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When nature calls, there’s a problem in parts of Ghana

Majestic cloth, gold, welcoming people, rainforests and a cool Atlantic breeze. Ghana is steeped in culture and natural beauty. A flush toilet is hard to find, and the media are helping to potty train the government. Ghanaians are known to squat on the beach, in the bush, or wide open spaces of any city or town. Government billboards explicitly warn: "Beaches are not toilets – Don't do it here." Ghana is one of the worst countries when it comes to access to basic sanitation such as toilets. Some 5.7 million people are forced to relieve themselves in the open, according to the World Health Organization. The West African country is ranked seventh worst when it comes to improving basic sanitation. Open defecation is hardly a problem confined to Ghana - it is common in other parts of Africa and Asia too. But in Ghana the media has now stepped in to press authorities to provide the facilities needed to alleviate the problem. "For a country that has attained 61 years of independence, is it not shameful, embarrassing, disgraceful, distasteful and unthinkable that the greatest danger to human health and general well-being of the citizenry of our dear nation is self-inflicted," The Finder newspaper wrote. In Accra New Town in the heart of Ghana's capital, most houses are build without toilet facilities. "In reality, every house is supposed to have a toilet. But you know our people and how they build their houses – they don't locate any toilets. When nature calls, there is no place,” Bernice Ofei, a resident, told DW. "The only option for many is to go to the bush to defecate. Some had to use the neighbors' toilets," said Nana Abena. The plastic bags of human excrement that communities bother Abena. Heath risks Children and old people often can't hold on until they reach the communal public toilet or beat the queue, says Simon Keelson. "Some of the children defecate in polythene bags and throw it wherever they like, he said. "It is a worry because at times we know that the toilet is not good. At times they can attract flies and we can easily get diseases like cholera.” Sanitation experts and environmentalists have long worried raised concerns over the toilet habits of some people in Ghana. "Open defecation is a very serious threat to child-wellbeing and to maternal health. In fact, 19 percent of Ghanaians defecate in the open on a daily basis. And this is very serious,” said Attah Arhin, the vice chair of a non-governmental water and sanitation coalition . Toilets are expensive Some district assemblies in the country have pushed for households to build toilets or face prosecution. The government has run several campaigns, with a grant from the World Bank, to eliminate the problem. But they have been largely ineffective and political will is seen as lacking, with bylaws hardly enforced. To add a toilet to a home costs on average $230 (€197), more than most people can afford. The government admits that the unsightly problem is bad fortourism. Westerners especially avoid those beaches that have become public toilets. "We came on a tour, to ascertain for ourselves the state of the open defecation issue. We have to re-enforce the committment to fight this menace,” said Tourism Minister Catherine Afeku. "It can't be something that we leave it and say that is just the attitude. Nobody was born with this upbringing." In 2012, the World Bank estimated that Ghana's open defecation problem costs the country more than $79 million dollars a year. Media steps in The media is now working with sanitation experts to raise awarness and press authorities to invest more in sanitation. This week saw the launch of the Media Coalition against Open defecation (M-CODe) by media professionals across platforms countrywide. Its first call was directly to President Nana Akufo-Addo to declare a target date to end open defecation in Ghana. Cecil Nii Obodai Wentum of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation said the coalition wanted to see the government budget to ensure toilet facilities for all schools and homes. "We realized that over the years that there have been laws passed by our Assamblies and by national government to ensure that people have descent places of convenience. But these laws are not implemented," Justice Adoboe, the M-CODe coordinator told DW. "So we are joining this campaign to let government know that we know the laws exist so they should just enforce them, provide finances where finances are needed and do the right thing so that open defecation is eradicated." Linda Asante-Adjei, the vice president of the Ghana Journalists Association (GLA), also spoke out against the situation. "“We cannot continue spending money branding Ghana while we undermine those efforts with insanitary practices,” she told coalition members. Arhin said he hopes the upswing in advocacy for improved sanitation will bring about change. "As a country, we invest very little in sanitation. Our budget for sanitation is just about 0.5 percent, very little of our annual budget. We believe that with advocacy, if we keep hammering on the point of the importance of sanitation, government may listen." Benita van Eyssen contributed to this report.

Majestic cloth, gold, welcoming people, rainforests and a cool Atlantic breeze. Ghana is steeped in culture and natural beauty. A flush toilet is hard to find, and the media are helping to potty train the government. Ghanaians are known to squat on the beach, in the bush, or wide open spaces of any city or town. Government billboards explicitly warn: ... Read More »

WHO: Tobacco lobby blocking anti-smoking measures

Measures aimed at curbing tobacco-related deaths now reach more than 60 percent of the world's population, the WHO says. But attempts by the tobacco lobby to sway government policy remain a "deadly barrier." Tobacco controls and warnings about the dangers of smoking have quadrupled worldwide over the past decade, saving millions of lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In a report on the global tobacco epidemic the UN agency said tobacco was the world's leading cause of preventable death, killing 7 million people each year. "That's equivalent to wiping out the entire population of Bulgaria or Paraguay every year. That's not acceptable," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the report's launch in New York. Victims include 890,000 people who die annually from second-hand smoke exposure. In an effort to bring down those numbers, countries accounting for 4.7 billion people, or around 63 percent of the world's population, have implemented at least one measure recommended by the WHO, including bans on advertising, tax hikes, graphic health warnings and anti-smoking legislation. That's a "dramatic increase in life-saving tobacco control policies in the last decade," the report said, recalling that in 2007 only 15 percent of the world's population was covered. Powerful interests But despite certain control measures being rolled out in more places, the WHO pointed out that tobacco companies seeking to influence health policy continued to pose a serious problem. The report accuses tobacco giants of using deceitful tactics such as "exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry, discrediting proven science and using litigation to intimidate governments." It said such interference had stalled health policy developments, such as the creation of smoke-free public places or plain packaging, in many countries. It also warned that countries with partly state-owned tobacco companies should take steps to protect important health policy decisions from their commercial interests. One example is Japan, where the government has a stake in Japan Tobacco Inc. "I think in this special situation there might be a conflict of interest in economic revenues from a partly state-owned industry and health of the population," Kerstin Schotte, a WHO medical officer, told reporters in New York. Significant progress While almost 50 percent of the global population in 78 countries are exposed to strong graphic warnings on cigarette packs, only 15 percent live in countries that have implemented bans on advertising and promotion, the report said. It added that the most effective form of tobacco control - price increases - is one of the least used worldwide. At the report's launch, WHO director of prevention of noncommunicable diseases Dr Douglas Bettcher said developing countries had made significant progress in introducing warnings on packets and banning smoking in workplaces in recent years. He also praised efforts in Britain, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand, but pointed out that Germany is one of just two EU countries not to have complete advertising bans in force.

Measures aimed at curbing tobacco-related deaths now reach more than 60 percent of the world’s population, the WHO says. But attempts by the tobacco lobby to sway government policy remain a “deadly barrier.” Tobacco controls and warnings about the dangers of smoking have quadrupled worldwide over the past decade, saving millions of lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). ... Read More »

US boosts Syria aid, civilian evacuations urged

The US has upped its aid to Syria by $400 million (356 million euros) amid calls for the wounded to be removed from Aleppo. The Syrian regime's latest offensive has left 13 more people dead. The aid increase, announced by the US State Department on Tuesday, brings the total US humanitarian spending for Syria to about $5.9 billion since the conflict began in 2011. The money has been earmarked to help the United Nations and independent charities offer food, shelter, safe drinking water and medical care. The new US commitment was made hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross called for injured and sick civilians to be evacuated from besieged parts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, amid a worsening conflict. Global health and aid officials said safe corridors needed to be created to allow people to be removed safely. New areas targeted The Syrian regime, backed by Russian fighter jets, launched an offensive to retake rebel held areas of the war-ravaged city last week, following the breakdown of the latest ceasefire when an aid convoy was bombed from the air. The WHO said the city was running short of medical help for an estimated 250,000 civilians, stranded around rebel-held districts of Aleppo. "All access routes to east Aleppo are closed, leaving no options for the civilian population to leave the besieged area," the WHO's statement said. "The remaining 25 health facilities in east Aleppo city are on the verge of complete destruction, including seven hospitals that are fully or only partly functioning," it added. At the same time, a Syrian military official vowed that the latest regime offensive would continue until insurgents are "wiped out." Rising death toll Thirteen more civilians were killed in air strikes in the eastern part of the city on Tuesday, rescue workers said, bringing the death toll since September 19 to 262, including 42 children. Syrian state TV said its troops captured Farafra, a rebel-held area, close to Aleppo's famous citadel on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also confirmed that regime forces had advanced against rebels in the Old City. "There was intense shelling earlier [in eastern Aleppo.] It seemed the [government] was preparing for the attack," said Ibrahim Alhaj, a member of volunteer first responders also known as the White Helmets, who operate in opposition controlled areas of Syria. A senior Syrian rebel official told the Reuters news agency that regime forces had attacked rebel-held areas on four fronts during the day. Germany has called for a temporary no-fly zone for military aircraft over Syria to allow aid agencies to distribute aid.

The US has upped its aid to Syria by $400 million (356 million euros) amid calls for the wounded to be removed from Aleppo. The Syrian regime’s latest offensive has left 13 more people dead. The aid increase, announced by the US State Department on Tuesday, brings the total US humanitarian spending for Syria to about $5.9 billion since the ... Read More »

New cases of Ebola found in Liberia, health authorities say

Officials have reported that three new cases of Ebola were found not far from the capital of Monrovia. The discovery comes not long after the country was declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization. Health officials reported on Friday that three new cases of Ebola were found in Liberia. The diagnoses are a setback for the region as it struggles to end the epidemic. The first case was discovered in a 10-year-old boy living on the outskirts of the nation's capital Monrovia. Two of his close relatives have also since tested positive, said Heath Minister Bernice Dahn. "The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came into contact with the patient have been notified," she said at a news conference. All six of the boy's family members, along with others who had high-risk contact are being cared for at an Ebola treatment unit in Paynesville. "We know how Ebola spreads and we know how to stop Ebola but we must remain vigilant and work together," Dahn said. "The fight against Ebola is not over, but we can't lose hope." Authorities are not sure how the boy contracted the disease since he had no history of contact with an Ebola victim or survivor and none of the family members had left the Monrovia area. Liberia was originally declared Ebola-free back in May, only to see a resurgence of the disease that left two people dead. The World Health Organization (WHO) then once again declared the country free of the disease on September 3. Ongoing epidemic The outbreak, which started in December 2013, killed roughly 11,300 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, but was thought to have been beaten for the most part. Sierra Leone has since been declared Ebola-free, while Guinea has begun the 42-day countdown necessary to declare itself also free of the disease. Liberia has registered more than 10,600 cases and 4,808 deaths since the beginning of the Ebola epidemic.

Officials have reported that three new cases of Ebola were found not far from the capital of Monrovia. The discovery comes not long after the country was declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization. Health officials reported on Friday that three new cases of Ebola were found in Liberia. The diagnoses are a setback for the region ... 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 »

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 »

WHO to send team to South Korea to respond to MERS outbreak

جنوبی کوریا میں میرس وائرس کی نشاندہی کے بعد اسکول بند کر دیے گئے ہیں۔ حکام نے بتایا کہ میرس سے اب تک چار افراد ہلاک ہو چکے ہیں اور اس وائرس کو مزید پھیلنے سے روکنے کے لیے انتہائی اقدامات اٹھائے جا رہے ہیں۔ مزید یہ کہ ملک بھر میں سات سو سے زائد اسکولوں کو بند رکھنے کا اعلان کیا گیا ہے۔ نظام تنفس کو متاثر کرنے والے اس وائرس سے دنیا بھر میں چار سو سے زائذ افراد ہلاک ہو چکے ہیں۔ شمالی کوریا نے بھی پڑوسی ملک میں اس وائرس کے بڑھتے ہوئے واقعات پر تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

The WHO has said it will send a team to South Korea to assist in local efforts to contain an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. This followed the news that a fourth South Korean has died from the disease. A statement posted on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website on Friday said the team, to be led by its ... Read More »

Cholera kills Burundi refugees from Bujumbura fighting

The UN has warned that a deadly cholera outbreak, which has killed some 30 refugees from unrest in Burundi, could get worse. Tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries, with violence raging in the capital. A World Health Organization official on Thursday said at least 30 people had died from a cholera outbreak in a Tanzanian camp for refugees from Burundi, with the number at risk of contracting the disease growing every day. The WHO has warned that a "severe humanitarian crisis" is emerging in Tanzania because of the influx from Burundi, which lies on its western border. The UN health body said between 500 and 2,000 Burundians were arriving each day in the small Tanzanian fishing village of Kagunga, which lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Cholera, a highly-infectious water and food borne disease that causes diarrhea, leads to severe dehydration, resulting in possible death. The charity Oxfam warned the risk of disease was "dangerously high," and that "clean water, medical care and proper sanitation are urgently needed." Oxfam, which is trying to install taps and latrines in Kagunga, warned that the flood of people was "a ticking time bomb for disease." "Children under five are most at risk, and with no access to clean drinking water, and next to no sanitation, it is a life-threatening situation for many," the charity said. About half of those living in the refugee areas are believed to be children. Two protesters shot Anti-government protesters are opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to run for a third term of office, which they say is unconstitutional and violates the terms of a peace deal that, in 2006, ended a 13-year civil war. A Red Cross spokesman on Thursday told the Associated Press news agency that two protesters had been shot dead as violence escalated between police and protesters. Alexi Manirakiza said one of the protesters was shot dead in the Bujumbura's Ngagara neighborhood, while another died in the Musuga district - a key flashpoint where shooting was heard overnight. If confirmed, those deaths would raise the toll from violence in the capital to at least 18 since protests began three weeks ago. Hundreds returned to the streets on Thursday, chanting anti-government slogans and singing. Army cohesion 'crucial' Nkurunziza, in an address to the nation late Wednesday, played down the unrest and claimed that most of the central African country was secure. "Peace and security reign over 99.9 percent of Burundian territory and population are going about normally in their activities," Nkurunziza said in a state radio broadcast. Newly-appointed Defense Minister Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye appealed for unity after a failed coup was crushed by loyalist forces after street fighting between rival factions. A military statement warned that the cohesiveness of the army was vital, and that any splintering might result in a situation similar to that in nearby Somalia.

The UN has warned that a deadly cholera outbreak, which has killed some 30 refugees from unrest in Burundi, could get worse. Tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries, with violence raging in the capital. A World Health Organization official on Thursday said at least 30 people had died from a cholera outbreak in a Tanzanian camp for refugees ... Read More »

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