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Alarm in Ghana over rise in unsafe abortions

Unsafe abortions put women's lives unnecessarily at risk. In Ghana, the high fatality rate is prompting calls for the easing of the abortion law so safe termination of pregnancy is within reach of all who desire it. Ten years ago, at the age of 18, Adease got pregnant. The young Ghanaian wasn't married and so her parents forced her to have an abortion. It was an ordeal, she told DW. "I walk into a small room and there were people lying on the floor and I had to pass them and lie down on a metal bed with a pillow. I wake up and I am feeling very weak and I can't really help myself. So the nurse took me out, my dad was there, and my dad took me home. We got home, I was bleeding all night. For a week, I was still bleeding," she said. Adease recovered but probably only because her father took her later to a proper medical facility. Another Ghanaian woman, Diane, now aged 35, has undergone eleven separate abortions, all unsafe and all carried out by herself with only her boyfriend at her side. "I didn't have any medicine or anything, the only thing I go to buy is pain killers, until the last one I did - for that one I ended up in hospital," she said. Diane also knew someone who didn't survive an unsafe abortion. "I had one friend, she didn't come back again, she died." A report by Ghana's Adolescent Health and Development Program said that the number of unsafe abortions in 2009 was over 8,000. By 2010, the figure had climbed to more than 10,000 and the following year, it was as high as 16,000. More recent figures were not available. Unfriendly facilities Unintended pregnancies are generally not socially acceptable in Ghana and official health centers can be forbidding places for young pregnant women. They may feel less intimidated in a less formal environment - sometimes with tragic consequences. Vincentia Mottey, who teaches at the Korle Bu Nursing and Midwifery Training College, admitted that medical facilities in Ghana have an image problem. "A teenager or underage person who is not married, coming alone, feels there is a stigma attached to it, so we need to make the facility itself more friendly," she said. Abortion is legal in Ghana but there are restrictions. If the fetus is damaged, if the pregnancy is endangering a woman's life or if it is the result of rape, then abortion is permitted under Ghanaian law. But most pregnant women wanting abortions don't fall into one of those three categories. The Marie Stopes medical charity with its slogan "children by choice, not by chance" is well known for its efforts to promote family planning in Ghana. It also carries out safe abortions. Maternal mortality Health rights activist Raphael Godlove Ahenu Junior said laws and attitudes must change. "Unsafe abortion is the second most common cause of maternal mortality," he told DW. But policy makers may feel they have to tread cautiously because of faith-based opposition to liberalizing abortion. According to figures released by the World Health Organization in July 2015, an estimated 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place worldwide each year, almost all in low- and middle-income countries. In new guidelines on health care, the WHO noted "the unwillingness of some health care professionals to provide safe abortion and post-abortion care."

Unsafe abortions put women’s lives unnecessarily at risk. In Ghana, the high fatality rate is prompting calls for the easing of the abortion law so safe termination of pregnancy is within reach of all who desire it. Ten years ago, at the age of 18, Adease got pregnant. The young Ghanaian wasn’t married and so her parents forced her to ... Read More »

Dozens quarantined after new Ebola death in Sierra Leone

A medical quarantine has been placed in Sierra Leone following the death of a middle-aged woman. The fatality is a setback for efforts in wiping out the deadly virus that's claimed thousands of lives in West Africa. Fifty people have been placed in quarantine following the death of a middle-aged woman in Sierra Leone, medical officials said Tuesday. The woman, understood to be aged in her mid-60s, died last Friday. A swab taken after her death confirmed she had contracted Ebola. The case is frustrating health officials, who just last week had celebrated the release of the last known Ebola patient from a hospital following successful treatment. That had raised hopes the west African nation may finally have beaten the devastating epidemic. "Ebola is like the main actor in a horror film. Defeat the actor and he is likely to get up again," Ibrahim Sesay of the National Ebola Response Center told a local radio station. "We are conducting an epidemiological investigation to trace the extent of the transmission." The woman had been sick for at least five days before authorities were alerted to her condition, he added. Following well rehearsed procedure, some 50 people considered high risk were placed in quarantine. The outbreak was reported in the village of Sella Kafta in the northern district of Kambia. The unnamed victim had not travelled to either Liberia or Guinea, two other countries also struggling to contain the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Some 11,300 people have been killed since the virus first emerged in December 2013 from Guinea. The World Health Organization says nearly 28,000 Ebola virus cases have been recorded since late 2013.

A medical quarantine has been placed in Sierra Leone following the death of a middle-aged woman. The fatality is a setback for efforts in wiping out the deadly virus that’s claimed thousands of lives in West Africa. Fifty people have been placed in quarantine following the death of a middle-aged woman in Sierra Leone, medical officials said Tuesday. The woman, ... Read More »

Study: Global life expectancy rises

A survey of major diseases and injuries in 188 countries has revealed that life expectancy has gone up by more than six years since 1990. People in Japan are likely to live the longest. Research published in "The Lancet" journal on Thursday found that people around the world are generally living longer, but are also spending longer periods of time battling illness and disability. Theo Vos, a professor at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington who led the analysis, noted that great strides had been made in global health, particularly in the fight against infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. "But now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability," he said. The researchers' main finding was that aggregated global life expectancy had risen by 6.2 years - from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013 when combining both sexes. For men, the figure stood at 68.8, compared with 74.3 for women. The study also published so-called HALE (Healthy Adult Life Expectancy) figures for all countries - the length of time somebody can hope to live without major illness or disability. The study highlighted that changes over the 23-year period varied from country to country, but in most cases were "significant and positive." The exceptions were Belize, Botswana and Syria, where healthy life expectancy - or years spent living without serious illness - saw no notable improvement. In some countries, including South Africa, Paraguay and Belarus, the outlook actually got worse. For example, in Lesotho and Swaziland - both landlocked kingdoms within southern Africa - people born in 2013 could expect to live about 10 fewer healthy years than people born there 20 years earlier. Countries such as Nicaragua and Cambodia, on the other hand, saw dramatic increases of around 14 years. Overall, Lesotho had the world's lowest healthy life expectancy, at 42 years. At the other end of the scale, Japan registered the highest healthy adult life expectancy, at just over 73 - with a life expectancy of over 83. According to the study, Singapore, Andorra, Iceland, Cyprus, Israel, France, Italy, South Korea and Canada are among the other countries, after Japan, where people can expect to live longer, healthier lives. Germany's overall life expectency stood at 80.6 years, with a healthy life expectency of roughly 68.8 years. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the study.

A survey of major diseases and injuries in 188 countries has revealed that life expectancy has gone up by more than six years since 1990. People in Japan are likely to live the longest. Research published in “The Lancet” journal on Thursday found that people around the world are generally living longer, but are also spending longer periods of time ... Read More »

Ebola death in Sierra Leone leads to mass quarantine

A village in northern Sierra Leone has been placed under quarantine after a post-mortem test revealed a man had died from Ebola. Several hospitals failed to recognize him as a potential victim of the disease. Earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the fewest weekly Ebola infections for over a year in West Africa. However the WHO also said it was bracing for a significant new outbreak in Sierra Leone, which alongside Guinea and Liberia, is one of the worst affected countries. In the week up to Sunday 26 July, there were four confirmed cases in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone. Those three included a patient who died after travelling from the capital Freetown to the northern district of Tonkolili. He was described by the WHO as posing "a substantial risk of further transmission." The patient had only been confirmed Ebola-positive after post-mortem testing. On Friday the WHO said more than 500 contacts had been identified "several of whom are deemed to be high risk." Investigations were continuing to establish the source of infection and trace all contacts. According to Hassan Abdul Sesay, a member of parliament from the region where the patient died, the man had traveled to his home village to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Northern Tonkolili district had not had a single case of Ebola in five months. The man was treated for fever at a local hospital but authorities did not consider it necessary to call the Ebola emergency number. Ebola's main symptom is fever which is also found in other illnesses such as malaria and typhoid. Sierra Leoneans 'fed up' The spokesman of the National Ebola Response Center, Sidi Tunis, told DW's correspondent in Freetown, Murtala Kamara, that a total of 624 people had been placed under quarantine, 503 in the village where the man died, the others in other villages where he had sought treatment as well as in the capital. Kamara said that the level of awareness in the country was high, largely due to information provided by local media. "Most people you talk to, even children, they know about the disease and how to take preventive measures." But the length of time it was taking to finally eliminate the disease was taking its toll. "To tell you the truth, the awareness is there but the disease has been in Sierra Leone for the past year and people are fed up. They want to see Ebola end. People are tired." Kamara said. Vaccine breakthrough? Good news came on Friday with the publication of results of the first efficacy test of the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine among people living in a high-danger zone. Study results published in the medical journal The Lancet showed that of 4,123 high-risk people in Guinea vaccinated immediately after someone close to them fell ill with Ebola, none caught the virus. The test, backed by drug firm Merck, the WHO and the governments of Canada, Norway and Guinea prompted the WHO to declare that the world is "on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine." WHO Director Margaret Chan said it was a potential "game changer." Trials are set to continue. The death toll from the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa exceeds 11,000.

A village in northern Sierra Leone has been placed under quarantine after a post-mortem test revealed a man had died from Ebola. Several hospitals failed to recognize him as a potential victim of the disease. Earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the fewest weekly Ebola infections for over a year in West Africa. However the WHO also ... Read More »

Ebola vaccine ‘100 percent effective’ in Guinea trial

افریقہ میں کلینیکل تجربے کے دوران ایک نئی ایبولا ویکسین نے اس مہلک بیماری کے خلاف سو فیصد تحفظ فراہم کیا ہے۔ عالمی ادارہٴ صحت کے مطابق اس کامیاب تجربے کے ساتھ ہی دنیا کو ایبولا کے خلاف مؤثر ترین ویکیسن حاصل ہو گئی ہے۔ یہ کامیاب تجربہ افریقی ملک گنی میں کیا گیا، جہاں یہ ویکسین چار ہزار سے زائد متاثرہ افراد کو فراہم کی گئی۔

An experimental Ebola vaccine tested on thousands of people during a medical trial in Guinea shows it to be 100 percent effective. The results have been described as “remarkable” by health care professionals. The world is, for the first time, close to being able to protect humans against the Ebola virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday, as data ... Read More »

EU regulators give green light to world’s first malaria vaccine

European regulators have recommended licensing the world's most advanced malaria vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said its advantages outweighed the fact that it is only about 30 percent effective. The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, which is being developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was given the go-ahead "for use outside the European Union" on Friday, despite attaining mixed results in years of testing. "The CHMP (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use) concluded that despite its limited efficacy, the benefits of Mosquirix outweigh the risks," the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement. Final results of a trial with the vaccine, which also goes under the name of RTS,S and is intended for use with young children, were published in the medical journal "The Lancet" earlier this year. They show that the vaccine protects about 30 percent of children, but that the effects wear off over time, even when booster shots are administered. Despite this partial effect, the drug remains the most advanced vaccine that has so far been developed to combat the mosquito-borne disease, which kills around 1,200 children in sub-Saharan Africa on average per day. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five. 'Supplementary treatment' The World Health Organization says on its website that it is considering using the vaccine "as an addition to" existing treatments and not as a substitute for them. The vaccine has been developed with backing from the non-profit group PATH Malaria Vaccine initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create. GSK has promised it will make no profit from Mosquirix, taking only a 5-percent profit that it will reinvest in more research on malaria and other tropical diseases. Malaria infects around 200 million people a year, and killed an estimated 584,000 in 2013, the overwhelming majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

European regulators have recommended licensing the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said its advantages outweighed the fact that it is only about 30 percent effective. The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, which is being developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was given the go-ahead “for use outside the European Union” on Friday, despite attaining mixed results ... Read More »

WHO: Increase taxes to curb smoking

The WHO has said that governments should increase tobacco taxes to curb the unhealthy practice. Six million people die yearly from smoking, but the figure may rise to 8 million by 2030, reported the UN agency. In a report entitled "The Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015," the World Health Organization (WHO) said that too few governments have implemented the UN health agency's recommendations to increase tobacco taxes to curb practice. The WHO recommended that at least 75 percent of the price of a cigarette pack should be tax. "Raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective - and cost-effective - ways to reduce consumption of products that kill, while also generating substantial revenue," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan noted in the report. The WHO report added that one person dies roughly every six seconds from tobacco-related diseases. About 6 million people die from smoking yearly, although the figure is set to increase to 8 million by 2030 if governments do not implement programs - such as increasing taxes - to curb tobacco use. Meanwhile, out of the 194 WHO member countries, only 33 have levied taxes on tobacco products amounting to 75 percent of the overall sales price. In 2008, countries which had implemented the WHO's recommendations amounted to 22, marking an increase of 11 countries in 2015. However, the UN health agency said in the report that it was not enough. In France, a country that has seen a steady rise in tobacco-related taxes since the early 1990s, as recorded a notable drop in its lung cancer death rate since the middle of the decade. Jose Luis Castro, president of the World Lung Foundation, said that the WHO's message was clear, according to Reuters news agency. "This report confirms that a failure to increase taxes on tobacco products will certainly lead to more premature death and disease, particularly in low and middle income countries with high levels of smoking and where tobacco is affordable," Castro said in reference to the report.

The WHO has said that governments should increase tobacco taxes to curb the unhealthy practice. Six million people die yearly from smoking, but the figure may rise to 8 million by 2030, reported the UN agency. In a report entitled “The Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said that too few governments have implemented the UN health ... Read More »

Liberia finds two new Ebola cases, reviving fears

Liberian officials say at least two people caught Ebola from a teenager who died of the virus. The country had battled West Africa's most recent outbreak for over a year before being declared free of Ebola in early May. On Wednesday, Liberia confirmed two new Ebola cases in the town where doctors found the virus on the corpse of 17-year-old Abraham Memaigar seven weeks after officials had declared the country free from the virus on May 9. Health officials told the news agency AFP that the infected pair had come into physical contact with Memaigar before his death on Sunday in a village near the country's international airport, about an hour's drive southeast of the capital, Monrovia, a city of about 1 million people. "One hundred and two contacts have been identified, although that number is expected to increase as investigations continue," the World Health Organization said in its latest report. "At this stage the origin of infection is not known." Liberia continues to reel from an outbreak that killed 4,800 people. Guinea and Sierra Leone have also battled Ebola, which claimed more than 11,200 lives in 18 months across West Africa. 'Not done' Liberia had reported its last victim on March 20. However, Health Minister Bernice Dahn said that additional cases were now likely. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a news conference in Washington that the new Ebola death served as "a warning to us that the job is not done." Experts say Memaigar could have become infected with a new variant of the virus, perhaps from an animal such as a fruit bat, rather than from a human. However, some worry that clusters of Ebola could continue to smolder under the surface, outside of the gaze of local or international health authorities. Ebola's incubation period - the time between infection and recognizable symptoms - can last several weeks. Moses Massaquoi, the head of the Liberian government's Ebola management department, said that 14 conventional health workers among the people identified to have had contact with Memaigar placed themselves in voluntary quarantine. Ebola spreads among humans via the bodily fluids of recently deceased victims and people showing symptoms of the tropical fever, which include vomiting, diarrhea and - in the worst cases - massive internal and external hemorrhaging. During the months of peak transmission from August to November last year, Liberia became the setting for some of the most shocking scenes from the outbreak, by far the biggest in recorded history. The country reported more than 300 new cases a week. Three hundred and seventy-eight health workers became infected, with 192 dying.

Liberian officials say at least two people caught Ebola from a teenager who died of the virus. The country had battled West Africa’s most recent outbreak for over a year before being declared free of Ebola in early May. On Wednesday, Liberia confirmed two new Ebola cases in the town where doctors found the virus on the corpse of 17-year-old ... Read More »

‘Abortion drone’ delivers abortion pills in Poland

Abortion in Poland is largely illegal, but a pro-choice group is hoping to change that. "Women on Waves" delivers abortion pills by drone to Poland to raise awareness. Louise Osborne reports from Slubice, Poland. With rotors spinning and packs of pills hanging below, a drone hovered across the German-Polish border on Saturday to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland, where the procedure is illegal. "Women on Waves," a non-profit organization of doctors and activists from the Netherlands, flew the so-called "abortion drone" from Germany and over the Oder River into the Polish border town of Slubice to highlight Poland's restrictive abortion laws. Women on Waves have so far delivered two packs of mifepristone and misoprostol pills to two women. It was the first time the organization had delivered abortion drugs using a drone, but Gunilla Kleiverda, a gynecologist with Women on Waves said they'd already been asked about sending the medicine to Ireland and had considered similar action to send pills to Brazil from Uruguay. Despite German police trying to prevent the action taking place in Slubice, the World Health Organization approved pills made it to the other side, where women were waiting to use them. Marta, a 30-year-old from Warsaw, who took one of the tablets, said she was "outraged" that she was not able to legally get hold of such methods in her home country. "It's adding to a lot of stress," she said. "I don't like how me wanting the right to have a safe and legal abortion makes me fall into the picture of someone who's not responsible and doesn't have control. That's the discourse that's popular in Poland and that's so hurtful." Restrictive abortion laws Poland, a Roman Catholic Country, is one of only a few European countries where abortion is largely banned. It is only permitted when a woman's life or health is at risk, when the fetus is severely malformed or when there is evidence of the pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. However, fear of prosecution means that even in cases where abortion would be allowed, doctors are often scared of carrying out the procedure, says Kleiverda. "We have evidence that a 14-year-old girl who was raped wasn't helped by doctors," she said. "Women don't receive the care even when they are legally entitled…We can't change the law, but we can create attention, and then the people in the country will have to take their own action." Pro-life activists had vowed to shoot down the drone, but instead showed up to protest against the action after the pills had been delivered. Around a dozen demonstrators handed out small plastic fetuses and stood holding placards. "I understand that it's very difficult for the women, but on the other side it's a life, it's a child," Teresa Skraburska, a midwife and member of the Polish Catholic Mission in Berlin, says holding a banner showing a hanging child within the body of a woman. "It's the duty of society to take these women and children and to help them. The children can be given up for adoption," she says. "But the problem is that it's a difficult procedure and women can get these tablets so easily. But it's the responsibility of the state to give these women another option." A lack of safe options The underground abortion industry in Poland is thought to be thriving. At least 50,000 illegal abortions are estimated to take place each year, with many other women traveling to surrounding countries, like Germany, to get the procedure, according to UN figures. "There are very desperate women who would pay anything. But women who can afford that are the lucky ones, there are many women who can't," said Marta. A lack of sufficient sex education in schools and access to contraception and relevant information in Poland means there is a need for safe abortions for women, Kleiverda adds. Still, despite the problems, Malgorzata Prokop Paczkowski, a member of parliament with the Twoj Ruch party, said legislation in Poland is unlikely to change any time soon. "It's quite sure that in October right-wing parties will be in parliament, and there will be a complete ban on abortion," she said. For women wanting a choice, she said, there is little hope. But she added that "maybe thanks to action like this, Polish citizens will understand that by giving power to right-wing parties, they are taking away their freedom. Freedom is the most important thing and Polish women should have the same rights as those people on the other side of the Oder."

Abortion in Poland is largely illegal, but a pro-choice group is hoping to change that. “Women on Waves” delivers abortion pills by drone to Poland to raise awareness. Louise Osborne reports from Slubice, Poland. With rotors spinning and packs of pills hanging below, a drone hovered across the German-Polish border on Saturday to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland, ... Read More »

Ebola reappears in Sierra Leone’s capital after several weeks without new cases

After recording no new cases since May, Freetown confirmed that two local patients have contracted the deadly Ebola virus. Health officials imposed a curfew in the border cities where the outbreak may have originated. Two new cases of Ebola were confirmed in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown on Tuesday, following several weeks without any new infections, emphasizing the challenge facing the region in completely eradicating the outbreak. The National Ebola Response Center (NERC) announced that it thought the two new cases came to the capital from northwestern towns near the border with Guinea, an area of the country still reeling from last year's unprecedented spread of the disease in West Africa. In an effort to contain the deadly virus, NERC has ordered a 6 pm to 6 am curfew in the border towns of Port Loko and Kambia. "We must maintain zero cases ... until the last person is out of the treatment center," NERC director Paulo Conteh told the press. NERC spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis said the two new cases are particularly worrying as they come from a thickly populated slum in Freetown that is not equipped with adequate hygiene facilities. Nearly 27,341 people have been infected with Ebola since the disease broke out in Guinea in December 2013, and more than 11,000 have been killed by the hemorrhagic fever according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Sierra Leone, of the around 13,000 who have been infected, more than 3,900 have died.

After recording no new cases since May, Freetown confirmed that two local patients have contracted the deadly Ebola virus. Health officials imposed a curfew in the border cities where the outbreak may have originated. Two new cases of Ebola were confirmed in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on Tuesday, following several weeks without any new infections, emphasizing the challenge facing the ... Read More »

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