|Africa News Digest
WHO on Marburg Fever in Angola: New Failures at Hospital Mean 'Amplification of Transmission Is Highly Likely to Occur'
"On two occasions earlier this week, doctors at Uige's large provincial hospital were directly exposed to blood from Marburg patients being treated on general wards," reported the World Health Organization's April 29 update on the epidemic of deadly Marburg Fever in Angola.
The WHO update also reported two other recent serious breaches of procedure in the hospital that were capable of promoting transmission.
The WHO update concluded, "Under such conditions, amplification of transmission is highly likely to occur." It noted, "During past outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers, such events have historically resulted in an additional two transmission cycles and a second wave of cases."
WHO has decided to strengthen the presence in Uige of international staff specialized in infection control.
According to Recombinomics.com May 1, "more health care workers [at Uige provincial hospital] have died or have a fever," and "patients have again stopped coming to the hospital."
The First Case of Recovery From Marburg in Angola Reported
A patient infected with Marburg Fever has recovered and been discharged from Uige provincial hospital, Angolan Deputy Health Minister Natalia Espirito-Santo told the press in Luanda April 29. "This patient's case may mean that not all infected will die," she said. The press (and recently the World Health Organization) have represented the mortality rate in this unprecedented outbreak as only 91.7%, or "above 90%," by regarding all cases that had not yet died as survivors. (The correct procedure: Compare the total number of cases on Day X with the number of these cases still alive 10 days later. This procedure had, until now, always yielded a mortality rate of 100%.)
The current statistics were given by Espirito-Santo as 277 cases and 257 dead. The figures are an understatement, not only because not all cases are known, but because the Angolan government has recently "reclassified" many cases to make it appear that there have been no infected individuals outside of Uige province who had not come from there. The reclassification may only mean that health workers outside Uige province are not adequately equipped to prepare a sample and transport it to Luanda for testing, without it becoming a false negative.
The is no contact tracing going on outside Uige province. Meanwhile, there have been four suspected cases in neighboring areas of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bush To Receive Nigerian President Obasanjo May 5
President Bush will meet Nigerian President and African Union chairman Olusegun Obasanjo at the White House on May 5. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said they will discuss bilateral relations, Nigeria's role in the African Union's efforts in Sudan, and regional stability in West Africa.
Nigerian Team Seeking Debt Cancellation Is Also Visiting Washington, Berlin, and Rome
The Nigerian team seeking cancellation of Nigeria's debts is now visiting Washington, Berlin, and Rome, according to Nigeria's Debt Management Office (DMO), The Lagos-based journal This Day reported April 26. (See this week's Economics Digest.) The team of two members from the House of Representatives and two from the Senate, accompanied by Director General of the DMO, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, will take two weeks to complete the tour it began in London.
The legislators are the Chief Whip of the Senate, Udoma Udo Udoma; chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Patrick Osakwe; chairman, House Committee on Finance, Farouk Lawan; and chairman, House Committee on Loans, Aid and Debt Management, Sanusi Sadiq.
In Washington, the team was scheduled to meet with the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Chris Smith; chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade, Deborah Pryce; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; and co-chair of the Nigeria Caucus, Rep. William Jefferson.
In an interview on U.S. National Public Radio April 27, a member of the Nigerian team said, "We contracted for a debt of $17 billion, we paid $20 billion, and now we owe $37 billion." He added that the debt was contracted under a former military regime, that much of the money never reached Nigeria, that the creditor institutions were not honest about the terms and conditions, and that therefore the present government's responsibility to repay is not compelling, especially given the underfunding of education, health care, and other critical programs as a result of the high debt-service payments.
About 80% of Nigeria's foreign debt is owed to Paris Club creditorsbanks and finance and investment companies.
African Union Okays Much Larger Force in Darfur
The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council, meeting April 28 in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, approved an increase of its Darfur, Sudan observer and civilian police force to 7,500, which it hopes to have in place by August. Its force on the ground in Darfur is currently at 2,200, although the AU had earlier approved 3,320. Once the 7,500 level is achieved, an increase to 12,300 by spring 2006 will be considered. This action came in response to an assessment by AU staff carried out in March.
The Peace and Security Council claims it did not consider expanding the mandate of the troops to use force (beyond the mandate it now has to use force to protect itself). The Sudanese government does not accept a peacekeepingas opposed to an observermandate. The March assessment had suggested an expanded mandate in saying, "Militarily, the force should be in a position to promote a secure environment across Darfur." There is great pressure for the change. The International Crisis Group, in a proposal of April 26, called for it.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Special Envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk are supporting it.
At the end of the Addis Abeba meeting, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit told the press that "the force will have an enhanced scope to include protection of civilians and internally displaced people, as well protecting food convoys and stopping looting," according to Reuters April 28. Sudan does not appear to object to this "enhanced scope."
Serious violations of the ceasefire are continuing, most of them committed by the insurgents, Pronk said in Addis Abeba, according to IRIN April 29.
African Union Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo has written to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, proposing that "the AU secretariat and NATO secretariat begin discussions on NATO providing logistical support to the AU in Darfur," a NATO spokesman said April 27. NATO ambassadors have agreed that "exploratory talks" should begin, the spokesman said. Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Isma'il said April 28 in Khartoum that his government welcomes NATO logistical support for the AU forces, but will not accept any NATO troops in Darfur.
Zimbabwe Re-Elected to UN Human Rights Commission
Zimbabwe was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Commission April 27, much to the consternation of U.S. representative William J. Brencick, who said that Zimbabwe had "blatantly disregarded the rights of its own people," and Zimbabwe's re-election was "inappropriate."
Zimbabwe's Ambassador to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku said no nation was beyond reproach in the area of human rights, and added: "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones."
South Africa Asks India To Help It Join the Group of Four
South Africa has asked India to sponsor its application to join the Group of Four (G-4), comprised of Japan, Brazil, India, and Germany. (For the full story, see this week's Asia Digest.)