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Archive for April 11th, 2013

“One on One” with South Sudan Ambassador Bol Wek Agoth

Posted by African Press International on April 11, 2013

African Press International: “One on One” with H.E Ambassador Bol Wek Agoth, Republic of South Sudan. He is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary based in Oslo Norway, representing his country in the Nordic Countries. The Ambassador discussing with African Press International corruption in his country South Sudan and the volatile situation in  Jonglei area where 4 Kenyans, 5 Indians and three South Sudanese from the region working with the United Nations were murdered on Tuesday. Nine others were seriously injured when the UN convoy in the area was ambushed by over 200 people said to be loyal to a Morle tribe theologian-turned rebel leader David Yau Yau.

Bodies of Kenyans killed in South Sudan arrive in Kenya

The bodies of two Kenyans killed in South Sudan on Tuesday arrived in Kitale in readiness for their burial. The two were among four kenyans killed by some 200 militants who attacked a convoy of the united nations in southern sudan. The bodies were brought via road to Kitale in Trans Nzoia county even as the family called on the government to address the plight of kenyans working in other states and to beef up security for its citizens in south sudan.

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Motorist in Western Kenya blame cane tractors over increasing accidents

Posted by African Press International on April 11, 2013

  • By Godfrey Wamalwa, Kenya
Boda boda operators are bitter with cane transporting tractors, which the accuse for causing increasingly road accidents in parts of western province.
The powerful vehicles with engines that roar their way from the cane farms to the sugar mills, hauling huge trailers loaded with more than 14 tones of cane. As they speed along the narrow and bumpy muddy roads, they sway dangerously from one end to other end of the road, putting the motorists at risk.
Speaking to a battery of reporters in Bungoma,motorists operators claimed that many tractors have no rear lights, head lights, reflectors or any other safety devices that can warn or signal motorists of their presence on roads especially during late hours of the night.
But for the few which do, the lights are usually covered by the excess cargo which sometimes spills onto the road as the tractors speed along.
Motorists plying the Webuye-Bungoma road and Webuye –Kakamega roads and others in the Mumias sugar zone curse and loathe the presence of tractors, which they claim to dominate the roads. According to enraged motorists, the tractor drivers do not appear to be careful of other road users.
But, however, the drivers have defended themselves, saying that they are usually paid according to the number of tones they deliver to their respective firms.”That is why we normally rush against time “said John Kilwake, cane tractor driver. Apart from this, many of them says they are poorly paid and under pressure to deliver as much cane as possible.
They further claim to be working under harsh conditions and their employers often issue threats of sacking them should they fail to meet the firm targets.
As the blame game continues, the death toll from the accidents continues to rise. Late last year, a cane driver from Nzoia Sugar zone was crushed to death along Kitale-Webuye road the trailer on which he was riding overturned when it hit a pothole.
Early last year a 12-year-old boy died after being run over by a cane trailer at Kanduyi junction along the Webuye– Malaba Highway . Ronaldo Wekesa from Mjini Estate in Bungoma slipped as he tried to jump off from the tractor. The boy was with his friends. His mother Fridah Nekesa who is a widow said the boy with his brother had left home in the morning on Tuesday without her knowledge. The body was taken to Bungoma District Hospital mortuary.
And on July last year,12-year-old boy was crushed to death when he tried to remove a cane of sugar from a moving tractor in Bungoma east district of Bungoma county.The incident occurred near Misikhu Market.The victim was a pupil at St Johns Primary School-Misikhu.
But this are however not isolated accidents.Cases of such incidents abound in the area.Drivers says most incidents occurs at night when motorists suddenly encounter the ever loaded tractors which take up most of the road, leaving limited space for other road users.As the drivers have to deliver canes to factories round the clock to ensure that the sugar is available countrywide, motorists and pedestrians alike recounted horrific tales of their encounters with the tractors which are a common sight in the region.From West Kenya,Butali, Nzoia sugar belt to the vast cane plantations in Muma’s the cry is the same.
According to senior police officers in the region, it is estimated that 8 people die every month from tractor related ugly drama.Police say the death occurs when the tractors are involved in collisions with other vehicles or when cane loaders or those who hike lifts on the tractors fall off from the vehicles.
However,most of the ugly drama have been blamed on the tractors citing that many drivers lacks essential road safety devices.
“It was around 7pm driving to my home in a moderate at an average speed and all of a sudden I rammed into a cane tractor which was ahead of me” claimed Peterson Simwelo a regular most on the Webuye-Bungoma road who recently survived serious injuries with the cane tractor.
“while is a traffic offence to drive without such essential motoring aids, police are yet to bring any driver to book but have just impounded tractors for flouting the rules” added Simwelo.
Factory chiefs from the named zones where the tractors defy the laws with impunity did not or were unwilling to comment over the same.
But the millers blame the private sector transporters who own the tractors that are contracted by the factories to deliver the cane.
On the other hand to minimize accidents,cane firms have erected billboards and signs along the busy roads to warn other road users to be on the look out for tractors. Also the poor state of roads has not made matters simple. Most of the roads heading to cane factories and plantations are in a sorry state thus contributing much to the rising accidents.
Attempts by firms to improve the roads have not yielded much success since they do not have the resources needed to tarmac almost all of the roads.”Apart from accidents,the tractors have been a major cause of obstruction on the busy Webuye-Malaba highway and Bungoma-Kakamega road because they often break down in the middle of the road”said Isaac Bwire a matatu driver on Bungoma-Malaba highway.
“They carry excess cane with some dropping on the road and on coming vehicles are usually pushed out of the road because the road is narrow”added Mr Bwire.
Webuye police chief Willy Simba has appealed to all road users to be mindful as the number of road accidents involving cane tractors and motorists is on the rise.
Western Kenya is known to lead in sugar production whereas cane transportation has turned to be a headache to the operators.
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Roots of polio vaccine suspicion

Posted by African Press International on April 11, 2013

KANO,  – For years, polio vaccination has faced strong resistance within conservative Islamic communities in northern Nigeria, largely due to a deep distrust of the West , persistent rumours that the vaccine is harmful, and the house-to-house approach taken by immunization campaigners, which many saw as intrusive. 

Over recent years, polio campaigners have changed their methods to try to win over reluctant community members and religious leaders – to mixed effect. In February of this year, 10 polio vaccinators were killed in the northern city of Kano by anti-western Boko Haram militants, the latest setback to efforts to eradicate the virus from Nigeria.The country is one of only three where polio is still endemic. In 2012, Nigeria recorded 122 cases – over half of the global total that year.

IRIN spoke to residents, imams and health workers in Kano State to discuss the roots of ongoing vaccine suspicion.

Geo-politics

Sheikh Nasir Muhammed Nasir, imam of Fagge Juma’at Mosque, the largest in Kano, is an advocate of polio immunization.

“There is nothing wrong with the polio vaccine. The major reason why people reject it is the deep-seated suspicion they harbour against the West, particularly the United States due to its foreign policies in the Muslim world, especially the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

“The US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan – which caused deaths and destruction – is seen by many Muslims here as a war on their brethren. They wonder how the same countries responsible for this colossal carnage can now turn and save lives elsewhere. To them, it doesn’t make any sense that you offer to save my children from a crippling disease yet are killing my brothers,” said Nasir.

Mamman Nababa, a father of three in Kano, said: “I can’t understand how the West will spend millions of dollars in providing medication against polio for our children while they systematically killed 500,000 Muslim children in Iraq by imposing an embargo that denied them access to basic medicines.

“They are doing the same in Iran, where they imposed sanctions that make drugs scarce. It doesn’t make sense to kill my brother’s child by denying him life-saving drugs and then expect me to believe that you want to save my child from polio for free.”

“It doesn’t make sense to kill my brother’s child by denying him life-saving drugs and then expect me to believe that you want to save my child from polio for free.”

Residents also expressed scepticism of the focus on polio, saying other diseases should be given priority.

“How could I be so naive as to allow my children to be given polio drops by people who go door-to-door giving the vaccine free while the government has failed to provide medication for the most urgent diseases affecting us, such as malaria and typhoid?” said one Kano resident.

Infertility

For years there has been suspicion that the polio vaccine is laced with infertility hormones as part of a US-led plot to reduce the Muslim population. The Kano State government suspended polio immunization between September 2003 and November 2004 following the spread of such rumours by some Muslim clerics. The suspension led to an unprecedented number of infections and transmission of the virus to 17 countries that had been polio-free.

Kano resident Zulaihatu Mahmud says most people understand polio is caused by a virus, but even so, she and others fear the vaccine could be harmful: “Nobody wants their child to be crippled by polio, and nobody wants her child to be sterile, either.”

In 2003, to address these concerns, the Kano State government and federal government set up committees of doctors and clerics to test the polio vaccine. Following trials in Nigeria, South Africa and Indonesia, they declared the vaccine safe.

However, they also confirmed the presence of traces of two sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone – that are used in contraceptive medicine, which reinforced the sterility rumours in some communities.

Sadiq Wali, a professor of medicine who was involved in the committee, explained that the vaccine is developed in a culture made of monkey kidney, which contains the two hormones. Since hormones are highly water-soluble, traces are bound to be found in the vaccine, but they are too minute to have a contraceptive impact, he said. The amounts are so infinitesimal that special equipment is needed to detect them.

Lingering anti-colonial sentiment

Much of the longstanding distrust of Western influence among northern Nigerians is linked to the British colonial occupation and its dealings with the Islamic caliphates that had ruled the north, explained Aminu Ahmed Tudun-Wada, head of the Kano State Polio Victims Trust Association.

“Almost a century after the introduction of Western education, there are still parents who don’t enrol their children in school because they believe it is a ploy to convert them to Christianity, and the suspicion has its roots in the British conquest. It is the same sentiment playing out with the polio vaccine,” he said.

The Pfizer Meningitis Trial
In 1996, US pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer conducted a trial of the meningitis drug Trovan (trovafloxacin) on 200 children at the state-run Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Kano. At the time, a triple epidemic of meningitis, measles and cholera in the city had killed around 12,000 people. One hundred children were put on Trovan and 100 on the antibiotic ceftiaxone. Eleven children participating in the trial died, and others suffered paralysis, brain damage and slurred speech. Pfizer claimed it was meningitis that had made the affected children sick. The families alleged the clinical trial was improperly conducted and lacked parental consent.In 2003, Kano State filed a US$2.75 billion law suit against Pfizer, which ended in an out-of-court settlement in 2005. Several of the children involved have also been compensated. For anti-polio campaigners, the case gives “practical evidence that there is harm in the polio vaccine, just like Trovan, with which they convinced parents,” said Abdullahi Musa, a Kano-based paediatrician.

“The Pfizer drug trial was a real setback against not only polio vaccination but to other child health interventions in the north, because it destroyed public confidence and made the anti-polio campaign readily believable,” said polio vaccinator Abdulhamid Barau.

Several people in the north referred to the introduction of cigarettes to Nigeria by the British 50 years ago. Kano tobacconist Habu Iro and several residents told IRIN that in the 1950s, when people bought cigarettes, they would find money in the packet. The amount included was gradually reduced as people became addicted.

“We now know what [the] cigarette does to human health. The white man will never give anything for free. It is the same thing with [the] polio vaccine. They are hiding something,” 73-year-old Kano resident Dije Umar said.

Changing approaches

Early polio campaigners’ approaches were also seen as too insistent, combining radio advertisements, community workshops and teams of health workers going door to door, according to a polio expert with an international agency who asked to remain anonymous.

But because most inoculations take place in health clinics or hospitals, many families did not trust health workers arriving at their doorsteps.

One polio expert, who wished to remain anonymous, called initial campaigns “aggressive”. “They… sent a wrong signal to parents. We didn’t take account of the social dynamics then,” he said, referring to the need for more efforts to get communities on board.

Before 2005, polio campaigners partnered only with political and health authorities. They later learned to work closely with community and religious leaders. Most northern states have since formed polio immunization task forces with village and religious leaders as members.

The results were largely positive, with greater community acceptance and an improved understanding of polio and the vaccine, said an anonymous polio expert, who said uptake of the vaccine had increased since 2005.

But in February of this year – following the killing of the 10 polio vaccinators in Kano – the approach changed once again. The campaign is now limited to health clinics and hospitals as part of routine immunizations, and it is entirely government-led.

Many doctors fear this approach will threaten eradication efforts. To eliminate polio, vaccinators must reach at least 90 percent of children, giving each four doses over a 6-12 month period, according to the World Health Organization.

“The halt in house-to-house immunization is a serious threat to eradication… A large chunk of children will have no access to the vaccine and will be at risk of infection,” Adamu Isa, a paediatric nurse at Nassarawa Specialist Hospital in Kano, told IRIN.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), which oversees polio immunization in Nigeria, plans to hold a national workshop in Abuja for Muslim clerics and traditional leaders to clear up all misconceptions about the vaccine.

“It will be frank, honest and no-questions-barred discussions where we will clear any misgiving they have about the polio vaccine with concrete proofs and evidences, because once we secure their support, we secure the confidence of the public in accepting the vaccine,” NPHCDA’s director-general, Ado Mohammed, told IRIN.

aa/aj/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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