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Archive for January 17th, 2009

STUDY CONDUCTED BY SCIENTISTS NOW CALLS FOR COMMERCIAL USE OF WATER HYACINTH

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omolo1<A Special Report By Leo Odera Omolo

After almost a decade of efforts to rid Lake Victoria of water hyacinth, a report by the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute now says the noxious weed offers enough production of handcrafts, furniture and households accessories.

The report based on a study conducted in the Nyanza Gulf shows that the weed covers about 1,400 hectares of the water mass on the Kenyan side of the Lake.

The weed has hampered the activities of fishermen using small home made canoes, motorized boats and the navigation of ships become a nightmare in some areas. It has blocked the access to many fish landing beaches and made life difficult for fishermen fish and trade more difficult in recent years.

canoes motorized boats and the navigation of ships become a nightmare in some areas. It has blocked the access to many fish landing beaches and made life difficult for fishermen turning trade more difficult in recent years.

Among the items proposed to be made from hyacinth fiber are lamp shades, picnic baskets, place mats, napkin holder and floor mats as well as waste bins, file folders, stack trays pen holders and desk organizers

Others are livestock feeds, fish food, fuel paper and building materials.

The institute also says the hyacinth can be put to agricultural uses such as making of mulch, fertilizer and weed control

The report notes that conventional methods of controlling the water hyacinth and other intrusive aquatic plants are expensive for development countries. This is to be able to convert the biomass of water hyacinth to useful purposes instead of accepting the costs of its destruction is importance for the economy of developing countries the report concluded.

In suggesting Industrial use of the weed, however the report also proposes that surveys should be conducted to identify potential markets such as stationery shops outlets, exhibitions and road side outlets among others.

Marketing challenges have in the past hampered attempts to harness the noxious weed. A number of self help groups around Lake Victoria have produced handcrafts and house hold accessories before but the enterprises could not be sustained.

The report says it will be necessary to train the local community on the production of the different items and also how to sustain production.

Another consideration is the establishment of production units near the Lake shore which should feature factories complete with show rooms.

The report also points out that availability and harvesting of the weed depends on seasons and wind direction. The scientists say that the mats of the water hyacinth are blown to various beaches in the gulf in different seasons creating two kinds of hyacinth population, the stationery one in sheltered bays and the mobile one that are blown around by the wind.

These would require development of different strategies for harvesting, for the mobile mats , the weed would be harvested manually using sickles and transported using canoes to the shore, while the stationery mats can be harvested from land , says the report.

The harvesters will nevertheless face danger from the crocodiles, snakes, and hippos that live in the Lake. They will need special body gear and gloves for protection against water borne diseases such as bilharzias and liver flukes organisms. Big Industrial harvesters will require excavators capable of harvesting up to one hectare per day.

The reports further says that harvesting of the weed for Industrial use will help reduce the amount of rotting weed that suck oxygen from the water starving aquatic life of dissolved oxygen.

Moreover the researcher argue, harvesting of the weed will contribute to the water purification process because once it is uprooted it takes away with it absorbed pollutants

The study was commissioned by the woman in fisheries project and the scientist visited eight bays in the Nyanza gulf to determine the distribution, quality, quantity, and reliability of the water hyacinth as a resource for Industrial production.

Using the global positioning system, they estimated that Asembo, Nyakach and Osodo bays had the largest mass of the weed for utilization, Kisumu and Mirunda bays had the least.

Other areas covered by the study was Homa-bay, Kendu-bay and Lambwe valley..

END

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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I participated in two missions which we planned in Bossaso; the first in February [2008]. As part of a group of eight, we went to Ras Azayr area in Puntland in search of some foreign vessels

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

Hargeisa (Somalia) Hassan* and Mohamed* were fishermen in Bossaso, in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, but turned to piracy out of desperation and lack of alternative livelihoods.

However, in August 2008, coastguards from the self-declared republic of Somaliland arrested them after they strayed into the region’s waters. In September, they were each sentenced to 15 years in prison for their role in the piracy that has intensified off Somalia’s waters in recent years.

Hassan and several others jailed on piracy charges spoke to IRIN between August and December from two prisons in Somaliland.

Hassan said: “I participated in two missions which we planned in Bossaso; the first in February [2008]. As part of a group of eight, we went to Ras Azayr area in Puntland in search of some foreign vessels. We did not find anything. We thought that since there were no foreign vessels operating in Puntland waters, we could go to Somaliland.

“I met up with a group of five men in Berbera and we agreed to operate in Somaliland waters. Unfortunately, Somaliland coastal guards captured us before we could do anything. I was later charged with organising piracy activities in Somaliland. I agreed to engage in piracy because we wanted to get back at the illegal foreign vessels that were fishing in our waters, denying us a livelihood. We targeted foreign cargo vessels for that reason.”

Explaining how a pirate network works, Mohamed, who was sentenced in December, said: “I was captured in [Somaliland’s] His District alongside four other men captured by coastguards on 13 December. I was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“I, as do most pirates, consider myself as having been performing the duties of a coastguard. We usually work in groups of seven to 10 people. Often, our missions are financed by individuals and businessmen who collect half of the ransoms paid. Many people who opt to become pirates do so because authorities such as those in Puntland contribute to the degrading of the sea’s environment by licensing foreign ships which use illegal fishing methods.

Omar*, another of the jailed pirates, added: “Piracy has become booming business in Puntland territories; we receive the fuel and logistics from local business people. For example, when a kidnapped vessel pays ransom, 50 percent of it is taken by the people who invested their money; the pirates only get 50 percent.”

In turn, the business people also give a certain percentage of the ransom to the influential people in the host area of operations, Omar said. However, he was quick to point out that pirates did not attack any ship coming to Bossaso.

“No one will attack any ship toward Bossaso because the local people who support the pirates will not agree to the hosting of those kidnapped in their area, so the ships coming to Bossaso are safe from piracy.”

The pirates consider the ransom they get to be retribution for the ships that fish illegally off Somali waters.

“The ransom they pay is somehow a punishment for their illegal activity in the Somali water, especially in the era without government,” one of the pirates said.

*Not their real names

source.www.irinnews.org

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Kenya: Anger at waste on Kenyan politicians’ Obama trip

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

Nairobi (Kenya) – Kenyans have criticised the planned trip by State officials to attend a party for the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president.

They are angry that the delegation is spending taxpayers money on the unofficial party at a time when millions are staring starvation in the face.

Former assistant minister Kalembe Ndile says the officials should not misuse taxpayers money to travel to the US, yet they will watch the ceremony on television sets from their hotel rooms. Mr Ndile caused a stir at the Foreign Affairs ministry yesterday after he forcefully donated a 21-inch television for the top officials to use to follow proceedings at Mr Obamas inauguration next Tuesday.

However, his gesture was not received well as his donation was rejected. The former Kibwezi MP was also not allowed into the building with the gift. None of the ministry officials was willing to take the TV set, with the minister, his assistant and PS not available to receive it.

A ministry official, identified as a Mr Waithiru who came out to speak to Mr Ndile said he had not booked an appointment to make the donation.

But this did not stop Mr Ndile from proceeding with his mission. He left the television set, which he claimed to be from his sitting room, at the buildings door.

Why should we fund a delegation when it has been made clear that only our ambassador in the US is invited? the former MP asked.

The American embassy in Kenya last week said that only chiefs of diplomatic missions in Washington DC and their spouses will represent their countries at the function.

US envoy Michael Ranneberger said this was in keeping with past practice in the country. Kenya will be represented by its representative Ambassador Peter Ogego.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula later said that he would lead a non-official Kenyan delegation to Washington. But the team of ministers and MPs will only attend a grand celebration party on the eve of the inauguration and not the main event.

Among those in the delegation are ministers Najib Balala, Anyang Nyongo, Hellen Sambili and Deputy House Speaker Farah Maalim.
It is not yet clear how much the Government will spend on the trip for flights, hotel bookings and the delegations upkeep.

source.The Nation (Kenya) – January 15, 2009.

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Airports boss sent on forced leave – what has he done?

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

airportsmuhohogeorgeKenya Airports Authority managing director George Muhoho. Photo/FILE

BySAMWEL KUMBA PostedWednesday, January 142009at21:26

Kenya Airports Authority managing director George Muhoho has been sent on compulsory leave two months before his contract expires.

Mr Muhoho, a close ally of President Kibaki, was asked by the KAA board of directors to leave his post early.

It comes after the Efficiency Monitoring Unit (Emu) in the Prime Ministers Office delivered a damning report on the goings-on at the authority.

The report covers the expansion work at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, among other things.

Another term

Sources familiar with operations of the authority said Mr Muhoho had asked for another three-year term, which would have taken his tenure at KAA to nine years if granted.

The managing director of the authority is appointed by the board, but the chairman is appointed by the President.

The practice recently has been for parastatal chiefs to serve a maximum two terms and then retire.

Highly placed sources within KAA told the Nation that Mr Muhohos request for a third term could not be granted because the Emu report is not favourable for him and his team.

Mr Muhoho has had an eventful tenure at KAA, during which the parastatal was turned into a profitable outfit, but there have also been questions about some of its undertakings.

Although it has been argued that Mr Muhohos enviable position in Government owes a lot to his near filial relationship with the countrys chief executive, he is on record refuting the claims.

He maintains that it has nothing to do with him being close to President Kibaki.

Amidst global terrorist threats and the so-called Armenian brothers who brought a security scare at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Mr Muhoho was grilled by a commission, which wanted to know how safe Kenyas airports were.

Biggest challenge

Mr Muhoho is on record saying that the biggest challenge facing all international airports was security and Kenya was no exception.

We are as safe as any other airport in the world. Nobody will ever tell you that we are immune to insecurity. But we have made every effort to ensure that our airports are safe and secure, he is quoted as having said.

KAA had earlier announced major plans to upgrade airports at a cost of about Sh10 billion.

The expansion was to make Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) a major regional hub in Africa by chasing a Federal Aviation Agency Category 1.

source.dailynation.ke

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THE NUMBER OF INTERNAL REFUGEES IN EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA HAD DECLINED TO ONLY 9.1 MILLION

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

api-correspondent-leo-odera-omolo1<Report By Leo Odera Omolo

There were 9.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in East and Central Africa as of December 2008, according to a United Nations report released last week.

This Number was 400,000 less than at the end of June 2008, according to the displaced population report for July December 2008 released by the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA)

however because of the fragility of the situation, the UN office has advised against too much optimism, IDPs sometimes are continually moving, either returning home or being uprooted a second time. OCHIA reporter noted.

The number of refugees forced to seek a safe haven outside their homesteads as of December stood at 1.8 million, with most of them hosted by CHAD, Tanzania and Kenya. Half the IDPs – 4,576,250 are in Sudan alone with 2,700,000 of them in the Western Darfur region.

The report covers Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

Displacement in the region according to the report is triggered mainly by Inter-state conflicts and natural disasters such as floods and drought, with 72 percent of this occurring in the Grater Lakes and horn of Africa region reflecting mainly the combined internal displacement from the strife related crisis in Sudan and Somalia.

Frequently several of these causes affect a country or region at the same time creating complex humanitarian emergencies, scarcity of resources, limited access to land and inconclusive peace and reconciliation processes creates multiple challenges for the process of return, according to the report.

Humanitarian response to both acute and long term displacement is often hampered by lack of access to the affected people due to on going conflict and persistent high insecurity, including targeting of humanitarian workers and assets, the report notes.

Data was obtained from UN agencies, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Red Cross, Non Governmental Organizations and local authorities.

At this time the tenth anniversary of the UNs guiding principals on Internal Displacement it is clean, it is clear that more needs to be done to secure more humanitarian and political action and protect displaced people who are increasingly at forefront of humanitarian tragedies.

The United Nations estimate that close to one percent of the worlds 6.7 trillion people are now displaced within their own countries, forced to flee their own homes due to armed conflicts violence, development projects and natural disasters and calamities.

END

leooderaomolo@yahoo.com

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Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

by abdiasis ibrahim Mogadishu, Somali
API-Mogadishu-Somalia-On wednesdayJanuary 2009 Citing the dreadful beginning of 2009 for civilians caught up in armed conflict, the top United Nations humanitarian official told the Security Council today that strict respect for international law by all parties to fighting was critical to end the suffering.
Violations of international humanitarian law by one party to a conflict offer no justification for non-compliance by other parties, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said, as he opened a debatein which some 50 speakers took the floor and which culminated in a statement by the Councils President condemning violations against civilians during conflict and revising Council guidelines for consideration of the topic to reflect current conditions.

Mr. Holmes stressed in his statement that, Allegations of violations must be fully investigated and those responsible held to account.

In addition to the growing number of civilians killed in Gaza and those terrorized by rockets in southern Israel, he spoke of civilians executed, brutalized and displaced by rebels in the eastern DRC, the use of human shields and random fire in Somalia and the 40 per cent increase of civilians killed for a total of some 2,000 during hostilities in Afghanistan in 2008.

Regarding the carnage in Gaza, he said constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population in the context of military operations and that neither party seemed to be measuring up to such requirements.

Can we look at what has been happening in Gaza in the last three weeks and say that either Israel or Hamas has come close to respecting these rules? I think not, he said.

It was relatively straightforward, if not always easy or productive, for the UN to engage with national or international forces, he said, but humanitarian actors could not only talk to one side in a conflict.

If we are serious about sparing civilians from the effects of hostilities, about obtaining access to those in need and seeking to ensure that humanitarian workers can operate safely, humanitarian actors must have consistent and sustained dialogue with all parties to a conflict, be it the Taliban, Hamas or Al-Shabaab, he said, naming groups in Afghanistan, Gaza and Somalia, respectively.

It was important to talk to those groups to explain the requirements of international law, to speak out for their victims or communities they endangered through their mere presence and by storing weapons in homes, schools and places of worship and to call them to account when they violate international humanitarian law.

It is simply not sufficient to oppose such engagement for fear that it will confer a degree of recognition on these groups, he said.

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Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

Dakar (Senegal) – Health experts in Sierra Leone say the countrys bottom-ranking for child mortality in the UN Childrens Funds annual State of the Worlds Children report masks progress the country has made in mother and child health in recent years.

Of every 1,000 children born in Sierra Leone each year, 262 will die before age five, and 2,100 women die out of every 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF. But health experts say despite the alarming statistics, child mortality rates are improving.

In 2000 282 under-fives were dying per 1,000 births, but the latest figures, from 2007, show this dropped to 262, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF representative in Sierra Leone, told IRIN. And yet-to-be validated figures from a 2008 UNICEF survey indicate they may have dropped further to 200.

These are not dramatic changes but they show investment is starting to pay off, Cappelaere said. We have positive examples of things happening on the ground. We need to have hope for Sierra Leone. It is guaranteed we can [eventually] see a dramatic reduction in child and maternal mortality.

Change will be incremental says Joanna Reid, Senior West Africa Health Adviser with the UK Department for International Development (DFID). With Sierra Leone starting so low [in terms of indicators] there is lots to be sorted out before we see more dramatic impact in terms of child mortality indicators.

Medical officials estimate that 80 percent of women in Sierra Leone give birth at home without ever consulting a healthcare provider or midwife. And as of March 2008 there were only six obstetricians serving the five-million-strong population, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

UNICEFs Cappelaere said President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government are firmly committed to improving healthcare. The President has recognised that investment in health, and within that child survival, is vital to the countrys future growth, Cappelaere said.

The President launched a strategic plan to reduce maternal and child mortality in early 2008 and is mapping out how to achieve the objectives in the next five to 10 years, according to DFIDs Reid.

Sierra Leone’s infant mortality rates are dropping, though slowly. Health will be our top priority in 2009, Dr. Samuel Kargbo, director of reproductive and child health at the Health Ministry, told IRIN. The situation has already improved. Since the reproductive and healthcare strategy was launched the government has created a new body to coordinate all reproductive health activities, and has carried out mass awareness-raising of its action plan in each health district.

DFID has been working closely with the government to get its strategy off the ground and will invest US$72.8 million in Sierra Leones health sector over the next 10 years. But as with other fragile states emerging from conflict, Sierra Leones basic services infrastructure is severely limited and in some areas must be built from scratch.

To do so would require the government to increase funding for the health sector from the current 9 percent of the overall budget to 15 percent, according to Kargbo. The health budget is a problem, but serious considerations to increase the budget are underway.

But more money is not a panacea, health experts said. Sierra Leone does not have enough people or systems in place to absorb and invest all the money allocated to healthcare, UNICEFs Cappelaere explained. In 2008 the government spent just half its health sector budget, partly because of not having basic financial systems in place, he said.

Systems, infrastructure, the human resources are not always available to do what needs to be done. You may have lots of money but if you have no capacity to deliver it then you have a problem,” Cappelaere pointed out. Weak capacity to channel large investments is typical of post-conflict states, donors say.

To reduce infant and maternal mortality, some of the governments priorities should be to tackle the shortage of skilled health workers, install better medical equipment and medical supplies, set staff incentives and create better patient referral systems, according to Kargbo.

In addition to quality obstetric care and improved water and sanitation, Cappelaere calls for a minimum set of healthcare services for each child including immunisations, micro-nutrients such as Vitamin A, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and public sanitation messages, which when combined, could dramatically reduce infant mortality.

Long-term results also require behavior change, including reducing early child marriage, encouraging mothers to exclusively breast-feed their babies for six months and reducing open defecation, according to UNICEF. This kind of behavior can take a few generations to change, Cappelaere said. Expectations for immediate results may be too high. [Instead], modest, sustainable goals are needed if it is done too fast it could be counterproductive.

source.www.irinnews.org

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Anti-corruption campaigners say a weak legal system is failing to curb financial misconduct by top government officials

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

Lusaka (Zambia) – Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) received more than 2,000 corruption complaints from the public for 2008, the ACC yearly report states.

“The commission investigated a number of cases last year. Arrests were effected and cases brought before the courts of law where sufficient evidence was established,” ACC acting director Rosewin Wandi told IPS. “Between 60 and 70 percent of reported complaints were against government officials, while about 20 percent were against officials in the private sector.”

But critics are calling for a more effective and autonomous body to lead the fight against corruption. The ACC was established in 1980 as an independent body to promote transparency and minimise corruption, yet Zambia was ranked the 17th most corrupt country in the world on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2007.

Anti-corruption campaigners say a weak legal system is failing to curb financial misconduct by top government officials. Transparency International’s Zambian chapter president, Reuben Lifuka observes that long delays and drawn-out prosecutions of high profile cases prove very expensive.

“The delays have made a number of people question the efficacy of the whole fight against corruption,” Lifuka says. He has advised Zambian president Rupiah Banda not to hesitate to dismiss government officials found to be corrupt or engaged in any unscrupulous activities. TI Zambia has also called for the urgent domestication of the UN convention against corruption by enacting legislation.

“Government, together with other stakeholders involved in the fight against corruption, should conduct an evaluation of the performance of the fight against corruption and a commitment should be made to strengthen what is working well and do away with what is not working well,” Lifuka said.

Lifuka challenged president Banda to run a clean government by establishing audit committees in each ministry and government agencies.

Norway is an important source of donor aid to Zambia and its government is very concerned with the negative impact corruption has on the Zambia’s development. The Norwegian ambassador, Gunnar Boe, says it is important to secure increased autonomy for the Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Audition General as it is not yet fully independent as per the lime convention.

“We need to decentralise the anti-corruption commission operations by splitting it into many regional offices.” Boe said “Public investment in ACC and the Office of the Auditor General has a high rate of return through reducing mismanagement of public funds and as much improving public service delivery and reducing poverty.”

President Banda has publicly pledged his administration’s total support to fighting corruption. “Government has put in place laws and systems to strengthen institutions and prevent corruption, abuse of office and other irregularities in public institution. What I expect therefore is total adherence to these laws and systems,” President Banda said in the statement responding Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2007.

A new project of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute may help to achieve these aspirations. Zambia is one of six countries targeted in the first year of a new project, “Strengthening Citizen Demand for Good Governance Through Evidence-Based Approaches.”

The programme will support a range of initiatives to strengthen the responsiveness, accountability and capability of governments. The Anti-Corruption Commission is among several dozen government bodies, non-governmental organisations, faith groups and media organisations participating in a consultative meeting to launch the project in Zambia on Jan. 15.

Among its aims, the ODI programme intends to approach governance as a relationship between the governors and the governed, facilitating accountability and effective citizen participation.

*The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Britain’s leading independent think-tank on development and humanitarian issues, is driving the implementation of the “Strengthening Citizen Demand for Good Governance Through Evidence Based Approaches” in partnership with the Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa and CIVICUS.

source.Inter Press Service (IPS)- January 16, 2009.

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Of every 1,000 children born in Sierra Leone each year, 262 will die before age five, and 2,100 women die out of every 100,000 live births

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

SIERRA LEONE: Babies dying but hope persists


Photo: Pirozzi/UNICEF
Young mother in Sierra Leone

DAKAR, 15 January 2009 (IRIN) – Health experts in Sierra Leone say the countrys bottom-ranking for child mortality in the UN Childrens Funds annual State of the Worlds Children report masks progress the country has made in mother and child health in recent years.

Of every 1,000 children born in Sierra Leone each year, 262 will die before age five, and 2,100 women die out of every 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF.

But health experts say despite the alarming statistics, infant mortality rates are improving.

In 2000 282 under-fives were dying per 1,000 births, but in 2007 this dropped to 262, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF representative in Sierra Leone, told IRIN. And yet-to-be validated figures from a 2008 UNICEF survey indicate they may have dropped further to 200.

These are not dramatic changes but they show investment is starting to pay off, Cappelaere said. We have positive examples of things happening on the ground. We need to have hope for Sierra Leone. It is guaranteed we can [eventually] see a dramatic reduction in child and maternal mortality.

Change will be incremental says Joanna Reid, Senior West Africa Health Adviser with the UK Department for International Development (DFID). With Sierra Leone starting so low [in terms of indicators] there is lots to be sorted out before we see more dramatic impact in terms of child mortality indicators.

Medical officials estimate that 80 percent of women in Sierra Leone give birth at home without ever consulting a healthcare provider or midwife. And as of March 2008 there were only six obstetricians serving the five-million-strong population, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Government commitment

UNICEFs Cappelaere said President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government are firmly committed to improving healthcare. The President has recognised that investment in health, and within that child survival, is vital to the countrys future growth, Cappelaere said.

The President launched a strategic plan to reduce maternal and child mortality in early 2008 and is mapping out how to achieve the objectives in the next five to 10 years, according to DFIDs Reid.


Photo: Savage/UNICEF
Sierra Leone’s infant mortality rates are dropping, though slowly

Health will be our top priority in 2009, Dr. Samuel Kargbo, director of reproductive and child health at the Health Ministry, told IRIN. The situation has already improved.

Since the reproductive and healthcare strategy was launched the government has created a new body to coordinate all reproductive health activities, and has carried out mass awareness-raising of its action plan in each health district.

Each district is to come up with a health road map in 2009, health officials said.

DFID has been working closely with the government to get its strategy off the ground and will invest US$72.8 million in Sierra Leones health sector over the next10 years.

But as with other fragile states emerging from conflict, Sierra Leones basic services infrastructure is severely limited and in some areas must be built from scratch.

To do so would require the government to increase funding for the health sector from the current 9 percent of the overall budget to 15 percent, according to Kargbo. The health budget is a problem, but serious considerations to increase the budget are underway.

Absorbing the money

But more money is not a panacea, health experts said. Sierra Leone does not have enough people or systems in place to absorb and invest all the money allocated to healthcare, UNICEFs Cappelaere explained.

In 2008 the government spent just half its health sector budget, partly because of not having basic financial systems in place, he said.

Systems, infrastructure, the human resources are not always available to do what needs to be done. You may have lots of money but if you have no capacity to deliver it then you have a problem,” Cappelaere pointed out.

Weak capacity to channel large investments is typical of post-conflict states, donors say.

The Health Ministrys Kargbo called on donors to urgently help the government map out an approach to health financing.

Priorities

To reduce infant and maternal mortality, some of the governments priorities should be to tackle the shortage of skilled health workers, install better medical equipment and medical supplies, set staff incentives and create better patient referral systems, according to Kargbo.

In addition to quality obstetric care and improved water and sanitation, Cappelaere calls for a minimum set of healthcare services for each child including immunisations, micro-nutrients such as Vitamin A, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and public sanitation messages, which when combined, could dramatically reduce infant mortality.

If 95 percent of Sierra Leonean children are immunised against measles for instance, it could lead to dramatic reductions in infant mortality in 10 years, he said.

A few generations to change

Long-term results also require behavior change, including reducing early child marriage, encouraging mothers to exclusively breast-feed their babies for six months and reducing open defecation, according to UNICEF.

This kind of behavior can take a few generations to change, Cappelaere said. Expectations for immediate results may be too high. [Instead], modest, sustainable goals are needed if it is done too fast it could be counterproductive.

aj/kl/np
source.www.irinnews.org

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