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Archive for May 14th, 2013

Nothing to hide, Nothing to fear: Deputy President William Ruto is in the Hague (ICC) today 14th May 2013 for a Status Conference

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2013

  • By Korir, Oslo – Norway

This is a sign of nothing to hide, and no fear. A man of character – already Deputy President Ruto knows he has nothing to hide nd fear , thus he decided to travel to the Hague yesterday evening even if it was not a must for him to do so. His lawyers would represent him during this status conference whereby the court wants to fix the hearing dates after postponing the hearing that was scheduled to start on the 28th of this month of May 2013.

The fact that Deputy President Ruto decided to be present in person in the International Criminal Court is great sign that he will cooperate with the court until the end, and the fact that he is now Kenya’s deputy Head of State has not entered into his mind transforming him to ignore the court.

This is a man who says he is innocent, and has put his fate in the hands of his creator, the Almighty God. Mr Ruto Believes he will be exonerated in the end, and will come out of this tormenting period, a very strong man.

Deputy President William Ruto (left) and his wife Rachel Ruto (right) are received by Kenyan ambassador to Netherlands Makena Muchiri at the Schipol Airport May 13, 2013. Mr Ruto is in The Hague to attend ICC's status conference May 14, 2013. REBECCA NDUKU/DPPS

Deputy President William Ruto (left) and wife Rachel Ruto (in red) being received by Kenyan ambassador to Netherlands Makena Muchiri at the Schipol Airport yesterday May 13, 2013. Mr Ruto is in The Hague to attend ICC’s status conference today May 14, 2013. Rebecca Nduku/NDUKU/DPPS  

Deputy President William Ruto has arrived in The Hague, Netherlands to be personally present at a status conference at the International Criminal Court. He left Kenya yesterday night accompanied by his wife, and Attorney General Professor Githu Muigai.

A few hours before leaving Kenya, Mr Ruto welcomed home President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 10.00pm when arrived back int the country from a four-day visit to South Africa. President Kenyatta was in South Africa attending the World Economic Forum on Africa themed “Delivering on Africa’s Promise”.

The status conference at the ICC will discuss Mr Ruto’s request to have his trial moved from May 28th to November. The conference will also discus ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to add five witnesses to their list. The conference will also discus modalities – how Mr Ruto will attend the proceedings while at the same time running the country as Deputy Head of State. This is a consideration the court seems to agree to, because Mr Ruto is cooperating with the court and there is not warrant of arrest against him.

The former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang has requested the same as Mr Ruto. He wants his case postponed from 28th of this month to November.

The two men say they are ready to cooperate with the court until the end of the trial because they say they are innocent.

During the start of the Kenya cases at the ICC, brought by Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief prosecutor, there were six suspects, namely President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta who was then Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister, Former Head of the Civil Service Mr. Francis Muthaura, Former Commissioner of Police Ali, Deputy President William Samoei Arap Ruto (then MInister of Agriculture and Education), former Industrialization Minister Mr Henry Kosgey and the former Radio Presenter Mr Joshua Arap Sang.

The cases facing Ali, and Kosgey were thrown out at the confirmation of charges hearing. Mr Francis Muthaura’s case crumbled recently, even after charges against him had been confirmed by the Pre-trial chamber.

The cases are falling apart because witnesses that the prosecution rely on are now coming out of the closet saying that they were enticed to lie by being offered comfortable lifestyles in European capitals and other countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

There are strong signs that the remaining cases – Mr Kenyatta’s, Mr Ruto’s and Mr. Sang’s will also see no convictions.

 

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Boosting global malaria?

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2013

Artemisinin is usually extracted from the sweet wormwood tree, mainly grown in Asia (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The UN World Health Organization has accepted the first semi-synthetic version of artemisinin, the key ingredient for malaria treatment globally, for use in the manufacture of drugs, boosting hopes that more people will have access to life-saving medication.

With an estimated 219 million malaria infections and 660,000 deaths – mainly children under five – annually, the disease is one of the world’s biggest killers.

Until now, artemisinin, the key ingredient in the WHO-recommended first-line malaria treatment artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT), has only been available by extraction from the sweet wormwood tree, native to Asia. However, climatic factors have meant it has suffered from uneven supply over the years.

“Normally, artemisinin is sourced from a plant, which is affected by seasonal factors – now, we have a man-made source, which ensures a constant supply of the drug,” Anthony Fake, active pharmaceutical ingredients focal point for WHO’s prequalification of medicines programme, told IRIN.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, scientists at the University of Berkeley, California, were able to genetically engineer a strain of baker’s yeast to mass-produce the semi-synthetic artemisinin.

French pharmaceutical firm, Sanofi, which manufactures the semi-synthetic artemisinin, recently announced that it planned to “produce 35 tonnes of artemisinin in 2013 and, on average, 50 to 60 tonnes per year by 2014, which corresponds to between 80 and 150 million ACT treatments”.

Agencies involved in fighting malaria say they have big expectations for the new product.

“The production of semi-synthetic artemisinin will help secure part of the world’s supply and maintain the cost of this raw material at acceptable levels for public health authorities around the world and ultimately benefit patients… Having multiple sources of high-quality artemisinin will strengthen the artemisinin supply chain, contribute to a more stable price, and ultimately ensure greater availability of treatment to people suffering from malaria,” Scott Filler, senior technical adviser for malaria at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, told IRIN via email.

According to Martin de Smet, who heads up Médecins Sans Frontières’ working group on malaria, the uncertainty of natural artemisinin’s availability has led to bulk buying and speculation in the market, leading to the price of the raw product varying widely – from US$400 per kg to $1,000 per kg – over the years.

He noted that the new development would have gains wider than ACTs: “It also opens doors to other forms of artemisinin use other than ACT, for example, artemisinin injections for severe malaria.”

Not a replacement

De Smet said it would be important for the supply of the natural version of artemisinin to continue alongside the semi-synthetic production.

“We hope that the message will not be that it will replace the natural product, because this would act as a disincentive to the farmers, who could stop producing their crops. It should be complementary, with a growing share of the market,” he added. “Hopefully, we will see the price of ss artemisnin matching the lowest price available for the natural product.”

Both WHO’s Fake and MSF’s de Smet say there is no need for concern over differences in efficacy or safety, as drugs manufactured with both versions of artemisinin contained the same active chemical ingredient.

“There is still a lot to do – pharm companies need to formulate the end products that they will produce based on the semi-synthetic artemisinin, and these then need to be prequalified by WHO – a bureaucratic process but one which ensures that the drugs are safe and effective,” he said.

“We don’t expect to see change overnight, but rather a gradual increase in the market share by companies manufacturing drugs using the semi-synthetic artemisinin – even if we see them getting 10 percent and eventually 20 percent, this will help ease speculation about the product’s availability and stabilize prices.”

kr/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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WFP needs money to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2013

Farmers in Bafata preparing the land to plant rice seedlings (file photo)

BISSAU/DAKAR,  – The World Food Programme (WFP) has not received the money it needs to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau, leaving projects in jeopardy or at a standstill.

The organization needs US$7 million immediately to cover its food security and nutrition programme targeting 278,000 people for 2013; and a further $8 million to extend the project through 2014. The project involves school-feeding, preventing moderate and acute malnutrition, and boosting rice production, and was supposed to start in February this year.

WFP head of programmes Fatimata Sow-Sidibé told IRIN the money is lacking because traditional donors suspended all development cooperation following the April 2012 coup.

“We have some promises [from donors],” said Sow-Sidibé, “but the programme was supposed to start in February and we have no resources to buy the food we need.”

Traditional donors more or less stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état, leaving infrastructure projects and basic services at a standstill across the country, but humanitarian funding was supposedly untouched. LINK The problem for WFP is that their project spans development and emergency activities and thus is not just eligible for humanitarian funding.

The African Development Bank also suspended its funding for rural agricultural development projects, following the coup. The cuts “are having a direct impact on food security in Guinea-Bissau, where we already have severe cereal deficits due to inadequate local production,” said a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture who preferred anonymity.

Food insecurity in Guinea-Bissau is driven mainly by an inability of people to access food because prices are beyond their reach. Most Bissau Guineans rely on imported rice as they grow mainly cash crops (cashews) and not grains.

Food prices have risen year on year since 2008 (imported rice is currently U$1.20 per kg), and the most recent countryside hunger assessment (2011) cited high prices as the biggest barrier for vulnerable households to access food.

The coup put off a planned countrywide food security assessment in 2012 but a rapid assessment in the regions of Biombo, Oio and Quinara in June 2012 revealed one in five people were food insecure (regions in the east were not included in the survey). Some 65 percent of households at the time had under one month’s supply of food stocks and more people were resigned to further indebtedness, selling animals and producing wine from the cashew fruit, to get by.

Cashew crisis

People’s ability to buy food has been severely hampered by a crisis in the cashew industry: 80-95 percent of Bissau-Guineans depend on cashew sales to purchase food as well as meet other household expenses. Terms of trade for cashews have been deteriorating since 2011: In a good year 1kg of rice can be roughly exchanged for 1kg of cashews; this shifted to 1.5kg of cashews to buy 1kg of rice in 2012, and to 2kgs of cashews for 1kg of rice in 2013, according to Ministry of Agriculture and WFP research. “Everything here is linked to cashews,” said Sow-Sidibé.

The poor terms of trade are linked to a poor 2012 cashew crop, and plummeting cashew prices following the coup (from 80 US cents per kg in May 2012 to 50 US cents one month later), and also linked to low fixed prices on international markets.

Cashew farmers are further stymied by exorbitant petrol prices (US$1.50 per litre) which makes it increasingly expensive for them to get their crop to market.

Ongoing projects

WFP continues to run food assistance programmes where it can. In two districts in Gabu, eastern Guinea-Bissau (Mancadndje Dara, Madina Madinga), and in two districts of Bafata (Djabicunda and Sare Biro), the organization helps villagers improve their farming techniques to boost rice production, including giving them improved seeds and helping them rent animals to get their crops to market. It also helps villagers grow market gardens to improve their food diversity and boost household income.

Mutaro Indjai, head of the village committee of rice producers in Saucunda village in Gabu, told IRIN: “This project helped us improve our production to last through four months, whereas before we only produced enough for one month.”

If the project comes to an end, they will continue to use improved techniques of production, but they would lack the seeds needed to plant next year. “We won’t have access to improved seeds, nor to the animals we need to speed up planting and to help us transport our harvest to nearby villages,” he told IRIN.

Nutrition

Nutrition programmes have also been affected. WFP pushes food diversity, given that feeding practices are a key component of high chronic malnutrition levels in Guinea-Bissau.

The organization tries to push a more varied diet (than the starch-dominated fare given to most infants) including fish soup, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and millet-based cereal. They also support local NGOs to make regular visits to health centres and villages on vaccination days to talk about how to prepare nutrient-rich meals for infants made out of corn flour, peanut powder, bean powder, oil and sugar, among others. Programmes target children in their first 1,000 days of life.

Some 17 percent of children under-five are underweight, and 27 percent are stunted due to inadequate nutrition, according to a December 2012 UNICEF-Ministry of Health nutrition survey.

Hunger specialists fear chronic malnutrition levels will rise if prevention is not stepped up.

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to set up nutrition treatment centres; provides therapeutic food for severely malnourished children; and helped update the government’s strategy to manage acute malnutrition, in February 2013. “Lack of funding, very few partners in nutrition, and limited human resources trained in nutrition” are the major challenges facing UNICEF, said Victor Suhfube Ngongalah, head of child survival there. UNICEF needs US$750,000 to implement its projects in 2013 and 2014.

Guinea Bissau is ranked 176 out of 187 countries assessed in the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Political instability has also marred development. Since 1994 no elected president in Guinea-Bissau has finished his mandate.

aj/dab/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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