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Archive for June 18th, 2009

GLOBAL: Economic crisis no excuse to cut funds – UN (“”Now is not the time to falter”)

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2009


Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
“”Now is not the time to falter”

NAIROBI, – International donors must continue meeting their commitments to HIV/AIDS, even in the face of the economic downturn, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged.

“Now is not the time to falter,” he told the UN General Assembly Review on HIV/AIDS in New York on 16 June. “The economic crisis should not be an excuse to abandon commitments – it should be an impetus to make the right investments that will yield benefits for generations to come.”

In 2006, the Assembly pledged to achieve universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. UNAIDS has said that achieving these targets in the timeframe would require an estimated $25 billion.

In 2008 the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was forced to cut funding by 10 percent; the World Bank projects that the global recession could place the treatment of more than 1.7 million at risk by the end of 2009.

“I fear that many governments are resigned to reducing programmes and diminished expectations,” said Miguel D’Escoto, President of the UN General Assembly. “But it is precisely when times are difficult that our true values and the sincerity of our commitment are most clearly evident. If we allow cuts now, we will face increased costs and great human suffering in the future.”

kr/kn/he source.www.irinnews.org

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Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2009


Photo: David Gough/IRIN
Bananas and plantains are the worlds fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat, and maize – file photo

KAMPALA-NAIROBI, – The bacterial banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) disease will endanger the livelihoods of millions of East African farmers if left uncontrolled, according to specialists. First reported about 40 years ago in Ethiopia, BXW is endemic in most of Uganda, and has been reported in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya and Rwanda.

BXW is the most serious threat to banana production in East Africa, Wafa Khoury, a plant pathologist and agricultural officer in the Plant Production and Protection Division of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IRIN. BXW is very serious because it could wipe out all cultivars planted in the continent, with almost no resistance detected…

“The plants wilt and eventually die. They either do not produce fruits, and when they do, they are hard and inedible to either humans or animals and they cannot be processed even,” Khoury said.

Bananas and plantains are the worlds fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat, and maize.

BXW symptoms include premature ripening of fruits, pale yellow ooze from cut surfaces, wilting of bracts and male buds, and progressive yellowing leading to complete wilting. Plants generally show symptoms within three weeks of infection.

Fields infested with the bacteria cannot be replanted with banana for at least six months due to carry-over of soil-borne inoculum, according to a report titled Xanthomonas wilt, a threat to banana production in East and Central Africa, by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Once BXW occurs in a field, there is no remedy other than to cut down all infected plants, completely dig out the rhizomes, and place the field under at least a six-month fallow period or a prolonged crop-rotation regime.

“… If uncontrolled, BXW would spread at a rate of 8 percent per annum in cooking banana plantations, causing an estimated production loss of about 53 percent over a 10-year period,” stated the report.


Photo: Charles Akena/IRIN
A man inspects his banana crop in Uganda: Livelihoods of millions of East African farmers could be endangered if the bacterial banana Xanthomonas wilt disease is not controlled

Counting the cost

BXW has devastated plantations in the central, western and southern regions of Uganda, Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, head of banana research at Ugandas National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO), told IRIN.

At least 50 percent of plantations in the affected districts have been wiped out, threatening the food security of up to 14 million people, according to NARO. Uganda is the worlds second-largest banana producer after India.

In 2005, Uganda produced 650,000 metric tonnes of bananas; however, output is estimated to have dropped to about 400,000MT in 2008, according to the agriculture ministry. East Africa is the largest banana-producing and consuming region in Africa.

NARO predicts land under banana cultivation could drop another 20 percent in 2010 without adequate funding for disease control.

The potential economic impact of BXW is high. “Based on estimates of the Ugandan government, BXW caused yield losses of up to US$75 million in 2006 with a projected overall economic loss of $2-$8 billion in the next 10 years,” said FAO’s Khoury. However, no other impact studies have been done.

Disease control

Luckily, and despite the fact that the disease can spread like fire… BXW could be contained using proper field management practices, he said.

These include removing male buds, which are the entryway for new infections, destroying infected plants, using clean field tools and planting material, as well as not using banana remains from unknown sources as mulches.

Wherever these simple management recommendations have been practised by farmers in a consistent way, the disease has been completely eliminated from their fields.

Local government authorities have passed by-laws including fines and penalties for farmers who do not heed similar directives in Uganda.

Countries afflicted

In Rwanda, BXW is devastating plantations, especially in the north. According to Rwandas institute of statistics, banana production has maintained an average growth of around 5 percent in the last three years, but this may be affected by the disease.

Kagera region, northwest Tanzania, is among areas affected, Khadija Rajab, research coordinator and deputy head of the plant protection division in Zanzibar’s Ministry of Agriculture told IRIN.

“Unlike black sigatoka, which affects mostly the Cavendish and dwarf Cavendish varieties, and Panama disease, which affects the Bluggoe and Silk varieties, Xanthomonas can affect all the banana varieties in the region.”

Leena Tripathi, a biotechnologist with IITA, told IRIN that in the short term, decapitating male buds and cutting and burying infected banana plants, are recommended.

“But most of the farmers are reluctant to apply these as they are labour-intensive,” Tripathi said. “Farmers prefer resistant varieties. So developing resistant varieties is [the] long-term solution,” she said.

However, conventional breeding of bananas is a difficult and lengthy process due to the sterility of most cultivars, coupled with long generation times. “To circumvent these difficulties, transgenic technologies may provide a cost-effective alternative solution to the BXW pandemic,” she said.


Photo: Africancrops.net
A bunch of bananas: BXW symptoms include premature ripening of fruits, pale yellow ooze from cut surfaces, wilting of bracts and male buds, and progressive yellowing leading to complete wilting – file photo

GM bananas?

In 2008, Uganda announced plans to start testing wilt-resistant genetically modified bananas, using a protein gene from sweet pepper to counter the disease.

According to NARO, preliminary laboratory tests have indicated that transgenic banana plants appear to be resistant to the wilt but these efforts have been hampered by inadequate funding.

Most of the bananas grown in the world are consumed locally with less than 10 percent sold commercially, making the risk of reduced exports because of anti-GM policies low, say researchers.

In Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, bananas constitute more than 30 percent of the daily per capita calorie intake.

Field practice paramount

Meanwhile, according to FAO’s Khoury, BXW management through field practice remains important. “Of course, resistant varieties are the easiest, quickest and most economical control methods for almost all diseases, including BXW. The reliance on resistant varieties however, tends to lead to relaxation of the field management practices.

“How safe are the transgenic bananas is a question that is difficult to answer, as in all cases of genetically modified crops.”

He noted that the development of a resistant variety or transgenic type and its widespread adoption would take several years. “In the meantime, BXW could wipe out all bananas,” he said.

In the coming months, FAO will be undertaking an analysis of the present, and potential, risk to banana production from BXW and Banana Bunchy Top Virus in sub-Saharan Africa.

nb-aw/mw source.www.irinnews.org

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KENYA: Acute watery diarrhoea kills eight in Coast Province – two deaths were reported in Mombasa, three in Kilifi District and three others in health centres in Malindi District

Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2009


Photo: Noor Ali/IRIN
Children fetching water: An outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea in Coast Province has been attributed to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water following heavy rain in most parts of the province

MOMBASA, – An outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) has killed eight people and infected 21 others in Kenya’s Coast Province, according medical sources.

Over the past two weeks two deaths were reported in Mombasa, three in Kilifi District and three others in health centres in Malindi District.

“We are still receiving more patients from various parts of the province who have been diagnosed with the ailment. However, we are doing everything possible to provide the necessary treatment needed,” Helton Maganga, chief administrator at the Coast Provincial General Hospital, the largest referral hospital in the province, told IRIN on 18 June.

Maganga said a special ward had been set aside to cater for the AWD patients.

The outbreak was attributed to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water following heavy rain in most parts of the province which has destroyed sewage pipes and swept away pit latrines.

The most affected areas are Kilifi and Malindi districts. In Mombasa, those affected are in Mishomoroni, Kongowea, Kisauni and Likoni estates where sewerage systems have burst.

David Katana, a resident of Mishomoroni estate in Mombasa who was admitted to hospital, fell ill a week ago.

“I started to diarrhoea, vomit and was feeling dizzy but I had no idea that I had contracted the disease; when I was brought to hospital I was told that I had it,” he said.



jk/cb source.www.irinews.org

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Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2009

imanyara

Mr Gitobu Imanyara. Photo/FILE

ByNATION Correspondent

A letter containing chilling details of an alleged assassination plot targeting eight prominent people, among them former minister Martha Karua and MPs Gitobu Imanyara, was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

Dated June 10, 2008, the two-page letter allegedly written by a member of the Kwekwe squad names former MPs Paul Muite (Kabete), Dr Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani), Mr Ferdinand Waititu (Embakasi), Mr G.G. Kariuki (former MP), political activist Mary Wambui and a Mr Charles Kamau as others on the list of people marked for assassination.

Former MP Kogi Wa Wamwere was under 24-hour police surveillance, according to the letter tabled by Mr Imanyara, the Central Imenti MP, who said it was sent to him through Parliament by unknown people.

Mr Imanyara gave a copy to the Deputy Speaker and said intelligence officers have been deployed to the General Post Office to screen all letters addressed to MPs. He, however, asked Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim to give guidance on how the House would deal with such chilling information.

Crying wolf

Mr Maalim agreed that the letter was chilling but his promise to give a ruling next Wednesday did not go down well with Dr Khalwale, who called for urgency in the matter.

The writer, who signed himself as Wilfred Njenga, claims orders to eliminate Mr Muite were issued by First Lady Lucy Kibaki to Police Commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura and cabinet Minister John Michuki.

But in a quick response, State House dismissed the said letter as a creation of Mr Imanyara, describing the MP as a reckless politician crying wolf for reasons best known to him. Hon Imanyara has sunk to his lowest political ebb by making careless, unfounded and callous statements against the First Family, said a PPS statement.

Kenyans will not be hoodwinked to believe such cheap propaganda from a man whose political inconsistencies and grandstanding are evident to all, added the terse statement.

Police deputy spokesman Charles Owino described the allegations as cheap political propaganda and asked Mr Imanyara to surrender the letter to the police or any international forensic expert for investigations.

source.nation.ke

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