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Archive for August 4th, 2013

Norway applauds Mali for peaceful election process

Posted by African Press International on August 4, 2013

Norway applauds the people of Mali for the peaceful conduct of the first round of its presidential elections. After a period of conflict there is a great need for stable governance to ensure further development.

Norway and international observers report that the poll on 28 July proceeded peacefully. Norway has provided NOK 40 million to support the election process through the UN.

Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås commented, “The people of Mali deserve a government with greater legitimacy to promote reconciliation efforts between north and south. It is very positive that the election has proceeded peacefully, with a high turnout. However there have also been clear shortcomings. For example many displaced people have not been able to vote. Further on, it is important that the votes are properly counted so that the results are respected.”

The count should be completed by Friday. It will then be clear whether one of the 28 presidential candidates has gained more than 50 % of the votes and can be declared president without the need for another round of voting. International and Malian observers have been posted to most of the constituencies, but threats from Islamists in the north-eastern Kidal region made it impossible for international observers to monitor the election in northern Mali.

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide commented, “Mali has a long way to go. But a credible presidential election process is an important step in the right direction. Norway will support Mali as it moves forward, for example by contributing military and police officers to the UN force in the country.”

Norway has decided to send up to 20 officers to the UN peacekeeping force in Mali (MINUSMA) to help stabilise the country. Norway has also allocated around NOK 80 million in aid to Mali for this year. This is part of a significant Norwegian aid effort in the Sahel region.





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The world has recorded a few droughts in recent years – Earth warms at record-breaking pace

Posted by African Press International on August 4, 2013

The world has also recorded quite a few droughts in recent years

JOHANNESBURG,  – As the latest Superman movie – which shows the superhero’s home planet being destroyed by the unsustainable use of its natural resources – hits theatres, a new report reveals that the earth is warming faster than ever in recorded history.

The report, released today, is based on an analysis of temperature and precipitation data recorded from 2001 to 2010.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which did the analysis, said in a statement, “Global warming accelerated in the four decades of 1971 to 2010… The decadal rate of increase between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 was unprecedented. Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat.”

“The 2001-2010 decade was the warmest since modern meteorological records began (around 1850) for both land-only and ocean-only surface temperatures”

He continued: “Natural climate variability, caused in part by interactions between our atmosphere and oceans – as evidenced by El Niño and La Niña events – means that some years are cooler than others. On an annual basis, the global temperature curve is not a smooth one. On a long-term basis the underlying trend is clearly in an upward direction, more so in recent times.”

Some key findings from the analysis include:

1. The 2001-2010 decade was the warmest since modern meteorological records began (around 1850) for both land-only and ocean-only surface temperatures.

2. Over the past four decades (1971-2010), the global temperature increased at an average estimated rate of 0.17 degrees Celsius per decade, while the trend from 1880-2010 had been only 0.062 degrees per decade.

3. Nine of the years in the 2001-2010 decade were among the 10 warmest years on record. The warmest year ever recorded was 2010, the year Russia experienced a severe heat wave that killed about 55,000 people. It was also the wettest on record, with Pakistan experiencing one of the worst floods in recent times, claiming 2,000 lives.

4. The high temperatures caused widespread melting of Arctic ice and the thermal expansion of sea water, causing global mean sea levels to rise by an estimated 3mm per year, about double the observed 20th century trend of 1.6mm per year. “Global sea level, averaged over the decade, was about 20cm higher than that of 1880,” the report says.

5. If this trend continues, melting ice sheets will contribute more to sea level rise in the 21st century than any other factor.

6. The world’s glaciers lost more mass in 2001-2010 than in any decade since records began.

7. Nearly 94 percent of countries whose data were assessed had their warmest decade in 2001-2010.

8. Africa experienced warmer-than-normal conditions in every year of 2001-2010.

9. Floods were the most frequently experienced extreme event over the course of the decade.

10. The decade saw the most tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Basin since 1855.

jk/rz  source



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HIV still on the – not yet inside the comfort zone

Posted by African Press International on August 4, 2013

Sound science, but no thank you

KATHMANDU,  – Despite years of scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention, more than two million people are newly diagnosed with HIV annually, demonstrating how community-driven approaches to prevention are still needed to curb the epidemic, experts say.

For years evidence has mounted that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) – virus-suppressing drug combinations that are the primary treatment for HIV – can also be used effectively in prevention.

However due to the complications associated with ART procurement, distribution, uptake, adherence, and potential behaviour change in patients (some studies have linked increased risk-taking behaviours in HIV patients post-treatment), a fresh local approach to implementing ART-based prevention programmes is needed, new research argues.

“Research in HIV prevention needs to get out beyond its comfort zone and meet with the people who have very different ideas about what HIV means,” Jim Pickett, the project director for Mapping Pathways, an international research and advocacy project, told IRIN.

Despite international research and policy developments that have boosted awareness and popularity of
what is known as “treatment as prevention”, local-level implementation of it remains murky and piecemeal.

“We talk a lot about the results of science and figuring out how to `make it make sense’ in local contexts. But science is itself a process that should involve communities from the very beginning,” Pickett said.

From efficacy to effectiveness

According to Mapping Pathways, the ideal approach to implementing treatment as prevention should consider not only the clinical goal of efficacy (works in a lab), but also effectiveness (how to apply the solution in a community).

“I know that if you get anti-retroviral drugs into someone’s blood, they suppress the virus. We have amazing proof of that – it’s a major scientific breakthrough in the history of humankind,” said Linda-Gail Bekker, chief operating officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, based in South Africa.

“But now we have to put this together so it works, which means engaging with a wide range of human beings who live very different lives than those of us who run these programmes might imagine,” she said.

Effectiveness requires behaviour change and, therefore, varies across cultures, governments, and communities based on “the firms that produce the drugs, the healthcare clinics that deliver the drugs, the community centres that provide education, and the partnerships developed,” according to Mapping Pathways.

Human beings will behave like human beings. What does that mean? Well, social sciences have been trying to figure that out for centuries and don’t have one single theory, so why should our HIV programmes?” asked Bekker.

“The notion that in HIV programmes `one size fits all’ has backfired on us and it has been a humbling moment for those of us who work in this field.”

Local” science

According to Molly Morgan Jones, a researcher at the international public policy think tank Rand Corporation and lead author of Mapping Pathways’srecent report, the varied applications of science must be taken into account when designing programmes: “Uptake of new ideas or products is contingent on a lot of factors that might have nothing to do with what’s created in a lab or recommended by policy experts…

“ART has been around for a while, the innovation at this point is how we are going to use the drugs – a new way of thinking about how communities access, understand, and employ this technology,” she explained.

Development of the Mapping Pathways model relied on research carried out with partners in the US, UK, South Africa and India.

In each of the locations, local stakeholders – including clinicians, researchers, policymakers, the medical industry, patient advocates and coalition groups – interpreted scientific evidence differently, which had “profound” effects on how HIV prevention and care was carried out, the researchers noted.

“Here’s all this science – now what?” said Pickett, referring to the conventional top-down approach to HIV interventions, which often assumes that scientific proof a drug works will be enough to convince patients to use it.

“We need these processes to be local from inception,” he said, echoing arguments from the UN special rapporteur on the right to health that the participation of affected populations in decision-making is key to successful interventions.

However promising, concerns about putting this theory into practice remain.

The World Health Organization recently published recommendations that call for the number of people enrolled on ART to be increased by up to 25 million worldwide (up from the current 9.7 million). Financing the scale-up while also boosting local buy-in will be a challenge, say analysts.

But, the effort must be made, argued Pickett: “Just because something adds complexity to a methodology or a protocol doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done – go there, to the places where the results of the scientific endeavour are meant to be utilized, and have a conversation with the people about what it can do, and most importantly, what they need it to do.”

kk/pt/cb  source


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