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Archive for January 15th, 2009

Salary Negotiations – a learning process

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

Posted by Daniel Kamau

Salary Negotiations: the Basics

Congratulations! You’ve landed the job. Now to take home the package that is most commensurate with your skills, ability, experience and the job responsibilities. Bayt.com reveals some basic tools to use when you ask the employer to show you the money!

Negotiate

Yes, do negotiate. Employers actually EXPECT you to negotiate your package even when they pretend they don’t so don’t deprive them, or yourself, of that pleasure.

Negotiate After You Have An Offer

The time to negotiate your salary is after the employer has decided he wants you on board and has made you a concrete offer – not in the elevator on the way up to the Interview or after an interview question you think you’ve particularly aced. An offer indicates that the employer wants you on board and is convinced you have the skillset and potential to be a valuable addition to the team. You now have the upper hand and should use it to secure a compensation package commensurate with your worth. It is far easier to negotiate a satisfactory package at this stage when the employer really wants you and is focused on getting you on board, than after you are on board and firmly entrenched at a given salary level and job description. It is unlikely you will ever be in a better position to negotiate a good package than you are at this stage.

Establish Job Responsibilites

Clarify your job responsibilities before beginning to negotiate the compensation. Make sure you have all the facts pertaining to the new position and are very clear about your role, responsibilities and the job title. This detailed knowledge of the position will come in handy as you negotiate your package.

Determine Your Salary Range Beforehand

Before you can begin negotiating, you need to determine a salary range that you can base your discussions with the employer on.

Firstly, determine the minimum salary you could possibly accept, and make sure this is a salary that you can survive on. This minimum is not to be revealed to the employer in your negotiations.

Next, determine a reasonable mid-point salary based on what the job responsibilities are, what you have to offer the employer and what you are worth in the market. To get a realistic idea of what the position is worth, research the market. Look at published annual salary surveys and job ads for similar positions in newspapers, magazines and on internet job sites and talk to friends in the industry and recruitment agents. If you are applying to a position at the right level, there should not be a large discrepancy between what the position is worth based on your research and what you are worth based on your experience, education, compensation history and what you have to offer the position.

Finally, determine an extremely generous salary level that is not too unrealistic for the position and that you would be extremely ecstatically happy to receive.

Get the Employer to Reveal his Hand First

Always get your employer to reveal his hand first to avoid pricing yourself out of the game or limiting the discussions prematurely. If you are first to put a number on the table, you run the risk of being perceived as ‘overqualified’ if your range is too high or casting doubts on your professional abilities and track record if you shortsell yourself. Revealing your expectations or salary history will limit your negotiating range and remove a lot of the leverage you otherwise have.

Often, the employer will make you a verbal offer and throw the salary ball into your field by asking you what salary you expect, or what salary you made in your previous position. Try to throw the ball right back in the employer’s field by countering with another question, such as “What do you think someone with my track record, experience and sk ills could make in this position?” or “You now have a good idea of my skills and track record and potential. What do you think is a fair salary given the job’s requirements and responsibilities?”

Do not reveal your previous salary if you can possibly help it. Focus the discussion instead on what your background, responsibilities and potential contributions are worth in this position. Your goal should be to maximize your worth and potential value to this employer through effective negotiation – the value your previous employer placed on you should be irrelevant. Remember, what you are worth to this employer is a function of the value-added you can bring to this particular job and your potential contributions in the new role, not a function of how your skills were utilized (or misutilized) in the last job.

If absolutely pressed for a number and the employer will not give you an idea of his target range despite all your best efforts to gain the upper hand, you can present the employer with the range you have determined beforehand. The ‘expected’ salary range you reveal will have what is really your midpoint as the minimum, with the upper bound representing your ‘dream’ salary. Make sure you always start your negotiations with a range, not a specific salary level.

Let the Games Begin

You are now officially at the starting line, equipped with a verbal offer, your own well-studied salary range and a solid understanding of your job responsibilities in this new role. The negotiations will be fired either with the employer revealing his salary range for the position or, despite all your best efforts to reverse the roles, you revealing your predetermined ‘expected’ salary range first.

Best case scenario: You have played your cards right and the employer extends you an offer that is at the upper bound or significantly above your expectations. Your downside risk has been eliminated and you can now focus your discussions on making a good situation even better. If your predetermined salary range was $75,000-$90,000 and the employer has offered you $90,000 – $95,000, you can counter with something akin to “That is close to the range I had in mind. My expectations given my background and the job responsibilities were closer to $95,000 – $105,000 with $95,000 really having been my very minimum. How much flexibility do you have on the upside?”

Worst case scenario: You have prematurely limited your negotiating range by revealing your hand too soon and the employer counters with a lower range, or the employer starts the negotiations with an offer below your expectations. This is where your negotiating savvy really comes into play.

Before you begin to negotiate, make sure you and the employer are roughly in the same ballpark. If your well researched and well thought out range of $75-90,000 was met with an offer of $50-55,000 from the employer, you have either misconstrued the job responsibilities or the employer is paying significantly below the market. This is where your minimum salary comes in. Does the range meet your minimum threshold? If not and your negotiations don’t bring you upto that minimum requirement, this may well be the wrong position and/or company for you!

Justify Your Counter-Offer

Your $75-90,000 range was met with a $70-75,000 offer from the employer. All is not lost. You will keep the discussion alive by coming back with a sell proposition along the lines of “Well let me see, the job’s responsibilities as I understand them are ABC” at which time you carefully recite in detail all the various aspects of the job. “I really feel that someone with my track record and qualifications could be making a minimum of $75,000 on the job. I was actually looking for a salary much closer to the $80,000 mark.” You then proceed to justify your ra nge. Confirm to the employer that you are very interested in working with the company and that you feel you would really fit into the team and could make a significant contribution there. Recap on your most relevant work experience and mention again the skills you will immediately put to productive use on the job. Mention that you feel your ideal salary is actually very realistic given your experience and the job requirements.

Gain Leverage by Negotiating the Job Responsibilities

If the employer’s range is carved in stone despite all your well-rehearsed negotiation tactics, move to another stone. You do this by altering the role, albeit modestly to justify a higher salary. This is where your detailed knowledge of the position comes in.

You can do this in three ways. Firstly, you can add to the list of job requirements a task or responsibility you have thought of beforehand; one that you have either read about, thought of yourself or heard about from a friend in the industry. Secondly, you can seize on one of the problems the employer mentioned during the Interview and offer a solution that you would personally be responsible for. Thirdly, you can ask the employer outright, what added responsibilities he would ideally like to have the person holding this job ultimately assume if they were brought upto speed quickly enough. Another way to pose the latter question is what added responsibilities or areas does the employer wish your predecessor had taken charge of. Asking the question “What are some of the areas you would like improved on” or “What are some of the problems that my predecessor faced” during the Interview comes in useful at this stage of the negotiations as you try to establish additional value-added ground.

The ‘business solution’ or added responsibility you come up with need not be monumental; in fact you should refrain from making any big promises. It can be something as simple as a Marketing Executive offering to arrange a brief monthly newsletter for the firm’s clients, or a database that would speed client reporting up, or a slightly revised format for the monthly reports that would be more visually appealing. The important thing is that once you have elevated the position to a slightly higher plateau, you can then proceed to justify your ‘ideal’ salary as commensurate with the increased responsibilities. You can go back to the employer with “From what I understand, my role in this position would be XYZ. However, I am also bringing to the job the following function(s) and responsibilities . . . ” at which point you recant the additional responsibilities.

Justifying your desired salary as being commensurate with a higher level of responsibility is an excellent way to jumpstart stalled negotiations.

Negotiate the Package not just the Salary

You should be ready to negotiate the entire package, not just the salary. Remember that you can enhance a less than stellar salary by negotiating the perks. If your most ardent, well-rehearsed salary negotiation tactics were ineffective at boosting the starting salary, you can try to gain the lost ground at this stage of the game. Your discussions can include medical insurance, car and housing allowance, children’s education, plane tickets home for expats, club memberships and further education and professional training for yourself. Try to get any courses, seminars or further education you intend to take included in your package. In many industries you can negotiate a guaranteed bonus at a given date or a sign-up bonus. You can try to secure a commitment to a minimum salary increase and/or title promotion at a prespecified date in the future providing you meet certain performance criteria. At the very minimum, you can ask for a performance (and salary) review a few months after joining*

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If Goldenberg was small, Anglo Leasing had to be created – now we have the mother of all scams

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

The Kenyan affair:


I believe that History should give us valuable lessons as to how to approach the future, or how to solve similar problems that confront us with historical perspective. Thats why we learn History.

But in the Kenyan scenario, History has a fond way of repeating itself. We seem to relish historical issues that we compete to make History with the ammount of Mega scams that we create.

If Goldenberg was small, Anglo Leasing had to be created. Now we have the Mother of all scams. And they are at the heart of the common man. We are getting hurt by the ping pong games being played in the Oil and Maize sectors.

To solve all these problems, we do not need commissions, task forces, or creation of Departments such as Efficiency Monitoring Unit, Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, National Anti Corruption Campaign Commission and such money guzzling things.

We need the President to do his work for which we elected him. He must stop corruption. One word from him and the vice will be gone.

But as long as the President condones corruption, not anyone else would do anything.

Odhiambo T Oketch,
Komarock Nairobi.

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Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga says there is no place for men in the upbringing of children

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

PM condems terrorism

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has condemned terror activities that claimed the lives of two prominent members of the Mahatma Gandhi family.

Speaking when he paid tribute to India’s liberation icon Mahatma Gandhi one room house, Raila said he felt a sense of awe and “debt to humanity” when he stood in the house where Gandhi was born in Portbunder City before moving to Ahmedabad City in Gujarat.

On Sunday, Raila visited the place Gandhi grew up in Ahmedabad.

“The life that Gandhi lived, and his death in the hands of enemies of freedom, shows that if you live and die for your country, your name will never die,” Raila said outside the house where Gandhi was born, now a place of worship and a meuseum.

Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Roads Minister Chris Obure and Msambweni MP Kazungu Kambi, the PM said Mahatma Gandhi gave manking one of the greatest gifts; non-violent resistance adding that the ideology has stood the test of time.

The Gandhi family, Raila said, had stood up for India and changed its course at critical moments in history adding that they never lived or died in vain.

Raila said Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1984, and her son Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated while campaigning in 1991 both led India at critical moments and pushed their parties to overwhelming victories.

Raila used the visit to condemn recent terror attacks in Mumbai and asked “all nations of goodwill” to join hands in combating terrorism.

“Terrorism has no place in modern society. Humanity has lost great leaders who would have changed the history of mankind to terrorists. But it is my conviction that terrorists should not be allowed to win and will never win,” Raila said.

Later, Raila visited the Arya Kanya School for girls in neighbourhood of Gandhi’s birth place.

At the school, the PM paid tribute to the women of India who had aspired to high leadership positions, won them and left a mark.

Raila used the occasion to call for education geared towards instilling patriotism in citizens and more learning opportunities for the girl child.

The school by was initiated by a private citizen who brought in a girl from the caste of the untouchables in India to lay the foundation stone.

Raila said Indian women, despite rigid social and traditional laws, had risen to levels many others could only dream of.

“When we educate the girl child, we educate the entire family and the entire nation and there is no better place to say that than in India,” the PM said.

It’s women who raise families, not men. It’s women who inculcate values in children. Societies are better off when they educate the girl child,” he added.

SOURCE.KBC.KE

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Burundi’s rebel group to get new neame – Is change of name the same as change of heart?

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

BURUNDI: Name change to help legalise rebel party


Photo: Barnabe Ndayikeza/IRIN
The name change should enable FNL combatants to assemble at Rubira

BUJUMBURA, 13 January 2009 (IRIN) – The decision by Burundi’s last active rebel group to remove the word “Hutu” from its name should ease its registration as a political party, a senior government official said.

The name change from Parti pour la Libration du Peuple Hutu-Forces Nationales de Libration (Palipehutu-FNL) to Forces Nationales de Libration (FNL) was announced on 9 January.

“The change of name is a way to being legalised as a political party,” said the government representative in the Political Directorate, General Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Saying the FNL and government could now hold “positive talks on the legalisation process”, Ndayishimiye urged the movement to “quickly contact” the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for registering political parties.

The FNL had, since the return of its leader Agathon Rwasa from exile in May, demanded legal recognition as Palipehutu-FNL. Burundi’s constitution prohibits ethnic references in the names of political parties.

“The change has been a sacrifice for the salvation of the country,” Rwasa told reporters in Bujumbura on 9 January. “We thank all the partners in the [peace] process [and] call on all stakeholders to exploit it for stability of the country.”

The FNL, he added, wanted its registration to be concluded as quickly as possible, and would not go back to war because all its commanders took part in a campaign to change the name and allow the peace process to move forward.

Paul-Simon Handy, head of the Africa security analysis programme in the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, described the name change as a “breakthrough”.

However, he told IRIN, it needed to be translated into concrete political and military steps such as the socio-economic integration of FNL troops.

The Political Directorate, which is negotiating with the FNL on behalf of the government, urged the parties to Burundi’s peace talks to “resolve all outstanding issues preventing the verification and integration of the FNL into the national defence and security forces”. It also called on the FNL to release children associated with the movement.

According to government mediator Kingsley Mamabolo, the name change should move the peace process forward. FNL combatants, for example, should now join the Rubira assembly zone (in Bubanza province) which is ready to welcome at least 2,000 of them.

“Some 117 FNL combatants are already settled there,” he said. However, an agreement on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) has yet to be concluded.

“For now dates for the DDR cannot be set, we have to sit down and talk about it,” Mamabolo said. “The job is not finished.”

The Political Directorate urged the government to ensure, with support of the World Bank, that the necessary national structures for the DDR process are operational “as a matter of urgency”.

bd/eo/mw source.www.irinnews.org

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Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

COTE D’IVOIRE: Scavenging for food in rubbish tips


Photo: Alexis Adele/IRIN
A rubbish heap in the Treichville section of the commercial capital Abidjan

ABIDJAN, 13 January 2009 (IRIN) – Seven-year-old Ali Sangar held up two unopened packages of biscuits as if he had just won a prize.

This will be our breakfast tomorrow, he said gleefully.

Then he shoved his hands back into the rubbish pile to search for more edibles.

The mounting piles of rubbish in Cte dIvoires commercial capital Abidjan are a health hazard, but many children told IRIN they are also a daily source of food.

Scavenging in rubbish tips is nothing new – plastic bottles and other saleable items abound and can yield cash. But the children IRIN spoke to said that more and more they are sifting through the rubbish in search of food.

We bring it all home to sort out among the family, 12-year-old Mamoudou Traor told IRIN. We do not have money and we have to eat.

Poverty is on the rise in Cte dIvoire. Slightly under half of the countrys 20 million people are now below the poverty threshold, living on less than about US$1.25 per day – up from 38.4 percent in 2000 and the highest in 20 years, according to survey results released by the national statistics institute in November.

Up to a few months ago we begged at the big intersections, Traor told IRIN. We used to be able to bring some money back to our families to buy food. But this no longer provides much because people are not so generous any more.

He said he and his friends used to be able to find plenty of leftovers at restaurants. But for a long time now, it is rare to see people leaving much on their plates. So we have had to look elsewhere.


Photo: Alexis Adele/IRIN
Youths seeking recyclables and food at a municipal dump in Abidjan

Traor and his friends said they often find in the rubbish stale or expired foods that shop- and restaurant-owners throw out, as well as produce like carrots, onions, oranges and bananas.

Risk

One hygiene expert told IRIN the health risk from the mounting trash heaps is greatest for the poorest groups.

These children are absolutely at risk of getting sick, said Adeline Aka of the NGO Villes Saines [healthy cities].

We all know that the increased poverty has changed families habits. But the situation can only become more critical if the rubbish around the city is not cleaned up. If people do not have enough money to feed themselves, they certainly do not have enough to get medical care.

Statistics from the Ivorian Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene show that in 2007 two-thirds of patients coming to public hospitals for consultations suffered illnesses linked to poor hygiene, including typhoid fever and cholera.

Serges Eholi, a specialist in infectious and tropical diseases at the main hospital in the Treichville section of Abidjan, recently told a local newspaper that health workers have been sounding the alarm for a long time about the dangers of rubbish dumps all over the city.

Arrears

The accumulation of rubbish is due largely to the governments failure to pay collection companies, according to industry officials. In the past couple of years the companies have launched strikes over arrears.

An official with the Ministry of Cities and Urban Health told IRIN that talks with the rubbish collection companies have so far gone nowhere.

It is not possible right now to pay them 10 billion CFA francs (US$20 million) [the amount the companies say they are owed], Guy Dsir Alb, the ministrys director of health and environment, told IRIN. He said the ministry is committed to making cities clean and healthy.

He pointed to the formation of a national agency for urban health, created in late 2007, saying you will see convincing results in the coming weeks.

aa/np/cb source.www.irinnews.org

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REVEALED:THE RITUAL KILLINGS IN LAKE -VICTORIA BOOST FISH HARVEST

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

api-benjaminochieng1

<BY BENJAMIN OCHIENG

THE African tradition practices are terrible threat to economical activity in Lake Victoria.

The inherited activity by generation after generation is to blame as the major source of death in the Lake region at the expense of fish harvest.

Before a boat is oriented into the Lake water for fishing or transport businesses, the entrepreneur must kill a close relative or a friend to oil the wheels of his business.

Because of this outdated practices, thousands of people in the community that live at the shores and depend on it for their economical ,agricultural and domestic activities have lost kins in mysterious circumstances.

The human sacrifice practiced in Suba, Mbita, Kendu Bay, Alego, Uyoma, Bondo and to disclose a few has now spread terror and fear to the luo community as who would be next in the death row, should a new boat be built.

This translates that should there be 50,000 boats in Nyanza alone, then 50,000 people are killed in exchange to the Lake trade. Albert Odhiambo, a fishmonger at Usenge, accepts that thebelief and the tradition is real. The Luo community at the shores are strong adherents to the cultural practice.

This as well put fish consumers on the spot. They risk accosting human body parts in the fish they buy from the lakeside cities.

It also pose a threat to cat fish, tilapia, nile perch, sudan scout and red tilapia that are exported to U.S, U.K, China, Australia, and Hong Kong, therefore denying Kenya foreign exchange earnings.

The victim to be killed is duked into a lake trip unknowingly at night. He is then pushed into the wateras if it was an accident. Should this deal fail, a witchdoctor is visited for paraphernalia for the targeted victim to perish in an accident on the road or thunder strike. A final dose of paraphernalia is issued by the witchdoctorto seal the reprisalof the dead with conditions to be met.And after this, the boat is okayed to operate Said Odhiambo…

ENDS

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Malawi has one of the world’s worst under-five mortality rates

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

MALAWI: SMS to fight malnutrition


Photo: IRIN
Malawi has one of the world’s worst under-five mortality rates

JOHANNESBURG, 13 January 2009 (IRIN) – For the first time in years, John Phiri*, a health extension worker in Malawi’s central Salima district, does not have to fill in a stack of forms during his monthly round of collecting data to monitor nutrition levels in the community.

Now he whips out his mobile phone and texts the data, including the height and weight of the children in the area, while covering his beat. The information is immediately captured by a computer that stores the national nutritional and food-security statistics in Lilongwe, the capital.

In previous years the data might have taken two months to be registered in the country’s Integrated Nutritional and Food Security Surveillance System. The quick collection and availability of data can help government and other aid agencies intervene if the statistics show a crisis is unfolding.

Malawi has one of the world’s worst under-five mortality rates: up to 120 infants in every 1,000 may die before they turn five, and 46 percent of children younger than five years are stunted – an indicator of the malnutrition level.

The RapidSMS system, as it is called, is on a four-month trial run that began in January 2009 in three districts of Malawi’s Central Province. The SMS (short message service) text message and web-based tool was developed by the Innovations and Development team of UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, and allows text messages to be captured via the internet.

''The quick collection and availability of data can help government and other aid agencies intervene if the statistics show a crisis is unfolding''

Besides the obvious advantage of speed and quality of data, the system also creates spreadsheets and graphs, allowing for easy interpretation of the data.

Yet doing away with the old system of completing questionnaires and sending them to the capital using the postal system has its drawbacks.

The new system is expensive. In Malawi it costs about 10 US cents to send a text message, “But we are in talks with the mobile phone service provider to make the service toll-free,” said Stanley Chitekwe, UNICEF’s nutrition manager.

Christopher Fabian, who co-heads UNICEF’s Innovations and Development team, maintains that the service is still cheaper than the manual collection of data. “The first week of the trial run only cost about $40.”

Replacing the questionnaire with only the numbers also means anecdotal information on household security, obtained via the questionnaire, is also lost. “We are aware of that we are trying to develop a system which will help us get a sense of household food security levels and coping strategies, and we hope to get the system running after four months,” Chitekwe said.

Even before it kicked off, the Malawi project, designed by UNICEF and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in the US, won first prize in the Development 2.0 Challenge, run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), for its innovative design for adapting a commonly accessible technology to monitor the health and nutritional status of children.

Tested in Ethiopia

The Malawian programme was developed after UNICEF’s success with the RapidSMS system in monitoring and delivering the protein-rich read-to-use therapeutic food, Plumpynut, in drought-hit Ethiopia in October 2008.

“It used to take the agency three to four months to respond [depending on when the information reached the head office] to shortages [of Plumpynut] in the 1,800 feeding centres in Ethiopia now the alerts get through within seconds,” said Fabian.

Before implementing the RapidSMS system in Ethiopia, initial field testing was done in northern Uganda by Sean Blaschke, a student at Columbia University who worked as a UNICEF intern during May 2008 in Uganda’s Kitgum district. The area is prone to Hepatitis E outbreaks, a disease caused mainly by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food.

UNICEF is also considering developing the system to monitor school attendance rates. “It can have any number of uses,” said Fabian. “We hope to make the system available, free of cost, to organisations and other implementing partners soon.”

* Not his real name

jk/he
source.www.irinnews.org

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30 Muslims in a remote region near the border with Mali told health officials they feared the vaccine would cause infertility – Kenya

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

BURKINA FASO: Are forced vaccinations ever justified?


Photo: Nicholas Reader/IRIN
Health officials immunised more than seven million people in a December 2008 yellow fever vaccination campaign in high-risk Burkinabe regions (file photo)

OUAGADOUGOU, 13 January 2009 (IRIN) – Local health officials in Burkina Faso recently threatened to use force against households refusing the yellow fever vaccine, according to a district medical director.

More than seven million people wereimmunised during a December yellow fever vaccination campaign in the countrys high-risk zones, according to the government. But some 30 Muslims in a remote region near the border with Mali told health officials they feared the vaccine would cause infertility, said the district medical director of Orodara.

Director Clement Meda told IRIN his efforts to persuade the community had failed. When we realised their reticence and refusal [to the vaccine], we sent in administrative and health officials to talk to them, but it did not work.

On 31 December at 4am, Meda said military police accompanied local doctors to households in the villages of Sokouraba and Samogohiri where children had not been immunised. We knew at that hour, they could not tell their children to run away from us and that the family would be home, Meda told IRIN. The men were the ones who had steadfastly refused access to their children. [Eventually], we were able to vaccinate all 30 [non-immunised persons].

Meda said with the police present, the men no longer protested.

The district medical director said the doctors were also able to immunise children for polio and gave vitamin A to women and children who had been found very weak.

Meda said another group of Muslims living in the same district had refused to immunise their children against polio during a 2005 campaign, based on fears the vaccine would make girls infertile. Health officials similarly used the threat of force in 2005, he told IRIN.

Private right vs. public good

Dan Wikler, an ethics professor in Harvard Universitys Department of Global Health and a former ethicist with the World Health Organization (WHO), said police-accompanied vaccinations may create long-term damage. The consequences may not be felt locally but this use of force could undermine vaccination efforts in other parts of the world if people come to associate public health with violence.

Health director Meda dismissed concerns that the use of force would sow fear in the population against future public health campaigns. Refusals are rare during these campaigns. There is no risk of negative consequences, in principle, based on our experience with [those who have refused]. They have since joined our other health initiatives.

Wikler raised the case of the 2003 ban on polio vaccinations by Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria, who claimed the vaccine was a Western ploy to spread HIV and sterilise Muslim girls. The boycott was responsible for the spread of polio to about a dozen countries, according to WHO.

Wikler told IRIN this polio vaccination campaign in Nigeria was a rare case that would have justified the threat of force to enforce compliance. But apart from exceptions like Nigerias battle against polio, he said health officials need to prepare other options to ensure compliance.

Positive force

He recommended establishing positive force linking immunisations to rewards to overcome resistance. These resisters must depend on authorities for services, like schooling. Make the immunisations required for students, or link them to other benefits the population may count on from government.

But Orodara medical director Meda said the families who originally refused the yellow fever vaccine do not register for birth certificates or allow their children to attend school. They are completely cut off from government and society, he told IRIN.

Meda said the community is reclusive and eludes the government census. IRIN was unable to reach members who protested the yellow fever vaccinations.

''…They are completely cut off from government and society…''

Ethicist Wikler told IRIN engaging religious leaders opposed to life-saving health campaigns is a more sound policy than force. That takes time. It is not something authorities can achieve in a weekend during the course of immunisations. It takes years. It is the governments fault for letting dissension fester.

Lack of religious training on social and health issues has sown confusion among certain clerics when it comes to vaccinations, according to one researcher. [According to Islams religious text] for Muslims, disease is a trial, said Ismal Tiendrbogo, a member of the Circle for Studies and Research in Islamic Training in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou. But God has never said that one should not seek remedy for his illness.

Despite the fact that a yellow fever vaccine has been available for 60 years, the number of people infected and dying from the viral disease has increased in the last two decades, according to WHO.

Burkina Faso had a yellow fever outbreak in 1983 with more than 70 percent of 380 infected persons dying, according to the government.

bo/pt/np source.www.irinnews.org

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Afghanistan plans to hold presidential elections in the second half of 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010.

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

AFGHANISTAN: Government abandons voter registration at health centres


Photo: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN
MoPH officials say that by moving all election-related activities out of health facilities, they are trying to leave the Taliban no excuse to attack them

KABUL, 14 January 2009 (IRIN) – Mounting security concerns have forced the Afghan government to stop using health centres across the country in the election process, but the use of schools will continue, officials said.

The president [Hamid Karzai] has ordered the election commission to move all voter registration sites out of hospitals and other health facilities, Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), told IRIN in Kabul on 13 January.

Afghanistan plans to hold presidential elections in the second half of 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010.

Dozens of health facilities, particularly in remote rural areas, have been used as voter registration sites over the past few months despite threats by Taliban insurgents to disrupt the process.

Taliban insurgents attacked a health facilityused as a voter registration centre in Ghazni Province on 20 October, killing one and wounding several others.

At least three health posts used for voter registration in different provinces have been reportedly attacked or set ablaze since November 2008.

Mosques and schools throughout the country have also been utilised by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) for electoral purposes.

We will continue to use schools. Thus far there have been no attacks on schools used in the election process, Daud Najafi, an official at the IEC, told IRIN.

Soft targets

Health facilities have been attacked, medical workers have been killed or kidnapped and polio immunisation campaigns have been repeatedly disrupted by Taliban fighters over the past five years, according to media reports.

Consequently, access to health posts in large swaths of the country, particularly in the volatile south, has diminished and the countrys target to wipe out polio by 2006 is yet to be achieved, according to aid workers.

The MoPHs Fahim told IRIN earlier that by July some 400,000 people did not have access to basic health services because of attacks on health personnel and health centres, and also due to lack of security for health workers.

The insurgents often deny attacking health and education facilities, but sometimes justify such deeds in terms of undermining the Afghan government and its international backers.

The Canadian National Post newspaper quoted Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, in November as saying the insurgents were not against health facilities, as long as they obeyed Islamic law.

“If they are here to treat the poor people, we welcome them and support them,” he said in an interview. “If they are here for other reasons, we will ban them.

By attacking soft targets such as hospitals and schools, the insurgents aim to discredit the government in the eyes of people for its inability to stop the attackers, experts say.

Denying insurgents a pretext to attack

MoPH officials said that by moving all election-related activities out of health facilities, they were trying to leave the Taliban no excuse to attack them.

Hospitals and health centres are apolitical facilities and must remain immune from attacks and abuse, said Fahim.

The insurgents warnings that they would disrupt the election process through armed attacks prompted some in insecure areas to steer clear of health centres where electoral activities were taking place.

Youll not be able to convince the Taliban that you are visiting those centres for treatment and not for registration or voting, said Najibullah, a resident of Logar Province, 36km southeast of Kabul.

ad/at/cb source.www.irinnews.org

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Deaths are being caused by erroneous self-medication and poor diagnosis

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

CONGO: Backstreet remedies hinder anti-malaria fight


Photo: Andre Itoua/IRIN
Unlicensed drug sellers are undermining the fight against malaria in Brazzaville

BRAZZAVILLE, 14 January 2009 (IRIN) – As poor people in Congo shun costly malaria remedies, deaths are being caused by erroneous self-medication and poor diagnosis by unauthorised medical practitioners.

As in many other professions there are people working in the health system who aren’t properly qualified; this is hindering the anti-malaria campaign because of incorrect diagnosis,” said Serge Bouka, director of the Maklkl hospital in Brazzaville.

“It’s playing with people’s lives,” he explained. “Under-qualified workers may be tolerable in other fields but not in the health service.

People are brought here dying after being wrongly diagnosed, sometimes having undergone lengthy treatment in their neighbourhoods, and often it’s too late to save them,” he added.

Even when the diagnosis is correct, malaria sufferers run the risk of being prescribed outdated remedies by non-licensed practitioners.

Cheap and widely available chloroquine-based treatments have previously saved countless lives in Africa and elsewhere, but strains of malaria have now become resistant.

“It is now dangerous to prescribe medicine containing chloroquine, but it can still be easily bought,” said Bouka.

Incorrect use of malaria drugs can also diminish symptoms in the short term but damage long-term resistance to malaria.

The national anti-malaria programme is trying to make people aware of the dangers they run by turning to non-qualified practitioners or by simply buying unsuitable medicines on the open market.

“Some patients realise [the medicine is ineffective] in time and come to the hospital for proper treatment,” said Franois Libama, director of the national anti-malaria campaign.

While the sale of products without prescription is illegal, they are widely available from street hawkers or even sometimes approved chemists, and are often less effective, after being stored at incorrect temperatures, for example.

However, it is still the first choice for many ordinary people in Brazzaville. “I myself have taken this type of medicine and when one of my children or grandchildren gets malaria I go and get some for them straight away,” said Juste Mouali.

He is far from being alone. Official figures indicate 60 percent of people in Brazzaville turn to so-called street drugs rather than the recommended remedy, which since February 2006 has been Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT).

But ACT is expensive, especially in a city where 50 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Many street drugs are in fact counterfeit, manufactured illegally in China or India and brought to the Congo via the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The government decided in 2007 to provide ACT to pregnant women and children under-five free of charge. But while many medical centres have indeed begun to administer these free remedies, the effects of this on public health have yet to be seen. The aim is to reduce deaths of under-fives and pregnant women by 60 percent.

Up to 21,000 under-fives die of malaria each year. Life expectancy is 54 for men and 57 for women in a population of 3.8 million.

ai/dmc/mw source.www.irinnews.org

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“These Nairobi talks simply don’t concern us, but we are ready to back the two governments, who have decided to go after the FDLR,” said Kamanzi,

Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2009

DRC: Tables turn as rebel faction declares support for army


Photo: Glenna Gordon/IRIN
Thousands of people have fled the violence in eastern DRC

KINSHASA, 14 January 2009 (IRIN) – A rebel splinter group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it is ready to back joint operations planned by the governments of DRC and Rwanda against Rwandan Hutu insurgents based in the Kivu provinces.

The self-styled new leader of the Congrs national pour la dfense du peuple (CNDP), Desir Kamanzi, also said he would not recognise the outcome of ceasefire negotiations in the Kenyan capital between the DRC government and the main CNDP wing led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda.

Nkundas wing has dismissed the change of leadership, insisting it was still in charge of the movement and that the man who mounted the ouster, International Criminal Court war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda, would face disciplinary proceedings.

“These Nairobi talks simply don’t concern us, but we are ready to back the two governments, who have decided to go after the FDLR,” said Kamanzi, referring to the Forces Dmocratique pour la libration de Rwanda.

“Since 4 January any decision taken previously by the deposed leader is null and void,” said Kamanzi.

We don’t recognise the Nairobi matters because the government is dealing with a delegation we don’t recognise. But we demand that a body be instituted so that we can agree upon delegates and issues for negotiation with the government,” he added.

According to Rwandas army spokesman, joint military operations against the FDLR were imminent.

“The two Force commanders [Rwanda and DRC] endorsed the plan, which implies that its implementation takes immediate effect,” explained Maj Jill Rutaremara in the New Times, which is close to the government in Kigali.

Rwandas Chief of Defence Staff, General James Kabarebe, was in Kinshasa in early January and met DRC President Joseph Kabila and UN mediator Olusegun Obasanjo.

Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for the CNDP wing still loyal to Nkunda, said from Nairobi that conditions on the ground in eastern DRC remained volatile.

“There are 700 heavily armed militia from the FDLR, supported by government troops and Congolese Resistance Patriots dressed in regular army fatigues rising up to prepare an offensive against CNDP positions around Kikuku, about 130km north of Goma, he said.

ei/dmc/am/mw source.www.irinnews.org

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