident that erupted when a local politician refused to allow his elderly sick mother taken to an Ebola holding center.

Deutsche Welle covers a scandal with deepening repercussions:

Millions in Ebola funds unaccounted for in Sierra Leone

  • Sierra Leone has failed to properly account for almost a third of the money it earmarked to fight the Ebola epidemic, according to an audit. More than 3,000 people have died from the epidemic in the West African nation.

Sierra Leone’s national auditor said authorities lost track of nearly a third of the 84 billion leones ($19.5 million, 16.9 million euros) in emergency funds, set aside by the government between last May and October.

According to the audit, the funds were mostly spent on personal protective equipment, medical supplies, consumables and bonus payments to healthcare workers.

There was no paperwork to support the spending of 14 billion leones ($3.2 million, 2.8 million euros) from the government’s emergency health response account. A further 11 billion leones spent from the same account had missing receipts and invoices.

More from StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Gov’t urges patience over audit report

The Sierra Leone government has on Saturday called for patient among the general public on the recently released audit report revealing massive corruption in the management of monies meant to fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Auditor General’s Office on Thursday published its much anticipated report on the use of the funds which indicted mainly the Health ministry for failing to account for millions of US Dollars.

The document was presented to parliament which will look at it and give recommendations.

In a statement, the government said it noted the interest in the public but asked that citizens allowed the parliament to look at the document and debate it, and it assured that whatever recommendation that came out of it would be followed to the later.

And from StarAfrica again, a Fourth Estate campaign:

S/Leone Journalists launch yellow ribbon Ebola-awareness campaign

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has launched a Yellow Ribbon campaign geared towards the fight against the Ebola epidemic.

The symbolic event was held at the historic Cotton Tree in the center of Freetown on Saturday. The campaign is geared towards ending the Ebola scourge in the country, say SLAJ officials.

As part of the campaign, journalists are urged to wear the yellow ribbon to serve as raising awareness. The ribbon can also be worn by any member of the public. SLAJ is hoping that the symbol will eventually represent Ebola as the red ribbon does HIV/AIDs.

“ The launching is one day but the campaign is ongoing,”  said Moses Kargbo, National Secretary General of SLAJ. He urged fellow journalists to support the course by carrying the yellow ribbon and the accompanying special messages on Ebola.

While the Sierra Leone Concord Times covers another complication:

‘Sexual offences are second epidemic’

…says First Lady

While delivering her keynote address at the launch of ‘Leh Wi Know’, a radio programme by the BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone which looks into the lives of women and girls who face injustice in the country, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone has said that the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the country has exponentially increased since the outbreak of Ebola, thus referring to it as the “ second epidemic in Sierra Leone” .

Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, speaking at the Sierra Lighthouse, Aberdeen yesterday, lamented reports of a surge in the rate of sexual assault, particularly against girls, in the country.

She said a national conversation on how to address the problem and provide protection and support to those women and children was imperative, and emphasised that Ebola has not been the cause but a catalyst, worsening an already pervasive problem in the country.

She urged that discussants should also remember challenges women and girls in the country face, which stretch far beyond teenage pregnancy and sexual assault, and to remember how important it is for women and girls to access information they need for support and protection.

Then on to the Gambia, with an admonition via the Daily Observer in Banjul:

Health Promotion boss warns against Ebola-free status complacency

The director of Health Promotions and Education at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has warned that The Gambia being Ebola-free should not be a reason for people to be complacent about the contagious virus.

Momodou Njai, who was speaking during an interview with the Daily Observer at his office in Kotu on Monday, affirmed that even though the contagious virus is virtually endemic in some countries within the sub-region, the country is yet to register any case so far. He thus appealed for people to be vigilant to ensure that the country is always free of the virus. “ This does not in any way mean that we should let our guard down,”  he reiterated.

Njie however said the government has put in place measures to prevent occurrence of the deadly virus in the country. “ The government has embarked on and is still pursuing a rigorous campaign to sensitise the population about the problems of Ebola virus,”  he said.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, pleas, graft, new cases

As usual, we begin with the latest numbers, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from the New Dawn in Monrovia, Liberia, covering a presidential call:

 The mission is not over yet

  • US Obama

US President Barrack Obama has told Americans that the US involvement in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease here is not over yet, while announcing a draw down plan for some 2800 US troops here.

Announcing the beginning a “new phase in the fight” against Ebola in a remarks given at the White House on Tuesday, President Obama noted the progress that have been made against the outbreak in the sub-region and the involvement of some  2,800 American military troops here, saying they will return home by April 30, 2015.

He said the withdrawal of the US troops will leave a force of 100 troops behind to work with Liberia’s military, regional partners and U.S. civilians. However, he cautioned the mission was not over.

“We have risen to the challenge,” President Obama stated in his remarks in Washington, DC. “Our focus now is getting to zero.”

Planning for the end game, via the UN News Center:

Ebola: UN health agency turns to foreign medical teams in last phase of combat against virus

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that it will huddle with medical teams from outside the Ebola-affected countries next week in Geneva to see how they can help in the last phases of the fight to bring the number of cases down to zero.

Meanwhile, UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of her visit to West Africa focusing on Ebola-recovery, saying: “Ebola is very hard to beat, but it’s being beaten in Liberia.”

Earlier, Miss Clark met with a number community groups in Conakry, Guinea, where she stressed the vital importance of community advocacy in stopping the outbreak. Her mission will conclude with a visit to Sierra Leone early next week.

UNDP is working with the national authorities and local, regional and international partners, including the African Development Bank, the European Union and the World Bank, on an Ebola Recovery Assessment, and in support of nation

From NBC News, a drug belatedly ready for testing:

Ebola Drug ZMapp’s Ready for African Testing

U.S. government officials have scraped up enough ZMapp to start testing it in real Ebola patients in Liberia. But the drug’s still so hard to make they are shipping it over in small batches as they produce it.

ZMapp’s best known as the drug given to the first U.S. Ebola patient, Dr. Kent Brantly — the medical missionary air-evacuated from Liberia for treatment in the U.S.

Brantly survived, but doctors say they don’t know whether ZMapp helped. The case created a clamor for the drug, but Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, the small, California-based company that makes it, didn’t have much on hand.

Not only is the drug very difficult to produce, but there wasn’t much of a market for it before the Ebola epidemic started in West Africa. That meant scarce government funding.

The Guardian takes a pessimistic turn:

Ebola spending: will lack of a positive legacy turn dollars to dolour?

  • Millions were invested in west Africa to tackle the Ebola crisis, but some experts doubt there will be any lasting benefits for public health systems

While it is still too early to call time on the Ebola outbreak, a sense that the worst may have passed is tentatively taking root in west Africa, alongside an acute realisation of the need to ensure a positive long-term legacy for battered healthcare systems.

The international community might have taken too long to react initially but the arrival of hundreds of soldiers and volunteer health workers, backed up by millions of dollars from donors, stopped the crisis from becoming even worse. A dire forecast of a possible 10,000 cases a week, for example, was never realised.

Now the challenge is to stamp out the disease – the incidence of new cases had fallen at the beginning of the year, but that decline has stalled in the past few weeks – while simultaneously rebuilding health systems so decrepit that they contributed to the rapid spread of Ebola across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia last year.

Aid workers and health officials say that without a sustainable, long-lasting donor commitment to health systems, there will be little or no positive legacy from the millions of dollars already spent.

Another plea, via the UN News Center:

UN Economic, Social Council President urges action ‘now’ to bolster health systems in Ebola-hit counties

In addition to lives lost and the socio-economic impact of the Ebola outbreak, the long-term impact on families – with at least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone losing one or both parents to the virus – further underscores the dire need to invest in better health care systems, Martin Sajdik, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), has said.

Mr. Sajdik, in a recent opinion piece for US News & World Report underscored that the unprecedented Ebola outbreak that has plagued West Africa for months, killing more than 9,000 people, derailing economies and rolling back years of solid development gains, might have been prevented if the world had done more earlier to help improve the region’s “dilapidated and underdeveloped” public health care systems.

“This pandemic was largely preventable had the international community prioritized Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia’s weak health systems, bolstered [their] under-resourced human capacity and infrastructure, and ensured that these West African countries’ emergence from conflict and instability were better managed,” he asserted.

Mr. Sajdik maintains that to prevent future pandemics, the emergency Ebola response in the affected countries must be linked to long-term efforts to strengthen national health systems.

On to Sierra Leone and hopes for the better, via the Christian Science Monitor:

As Ebola ebbs, Sierra Leone targets another kind of recovery: normalcy

The government has announced that public schools, which were shuttered last summer to curb the spread of the deadly virus, will reopen in March amid a declining number of new cases. Making up for a lost school year is the new battle.

With a sharp drop in new Ebola cases, Sierra Leone has announced that schools will reopen on March 30, and focus has now turned toward the recovery process for children whose education has been set back at least half a year. The implementation of the government’s new plan – which includes paying for school fees and continuous assessments – will be a key indicator of how well the country can rebound after Ebola.

“We are now entering the transition phase. Given the progress being made against the disease, we must take action to enable economic and social recovery,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a television address to the nation last month.

Of the three West African countries hit by the deadly virus last May, Sierra Leone suffered the worst, with more than 10,340 cases. President Koroma shuttered all education centers in a desperate attempt to curtail the spread of the highly infectious virus.

From Deutsche Welle, a lockdown imposed:

Sierra Leone locks down part of capital in Ebola scare

  • Sierra Leone has placed hundreds of homes under quarantine in the capital Freetown following a spike in Ebola cases. More than 3,300 people have died of Ebola in the country.

Less than a month after it lifted all restrictions on movement, Sierra Leone placed 700 homes under Ebola quarantine on Friday. All of them are in Aberdeen, a fishing and tourist district of the capital Freetown.

“There was a sudden spike in the number of cases. It’s effectively a quarantine there which would typically last 21 days,” said Obi Sisay, director of the situation room in the National Ebola Response Center.

The center’s most recent data showed six new confirmed cases of Ebola in Aberdeen on Wednesday. Sisay estimated that there were up to 2,000 people in Aberdeen who had potentially come into contact with individuals infected with Ebola.

After the jump, a new report reveals massive Ebola corruption, and presidential praise for Chinese help, then on to Liberia and new cases reported, a house-to-house search demanded, a scientist blasts a lawmaker over vaccine claims, more concerns over reopening schools, and Valentine’s Day concerns in a time of Ebola, on to Guinea, where fearful parents pull their students out of school over Ebola concerns, then on to North Korea and a party ban over Ebolaphobia. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: The U.N. weighs in, cops, more

We begin with a video report on the day’s major development, via teleSUR English:

UN Report on forced disappearances concerned about Mexico

Program notes:

A final Report delivered to the United Nations on the son the subject of forced disappearances leaves Mexico in a very bad light, demonstrating almost complete impunity.

More from Deutsche Welle:

UN report criticizes Mexico on enforced disappearances

  • A UN commission has reported that disappearances are widespread in Mexico and authorities are often involved. The country has been urged to pass a law establishing enforced disappearances as a crime.

The UN criticized what it called a failure to prevent and punish enforced disappearances in Mexico in a report published on Friday. These disappearances involve kidnappings carried out or permitted by officials. The most notorious example was the case of 43 students from the southern city of Iguala who went missing last fall, allegedly at the hands of local police. The case sparked protests across Mexico (as shown in picture).

“The information received by the committee shows a context of generalized disappearances in a great part of the country, many of which could qualify as enforced disappearances,” the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances declared.

The UN committee voiced concern over “the near inexistence” of convictions in such disappearances.

Mexico acknowledges a figure of more than 23,000 people who are considered either disappeared or of unknown whereabouts, but it has no specific numbers on enforced disappearances.

Still more from Reuters:

Mexico must probe thousands of ‘disappearances’: UN

A United Nations watchdog called on Mexico on Friday to probe and prosecute alleged complicity of state forces in “disappearances”, including a notorious case of 43 students believed murdered last year.

Mexico’s delegation told the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances at a review last week that 11,300 people were unaccounted for. Amnesty International said in a statement that more than 22,600 had gone missing in the past eight years amid “a huge problem of impunity”.

In their findings, the committee’s 10 independent experts said they had received information that “illustrates a context of generalized disappearances in a great part of the territory (of Mexico), many of which could be qualified as enforced disappearances”.

“Enforced disappearances” are those linked to detention or abduction by state agents such as police or security forces, or their allies, who conceal the victim’s fate.

The documents are posted here, but only in Spanish, sadly for the monolingual [well, two years of Latin] esnl.

And the parental response from teleSUR:

Mixed Reception for UN Report from Ayotzinapa Supporters

  • Rights groups representing the families of the missing students applaud the U.N. Committee Against Enforced Disappearances’ review and its recommendations.

Representatives of the families and classmates of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students positively embraced a report by the U.N. Commission Against Enforced Disappearances Friday, which expresses deep concern over the extent of that type of crime in Mexico.

A rights groups advising the families and students declared Friday evening that they “welcome that the Committee has recommended that organizations and the families of the victims are involved in the process of implementing the recommendations,” referring to the U.N. report.

The U.N. committee’s report slammed Mexico for its problem of enforced disappearances, declaring that it is a general phenomena throughout a large part of the country. Specifically criticizing the government, the report says it has stumbled in “preventing, investigating and applying penalties over enforced and non-enforced disappearances.”

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a related development:

Mexico Teachers College Director Says Students Unarmed When Attacked

The director of the Ayotzinapa teachers college in southern Mexico said Friday that students from his institution were not armed when police attacked them last September in the city of Iguala, denying statements by some suspects in the case.

“When the clash with police occurred, it was rocks against bullets,” Jose Luis Hernandez Rivera told Radio Formula, referring to the law enforcement officers’ assault on the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students that left six people dead, including three teacher trainees, and 43 students missing.

Suspects arrested in the case say Hernandez had been paid by an operator of the Los Rojos drug gang to send the students to Iguala and that the latter were carrying firearms.

“There’s no evidence supporting any of these accusations against me,” said the director of the school, whose students are known for their militancy and which counts among its alumni the late guerrilla leaders Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vazquez.

More consequences, via the New York Times:

Mexican Towns Galvanized by Tragedy

As election season begins in Guerrero, what has been at best a tenuous hold on order in Mexico’s most violent state is fast disintegrating.

After the disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college last September — believed to be the victims of an alliance among drug gangs, local politicians and the municipal police — activist groups have sworn to disrupt the June elections in the name of the missing students.

“The no-election movement could gather strength,” said Juan Angulo Osorio, the editor of El Sur, a Guerrero newspaper. “It’s seen as the only way to punish the politicians.”

At the same time, frustration with the inability of the authorities to rein in organized crime groups, which traffic heroin and create terror through kidnapping and extortion, is leading a growing number of communities to take control of their own security.

From the Associated Press, an unusual standoff:

Mexico: 5 federal police wounded in standoff with local cops

A revolt by local police who barricaded themselves inside a station for nearly two weeks in a labor protest erupted in a clash that wounded least five federal agents in southern Mexico on Friday.

Between 250 and 300 local police officers have been hunkered down in the station in the town of Santa Maria Coyotopec for the last 13 days to demand raises and better working conditions, the Oaxaca state government said in a statement.

They shot at federal police who tried to remove them Friday, the government alleged. Five federal agents were wounded in the legs by bullet shrapnel, but their lives were said not to be in danger.

Some of the local officers contended it was not them but rather federal agents who opened fire in the pre-dawn confrontation.

More from the Guardian:

Mexico police barricaded in station over labour dispute clash with federal agents

  • Five federal officers wounded but injuries not critical
  • Station houses more than 3,000 firearms and 500,000 rounds of ammunition

“The federal police tried to get in through the main door, but my companions reacted and the clash began,” said a policeman inside the compound who gave his name as only Luis for fear of possible reprisals.

Jeyco Pérez, identified as one of the leaders of the revolt, told Milenio TV that they were only using shields to defend themselves and had not fired weapons.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw the local officers carrying batons and riot shields, but no weapons were readily visible. The entry to the station was barricaded with a truck and metal fencing.

The locals captured at least three federal officers but later released them.

And from Fox News Latino, a message sent:

Pope Francis’ pick for cardinal sends strong message about Mexico cartel violence

Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia – capital of the oft-conflictive state of Michoacán – wanted to retire one year ago. He submitted his resignation Jan. 30, 2014, upon turning 75, as per church policy. Pope Francis had other ideas, however, and promoted him to cardinal instead.

“A priest in Morelia called me … ‘I’m listening to Vatican Radio. The pope just announced your name,’ Suárez told Fox News Latino in an interview. “I told him, ‘It’s not possible. I don’t believe it.’ I must be dreaming. The [papal] nuncio called me 10 minutes later.”

Suarez’s elevation surprised many in Mexico, where the country’s three cardinals traditionally come from the country’s three largest cities – Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey – not strife-stricken states such as Michoacán. But it showed Pope Francis’ preference for appointing prelates from peripheral places as he overhauls the Catholic Church and attempts to revive its relevance in heavily Catholic Latin America. He also elevated bishops in distant dioceses such as David in Panama and Tucumán in Argentina.

And to close, another image, this time of a tagger in action in Puebla, via Puebla Online:

BLOG Puebla

EbolaWatch: Numbers, drugs, politics, schools

We begin with today’s numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

The New York Times covers a complication:

Ebola Victims Still Infectious a Week After Death, Scientists Find

People who die of Ebola probably remain infectious for at least a week after death, according to a new study. The findings underscore how important it is to safely handle and bury corpses in the epidemic.

Funerals at which mourners washed or touched bodies are believed to have spread the disease to many new victims. In a safer practice, teams dressed in full protective gear spray the body with bleach, put it in a body bag and then either cremate it or bury it deeply. At the funeral, family members are allowed to view the body but not to touch it.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the study offered “microbiological proof positive of what we’ve been observing in a field setting — that kissing or washing or caressing bodies is almost certainly the way a lot gets transmitted.”

Reuters covers another vaccine trial:

Novavax starts Ebola vaccine trial in humans

Novavax is testing its Ebola GP Vaccine in 230 healthy volunteers in Australia. Each subject, aged between 18 and 50, will receive two intramuscular injections 21 days apart. Results are expected by the end of the second quarter, Erck said.

Early human data on a vaccine being developed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc , the most advanced to date, has suggested a single dose may not provoke an immune response strong enough to protect those exposed to Ebola.

Other drugmakers are collaborating to develop vaccines: NewLink Genetics Corp with Merck & Co Inc and Johnson & Johnson with Bavarian Nordic A/S.

The United Nations News Center covers food aid:

Ebola: World Bank will provide seeds to farmers in West Africa to ward off hunger

The World Bank Group announced today that it has mobilized some $15 million in emergency financing to provide a record 10,500 tons of maize and rice seed to more than 200,000 farmers in the countries most-affected by the unprecedented Ebola outbreak, in time for the April planting season.

“Agriculture is the lifeline of the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa. “By speeding supplies of urgently needed seeds of major food crops to communities in West Africa, we are jumpstarting recovery in rural areas and preventing the looming specter of hunger in the countries hardest hit by Ebola.”

According to the World Bank, “more than one million people could go hungry unless they have reliable access to food and emergency measures are taken immediately to safeguard crop and livestock production.”

A recent World Bank Group report shows that the Ebola crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies in all three countries, and the agriculture and food sectors have been particularly hard hit.

On to Liberia, and a very reasonable back-to-school delay, via FrontPageAfrica:

Liberia Delays School Reopening as Ebola Virus Decline

Liberia has for the third time announced a delay in the reopening of school following improvement in the fight against the outbreak of Ebola in the country. Schools were ordered closed during the early time of the outbreak beginning March and were expected to reopen on February 2. Ebola has killed 3,146 people with a total of 8,881 cases reported in Liberia alone.

Following a drop in the number of cases of the virus, the Government announced that school would have resumed on February 2 but that date was pushed further by two weeks to the 16 before another announcement of a new date to March 2, 2015. The Ministry of Education in a release said the decision to delay the reopening of schools from February to March is in response to appeals by parents and school administrators.

“The public is hereby informed that due to numerous appeals from school administrators, parents and other stakeholders, the commencement of classes has now been scheduled for Monday 2, 2015,” the Ministry of Education release added.

“Meanwhile, school authorities are urged to complete all outstanding orientation activities for teachers and students, including refresher and Ebola Training workshops,” the release continued. The ministry has called on school authorities to honor the new date as they prepare for the reopening of schools across the country. The Ministry decision comes in the wake of a three-page report recently released by the National Legislature, which called for the postponement of the reopening of schools from February 16 to March 2 2015.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers questions raised:

So Communication Is Still A Problem In Government? The Case Of The Reopening Of Schools

Many times in some of my articles on the governance system of the country, I maintain that the issue of coordination in terms of communication by the government remains a major problem, as the lack of coordinated communication to create a situation of misinformation to the population, thereby putting them in a state of confusion on some of the decisions or actions taken by their leaders because of conflicting poorly coordinated information on a particular issue to the people.

The situation within the government can be likened to the anecdote of what one expects with ‘many cooks spoil the broth’ in the kitchen. Sometimes, it is simply phrased as, “too many cooks spoil the food”, meaning that because very individual cooks do everything individually, instead of preparing the meal collectively, the prepared food would not produce the desired result or piquancy, as expected.

In the case of communication to the people by their leaders, if care is not taken in how the leaders go about communication or the way and manner in which the leaders communicate with the people, then, communication has not then taken place. Communication is such that even the words or phraseology employed, if it is not done properly, then, communication has not taken place because the receiver for whom a piece of communication is intended, if they do not really understand that piece of communication, then, communication has not taken place.

And an American survivor returns to Liberia, via FrontPageAfrica:

American Doctor, Ebola Survivor Back “Home” in Liberia

Dr. Rick Sacra, is back in Liberia continuing his medical practice at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia. Sacra arrived in Liberia on 18 January 2015 after being infected with the Ebola Virus Disease last August.

He was flown to the U.S. for treatment after spending three days in the ELWA Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in August 2014. As the third American Ebola patient, Sacra was released from the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on 26 September after receiving an experimental drug,

TKM-Ebola, supportive care and blood serum from Ebola survivor, Dr. Kent Brantly. According to doctors, it is not clear which treatment saved his life. Sacra, a family physician and missionary, looking back at his experience working at the ELWA Hospital, believes he contracted the disease while delivering babies and performing C-sections during the height of the Ebola crisis.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, disease hunters trained:

UNDP MCBI Trains Additional 200 Active Case Finders

At least two hundred community volunteers have been trained to conduct Active Case Finding in district 16 in Montserrado County. The one day exercise was conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Montserrado Community Based Initiative (MCBI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The training of the 200 volunteers is intended to scale up the work of 1,300 volunteers already deployed in at least 5 districts in Montserrado County involved in identifying Ebola cases, conducting door-to-door sensitization and provide psycho-social among others.

The training of the two hundred community volunteers comes as the response to the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic moves to a second phase, with the focus shifting from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic in Liberia and the other two most affected countries.

The Liberian Observer covers praise offered:

UNDP Boss Lauds Bomi for Ebola Progress Response

The Country Director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has lauded the people of Bomi County for the level of progress made in combating the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD).

Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen said he was pleased that the county level support provided by the UNDP to Bomi and other counties has immensely helped in the EVD response in the country.

“We are here to monitor the progress that we are making with the support that the UNDP has been providing to Bomi County at the local level in response to the EVD,” Dr. Kamaluddeen said in Tubmanburg, Bomi County recently during a fact finding visit.

And from Heritage, some good news:

No new Ebola case in Cape Mount in 2 weeks

The head of Grand Cape Mount County Health Team (CHT), Dr. Loraine Cooper, has revealed that the county has not recorded a new case of Ebola for more than two weeks now.

The last Ebola case recorded was in mid-January, when 33 cases were reported with a number of deaths, according to the Liberia News Agency(LINA) correspondent in the county.

Cooper made the statement recently at the County Ebola Taskforce coordination meeting held in Robertsport.

She said the rapid reduction in Ebola cases is a direct result of the citizens’ adherence to the preventive measures introduced by government, contrary to the past when the measures were largely ignored, raising the number of cases.

The News covers a visit that’s a perfect transition to out next item:

“Continue The Fight Against Ebola”

Guinean President Alpha Conde has urged Liberia and countries affected by Ebola to continue the fight not only against the virus, but its resultant consequences.  Conde stressed the need for Ebola-affected countries to devise a unified goal and understanding as they present their post-Ebola economic recovery plan to the international community.

The Guinean leader made the statement at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday when he led a Guinean delegation on a one-day solidarity visit to Liberia.  Conde, who is the current Chairman for the Mano River Union (MRU) countries, expressed gratitude over efforts made by the Liberian Government and people against the Ebola virus and hoped that the country will not register any new cases.

“Liberia and Guinea have a long history, and because we believe that the two nations are the same, a problem in Liberia also means a problem in Guinea. We have a common destiny in the turmoil we are facing,” Conde asserted.

And on to his country, and a troubling development from Reuters:

Red Cross Ebola teams in Guinea attacked 10 times a month

Red Cross teams in Ebola-hit Guinea have been attacked on average 10 times a month over the past year, the charity said on Thursday, warning that the violence was hampering efforts to contain the disease.

In the most recent incident last Sunday in the town of Forecariah about 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Conakry, two Red Cross volunteers were beaten while trying to conduct a safe burial, the charity said.

Ending traditional burials is seen as crucial to stopping the spread of the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 9,100 people, mainly in West Africa, because rituals often involve extensive contact with highly contagious corpses.

“As long as people have misconceptions about how Ebola is spread, and continue to prevent volunteers from doing their work, we will not stop the disease,” said Youssouf Traore, president of the Red Cross Society of Guinea.

On to Sierra Leone and signs of good news coming, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

‘Port Loko, Western Area will start recording zero infection soon’

  • assures NERC boss

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) yesterday assured Sierra Leoneans that Port Loko district and the Western Area will soon start to record zero Ebola infection.

Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh told newsmen that the two districts have accounted for about 60% of new infection cases in the last three weeks, adding that community mobilization was key in the Ebola fight.

“Let me assure you all here that the situation in Port Loko and Western Area will soon be put under control. They will start to record zero new infection, but again we must all be reminded that it will be difficult without the participation of everyone,” he said.

From the Sierra Leone Concord Times again, oue last offering and a warning:

Ebola: still a long way to go

  • UK Task Force chiefs brief media on progress

Heads of the UK’s Ebola Task Force in Sierra Leone gave joint interviews this week to two of Sierra Leone’s radio stations updating listeners on how the UK’s response to the Ebola crisis is progressing.

Speaking to Capital Radio’s Kris MacKormack and on SLBC’s “Tea Break” programme on Monday morning, Mr. Donal Brown from the UK’s Department for International Department (DFID) and Brigadier Andrew Hughes from the British Army said that headway has been made in fighting the disease but there is still a long way to go before life can return to normal.

Mr. Brown, who is leading the UK’s entire response in Sierra Leone, told Capital Radio: “The biggest challenge for everybody now is complacency. I think too many people in this country think the fight is over and it is not. The last mile will be the hardest we have got down to somewhere between about sixty and eighty cases nationwide a week but that is sixty or eighty cases too many.

“We already see people are slacking off on their behaviours, there are a lot more unsafe burials happening and people are not paying attention as they should do and there is always a danger that it will come back if we do not keep focused, so it is all about leadership now and focus.”