Doctor uses iPad to conduct remote surgery in Gaza (CNN Africa)

(CNN)In countries ravaged by conflict, providing international medical expertise on the ground can be almost impossible.

By Susie East, for CNN

But a new software, called Proximie, is enabling surgeons to provide help from wherever they are in the world, all through the screen of an iPad.
“I see on my screen the surgical feed that is being captured by the camera in Gaza and I’m able to draw on my screen the incision that needs to be done,” says Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, Head of Plastic Surgery at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

“Like being in the room”

Abu-Sitta has already used the Proximie software to lead two operations in the Gaza strip from his base in Beirut. From hundreds of miles away he showed colleagues how to negotiate a blast injury and operate on a congenital anomaly affecting the hand.
The software means that surgeons can demonstrate — in real time — the actions needing to be taken on the front line.
The procedure uses two smart phones or tablets connected to the internet which show a live camera feed of the operation. The surgeon sees this, and then marks on their device where to make incisions.
“That drawing shows up on my colleague’s screen in Gaza and he follows my drawings by making the incisions where they appear on the screen,” says Dr. Abu-Sitta, “It really is the equivalent of being there in the room with them.”
With two thirds of the world’s population lacking access to safe surgery, the time is ripe to develop new techniques to reach more remote areas.
How 3D printing is changing the world of surgery

A helping hand

Being able to watch surgery in progress could also make it a useful training aid.
“We want to be the platform for medical students to really engage in surgery,” says Proximie co-founder Prof. Nadine Hachach-Haram. “Historically the old viewing galleries that happened in surgery where students could come in and learn and watch, they don’t exist anymore.
“Surgery is very visual. You can read it in a book if you want but it’s not the same as watching it live, so this is where our platform really fits in.”
According to Peter Kim, Vice President of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Proximie could be a positive addition to the range of other products using cameras and video for real-time sharing.
“I think the need and effort to share best practice and dissipate very siloed experiences in medicine should be supported,” says Kim. “Those involved should be applauded for their effort but if it is a product with cost attached to it, the value must be clearly articulated.”
Previously, Abu-Sitta and his staff were trying to help overseas surgeons by sending them audio recordings, photos and X-rays using the online messenger WhatsApp. But the new software is far more interactive, providing detailed images and patient information throughout the surgery.
“We wanted to push the idea that with only the minimum hardware, and minimum infrastructure you can still pull it off,” says Abu-Sitta, “With just two tablets, iPad to iPad, we’re able to perform this surgery.”
Whether it’s used for education or to conduct delicate surgeries in conflict zones, internet enabled software such as Proximie could be the future of surgery.

Google awards R10 Million grant to African organisation (IT News Africa)

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By Staff Writer (IT News 

Google has awarded a $717,728 (roughly R10 Million) grant to the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) to develop technology that can assist people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are living with disabilities.

Related: Google to train 1 million people in Africa in digital skills

SAFOD is working with with the University of Washington and The African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD) to establish AT-Info-Map, a system that will map the location and availability of assistive technology (AT) in Sub-Saharan Africa—providing critical and timely information to empower governments, suppliers, and advocates to increase access to AT.

Google awards R1m grant to African organisation

The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities was launched in March last year, in the form of an open call to global nonprofits who are building transformative technologies for people around the world with disabilities. Ideas were received from over 1 000 organisations spanning 88 countries, and 30 winners were announced last week.

Google is helping these 30 organisations to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying its people and by mobilising its resources in support of their missions.

The organisations Google is supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organisation has also committed to open sourcing their technology—which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed.

In awarding these grants Google looked for big ideas, with technology at the core and the potential to scale supported by nimble and flexible teams that are strong enough to implement the work proposed.

And, Google realises there’s always room to improve its products as well. The company has a team committed to monitoring the accessibility of Google tools; and provides engineering teams with training to incorporate accessibility principles into products and services. That doesn’t just mean improving existing Google tools, it means developing new ones as well. For example, Liftware is a stabilising utensil designed to help people with hand tremors eat more easily, and self-driving cars could one day transform mobility for everyone.

Find more information.

https://www.google.org/impactchallenge/disabilities/grants.html

 

 

Mobile technology proven to address challenges around healthcare (IT News Africa)

Follow us on Twitter @GoAfricaNetwork

ViiV Healthcare, a global specialist HIV company, announced jointly with its global partners, Vodafone Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies and the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the launch of the Mobilising HIV Identification and Treatment (MHIT) programme in Lesotho.

By Staff Writer (IT News Africa)

Mobile technology proven to address challenges around healthcare. (Image Source: dogtownmedia.com)

The MHIT programme is a multi-million dollar three-year commitment led by the Vodafone Foundation through the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, with financial contributions from the private and public sectors, including funding and community mobilisation expertise from ViiV Healthcare, as well as support from Elton John AIDS Foundation to Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation—Lesotho, ELMA Philanthropies and USAID.

The goal of the MHIT programme is to double the number of children in Lesotho in care and on treatment within three years, thereby ensuring that their health and futures are not compromised or cut short through lack of access to HIV services. It also aims to improve uptake of services that address mother-to-child transmission of HIV to prevent more children from being born with the virus.

The use of mobile technology has proven a successful tool to address some of the challenges around access to healthcare services, such as access to transport, in rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa.(1) In Lesotho, the Vodafone Foundation is building on this success by deploying mobile clinics to rural areas to reach children – including adolescents – and mothers in hard to reach communities, providing primary care services (including antenatal checks and immunisation) and searching for individuals living with HIV to provide them with better access to treatment, using mobile money-based transport vouchers so they can reach clinics or hospitals. For many children and mothers, this could be the first time that primary healthcare services have been accessible to them. In addition, the use of mobile technology enables the management, coordination of services and communications to support the implementation of the programme.

Dr Dominique Limet, CEO ViiV Healthcare, commented: “Through our Positive Action programmes, we have a successful track record in mobilising communities and supporting capacity building at grassroots level to address the challenges of the HIV epidemic. By working with the right partners, we can deliver practical solutions to make a true difference to the lives of children in Lesotho and help future generations live longer and more fulfilling lives.”

Rishaad Tayob, Managing Director, Vodacom Lesotho said: “Vodacom Lesotho Foundation and Vodafone Foundation are bringing money, marketing, management and mobile technology to challenge paediatric HIV.  Partnership is critical and by working with private funders and the Government of Lesotho and USAID, we aim to double the number of children on treatment and in care. We are already saving lives.  We are privileged to also have the full support of His Majesty the King.”

Lesotho has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS with 23% of the two million population living with HIV.(2, 3) Antiretroviral treatments (ARTs), which suppress the HIV virus and stop its progression, are available, however, only a third of the estimated 19,000 children in Lesotho living with the virus are receiving ARTs.(3, 4, 5) Lesotho is made up mostly of highlands where many of the villages can be reached only on horseback, by foot or light aircraft. This means that resources are scarce and difficult to access by mothers and their children.

Read more at IT News Africa 

New dengue vaccine shows promise (CNN)

(CNN)A new type of dengue vaccine called TV003 seems to protect people against at least one type of the virus, according to a small study. If further research can bear out its effectiveness, the new vaccine could eventually represent a big advance in controlling the most common mosquito-transmitted virus worldwide.

Although another dengue vaccine recently became available in Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and El Salvador, it may not be appropriate to use in countries such as the United States.

By Carina Storrs, Special to CNN

That licensed vaccine, called Dengvaxia, has been found to reduce the rates of severe dengue cases in adults and older children in Asia and Latin America, but many of them had probably already had a dengue infection in their lives. In contrast, Dengvaxia could increase the risk of dengue disease among young children who have not been exposed to dengue virus before — a group that is similar to the U.S. population. (In countries where the vaccine is available, it is only given to children age 9 and older.)

So researchers at several institutions in the United States set out to develop a new vaccine that would give people — including those who have not been infected — strong protection against all four types of dengue virus.

“Control of dengue has certainly been a public health priority for many years. But getting there has not been easy,” Stephen S. Whitehead, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who designed the new vaccine, said at a news teleconference on Tuesday. Whitehead is one of the authors of the study that tested TV003, which was published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers decided to take a different tack in testing the vaccine. Normally the efficacy of a new vaccine is tested in large studies in areas affected by the disease, but those kinds of studies can take up to 10 years and cost millions of dollars. Although that research will still need to be done, “we really wanted to have an early clue that the (vaccine) would work,” Whitehead said.

A different way to test vaccines

Instead, the researchers used a “human challenge model.” They gave TV003 to 24 adult volunteers in Maryland and Vermont, while another 24 adults got a placebo as a control. After one injection of TV003, 92% of participants in the vaccine group developed antibodies to all four types of dengue virus. The only side effect associated with the vaccine was a rash around the injection site, which typically went away in five to 10 days.

But the biggest question is whether the new vaccine can prevent dengue infections. In the “human challenge” part of the study, the participants were artificially infected — using a needle, instead of a mosquito — six months after receiving TV003 with a highly weakened version of dengue virus Type 2.Previous studies have suggested that Dengvaxia does not protect as well against Type 2 as Types 1, 3 and 4.

None of the vaccinated adults got infected, whereas 80% of the individuals in the control group developed a rash and all of them had detectable dengue virus in their blood.

This type of experiment could be “totally unethical,” but in this case, the researchers got consent from healthy adults and used a form of the virus designed to be very weak, said Dr. Sarah George, an associate professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University. George was not involved in the current study.

As the researchers discussed in the teleconference, this type of approach has been used to develop vaccines for a number of diseases, including malaria, flu and cholera.

The researchers are now testing whether the TV003 vaccine can protect people from the three other types of dengue virus. They are currently challenging study participants with Type 3 and hope to have results by late spring or summer.

ar, the results with TV003 have helped inform dengue vaccine studies about which vaccine formula to use, Dr. Anna P. Durbin, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said at the teleconference. “We are very happy to say that the first phase 3 efficacy trial of the vaccine started last month,” said Durbin, who led the current study on TV003. The trial is working to enroll 17,000 people between the ages of 2 and 59 around Brazil and address whether the new vaccine can help reduce dengue disease.

“Who knows what will happen (in future studies) — dengue is full of surprises,” George said. However, she added that it is unlikely that TV003 would increase the severity of disease among people who have not previously been infected with dengue, as Dengvaxia seems to do.

The difference comes down to how the two vaccines are designed. Dengvaxia contains hybrid viruses that are made up mostly of yellow fever virus and have just two molecules from dengue virus. On the other hand, the new vaccine contains the entire virus for all four types, except they all contain mutations that make them much less potent in people.

Because the immune system will “see” more dengue virus molecules with the new vaccine, it could develop a stronger protective response to the four virus types, said George, who has received funding from Takeda Pharmaceuticals to study the immune responses to a dengue vaccine the company is developing.

Read More at CNN.com

Technology is a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges in Africa (IT News Africa)

Healthcare in Africa differs widely, depending on the country and also the region—those living in urban areas are more likely to receive better health care services than those in rural or remote regions.  Many communities lack clean water and proper sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas.  This means that illnesses caused by poor hygiene, such as cholera and diarrhoea, are common in some countries.

By Staff Writer: IT News Africa

Mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa.

Heavy demands on health care systems
Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS as well as diseases found mostly in African countries such as elephantiasis, leprosy, polio, helminthiasis and trachoma are rife. Furthermore, there are not enough health workers, hospitals and clinics in Africa. Some African countries lack basic equipment and have inadequate supplies of medicines. Half of Africans do not have access to essential drugs and disruption to daily life and damage to facilities caused by conflict, mean health clinics have an even greater struggle to offer services to local populations.  Diseases then take an even greater toll. Demands on health care systems are also increasing as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.

At a 2001 African Union (AU) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, African countries agreed to allocate 15% of their budgets to healthcare.  To date, only six countries have met this commitment.  Health experts now believe that even if the target is reached, 15% of a small budget is not sufficient to make major inroads into poor health.  Four of the six countries allocating 15% of their budget still spend only 14USD per capita on health.

Technology—a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges
Vuyani Jarana at Vodacom Business says that mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa. “We have developed a range of healthcare solutions using mobile technology specifically to bridge the gap,” he says. To achieve this and leapfrog the global health care systems, it is critical for technology and innovative solutions to be implemented across the continent.

For example, there are mobile applications to:
– Capture patient information making service records more accurate and easily accessible
– Remind patients when they are due back at a clinic for an immunisation visit
– Remind the clinic management to submit an update on stock levels, expiry dates, wastage and stock received.

Jarana believes that technology will be a key driver in helping the continent to overcome some of its biggest healthcare challenges.

Innovative funding mechanisms can provide much needed revenue
Funding remains a monumental problem. Under these difficult circumstances, it is imperative to create new and innovative sources of funding like innovative financing for development, to address the socio-economic development needs of the population, of which health is clearly an urgent priority. According to McKinsey & Company, “innovative” refers to finance mechanisms that might mobilise, govern, or distribute funds beyond traditional donor-country official development assistance (ODA).  New revenue streams will have to be identified to implement or scale up already-existing programmes to address the current health challenges.

The Group contribution
Innovative financing for development has the capability of generating significant amounts of revenue that could either replace or complement existing traditional methods of funding. For instance, innovative funding mechanisms implemented with the assistance of a revenue-assurance expert like Global Voice Group has generated an estimated USD 1.5 billion over the last 10 years, through micro-levies on international telecommunications services.  These revenue-generating opportunities empower African countries to take charge of their own socio-economic development, using their own resources and through the smart integration of ICTs.

Innovative Financing—a game changer for sustainable development
Several developing or emerging countries are already capitalising on innovative financing for development.  For instance, in Haiti, education is being funded through micro-charges on international telephone calls.  By June 2015, more than US$16 million had been generated, allowing the government to provide free quality education to 1.4 million Haitian children.

It is no exaggeration, then, to say that innovative financing for development is a real game changer for sustainable development.  The leveraging of international incoming calls as an innovative funding mechanism has become an important part of the economies of many African countries. However, to make this funding mechanism effective international incoming telecoms traffic must be accurately measured and a revenue-assurance solution put in place to prevent fraud.  GVG’s cutting edge telecommunications governance solutions have assisted many African countries to optimise the revenue generated by international incoming telephone traffic so as to ensure that both the local operators and the government receive their fair share of the revenue.

These revenues can be used to finance social projects like health and education and meet the respective countries’ specific development goals.  This paves the way to more sustainable models of society on the African continent.

Read More at IT News Africa

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(AFK Insider) Gates Foundation Pays For Contraceptive Delivery By Drone To African Women

Ghana health care. Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

Ghana health care.
Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

By Dana Sanchez

Published: January 29, 2016, 3:26 pm 

Drones are delivering contraceptives to hard-to-reach Ghanaian villages in a program jointly funded by the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s so successful that other countries want it too, HuffingtonPost reported.

Deliveries to rural Ghana that once took two days now take 30 minutes by drone, and each flight costs only $15, according to Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist with the U.N. Population Fund.

Sunkutu said he expected the pilot program in Ghana to encounter resistance, and worried people would associate the drones with war. So the U.N., in its program materials, referred to the drones only as “unmanned aerial vehicles” — not drones.

“We don’t want that link between war and what we are doing,” Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview. “But the resistance we thought we would get has not been there.”

Less than than 20 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives. In rural Africa, a flood can shut down roads for days and cut off medical supplies, making access to birth control a massive problem.

An estimated 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to delay or stop childbearing, but don’t have reliable birth control, according to the World Health Organization. This prevents women and girls from finishing school or getting jobs. About 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions each year.

“We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls,” Bill and Melinda Gates said, according to their foundation website.

The idea to use drones for delivering birth control came from a program in the Amazon, Sunkutu said.

The drone operator packs a five-foot-wide drone with contraceptives and medical supplies from an urban warehouse and sends it over to places hard to reach by car. There, a local health worker meets the drone and picks up the supplies.

Project Last Mile has been flying birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana for several months.

Now it’s expanding to six other African countries. The goal is to revolutionize women’s health and family planning in Africa. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have expressed an interest.

Using drones to improve reproductive health isn’t exactly a new idea — it’s just new in Africa, according to Huffington Post. In June, a Dutch organization called Women on Waves used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland, trying to raise awareness of Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Project Last Mile says it is the first to develop a long-term, sustainable program for delivering contraceptives by drone.

Sunkutu hopes that eventually drones will revolutionize other areas of rural African life., starting with family planning.

“They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school,” he said. It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We’re going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable.”

The article was published in AFKInsider.

 

(Xinhua) Interview: Guinea hails Chinese medical team for role in defeating Ebola

Source: Xinhua   2016-01-15 20:45:33
CONAKRY, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) — The Chinese medical team in Guinea has been hailed for its contribution to fighting the deadly Ebola virus.

The director of Sino-Guinea Friendship Hospital in the capital Conakry, Dr. Fode Ibrahim Camara, made the remarks in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday just after the World Health Organization declared free of Ebola in Liberia.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa had been pronounced over with Liberia’s end of the virus, however hours later a new case was confirmed in Sierra Leone which had been declared Ebola-free on Nov. 7, 2015.

Guinea was declared Ebola-free on Dec. 29, 2015.

Photo Credit: www.news.cn.com

Photo Credit: www.news.cn.com

The current 10-strong Chinese medical team in Guinea is the 24th mission sent by China to the country since 1968. They arrived in Guinea in August 2014 and serves a two-year term.

Camara said the 24th Chinese medical team had come to Guinea at “the most difficult time” when the Ebola epidemic was at its peak, when most people were leaving Guinea and most businesses were closing down.

“This support shows that our forefathers were right to establish the cooperation with China, which has continued to grow stronger since 1960s,” Camara said.

He hailed the good working relationship between Guinean and Chinese doctors in battling Ebola virus.

Camara said the Chinese government contributed effectively to the fight against Ebola in Guinea.

The Chinese government was the first to come to Guinea’s aid, providing all the necessary material and financial support in the war against Ebola, he said.

China was the first country to provide aid for Ebola-hit countries after the outbreak was reported in March 2014. Guinea received the first Chinese supplies in April 2014.

Camara said China also helped to train over 1,500 health workers who engaged in the fight against Ebola, both in Conakry and other parts of the country.

The 23th Chinese medical team in Guinea, which returned in August 2014, helped to fight against Ebola for six months. Its 19 members have been lauded by the country for their contributions.

As of November 2014, China has offered aid worth 750 million yuan (about 113.77 million dollars) and sent thousands of medical personnel to Ebola-hit countries.

Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since December 2013.

Editor: An

(HuffPost) Burkina Faso, French Troops End Deadly Hotel Siege Claimed By Al Qaeda Group

01/16/2016 08:17 am ET | Updated 27 minutes ago

AHMED OUOBA/AFPGETTY IMAGES
Forces killed four attackers, ending the hotel siege in Burkina Faso, on Saturday.

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — The Al-Qaida fighters who stormed a popular hangout in Burkina Faso’s capital at dinnertime came with a mission to kill as many people as possible, firing at people as they moved to a nearby hotel and setting the cafe ablaze, survivors and officials said Saturday. When the gunfire stopped after a more than 12-hour siege, at least 28 people had been slain in an unprecedented attack on this West African country long spared the jihadist violence experienced by its neighbors.

Like the extremist attacks from Paris to Jakarta, the assailants in the Friday evening attack targeted an area where people from different nationalities gathered to enjoy life. Here in Ouagadougou, the victims had been grabbing a cold drink outside or staying at one of the capital’s few upscale hotels. In this city with a large aid worker presence, the attackers sought to shoot as many non-Muslims as possible, screaming Allahu akhbar (Arabic for God is great) as they entered.

An audio tape later released by the al-Qaida group claiming responsibility for the carnage was entitled: “A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts.”

Among the victims from 18 different countries were the wife and 5-year-old daughter of the Italian man who owns the Cappuccino Cafe, where at least 10 people died in a hail of gunfire and smoke after the attackers set the building ablaze before moving on to the Splendid Hotel nearby. Some survivors cowered for hours on the roof or hid in the restaurant’s bathroom to stay alive. Two French and two Swiss citizens were confirmed among the dead late Saturday by the two countries’ foreign ministries.

Authorities said the four known attackers – all killed by security forces – had come in a vehicle with plates from neighboring Niger. At least two of them were women and one was of African descent. Witnesses said they wore the turbans often worn in the sand-swept countryside of the Sahel, and some spoke in French with an Arabic accent, suggesting some may have come from further north in Africa.

“I heard the gunfire and I saw a light by my window and I thought it was fireworks at first,” said Rachid Faouzi Ouedraogo, a 22-year-old accounting student who lives near the scene of the carnage. “I raced downstairs and once outside I saw people running through the street and four people firing on the people at Cappuccino.”

AHMED OUOBA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack.

Burkinabe forces backed by French soldiers based in neighboring Mali managed to help free at least 126 hostages though officials have said the true number of those held hostage may be higher. Dozens were wounded in the overnight siege, including many suffering gunshot wounds.

“We appeal to the people to be vigilant and brave because we must fight on,” President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on national radio Saturday.

The North Africa branch of al-Qaida, founded in Algeria, claimed responsibility for the bloodbath even as it was unfolding in a series of statements published and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The al-Qaida affiliate known as AQIM – now working in tandem with feared extremist Moktar Belmoktar – later released an audio clip it said was a conversation with one of the fighters later slain in Ouagadougou.

The message said the attack was directed at “the occupiers of our lands, the looters of our wealth, and the abusers of our security,” according to SITE and sought to punish them “for their crimes against our people in Central Africa, Mali, and other lands of the Muslims, and to avenge our prophet.”

Burkina Faso is a largely Muslim country though it is home to a number of French nationals as a former colony of France. Islamic extremists in the region have long targeted French interests, incensed by France’s military footprint on the continent more than a half century after independence. France led the military effort in 2013 to oust extremists from their seats of power in northern Mali, and continue to carry out counterterrorism activities across the Sahel region.

French special forces were also front and center early Saturday, as police and military forces fought to take back the Splendid Hotel. After freeing the hostages there, forces then scoured other buildings including the Hotel Yibi where they killed the fourth attacker, the president later said.

NABILA EL HADAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The horror closely mirrored the siege of an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that left 20 people dead and shattered the sense of security in the capital of a nation whose countryside has long been scarred by extremism.

Burkina Faso was better known for the role its president and officials played in mediating hostage releases when jihadists would seize foreigners for ransom in places like Niger or Mali. Now though, it appears Burkina, too, has been turned into a place where Westerners are at high risk.

On Saturday, Minister of Security and Internal Affairs Simon Compaore said that an Australian doctor and his wife had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso’s north. He corrected an earlier government statement that the two were from Austria. The two were abducted from the town of Djibo near the border with Mali where they had been doing volunteer work in the area for years.

Jihadists also hold a third foreigner: a Romanian national who was kidnapped in an attack last April that was the first of its kind at the time.

Some analysts point to the security vacuum that has emerged in Burkina Faso since late 2014, when the longtime strongman leader fled power in a popular uprising. Members of the military jockeyed for power, and the country suffered through a short-lived coup earlier this year before democratic elections were allowed to go forward in November.

Most in Burkina Faso recoil at the idea of extremism now taking hold here, adding to the woes of one of the poorest countries in the world.

“We know that the gunmen won’t get out of the hotel alive,” said one witness of the overnight siege, who gave only his first name, Gilbert. “Our country is not for jihadists or terrorists. They got it wrong.”

The article was published in the Huffington Post.

Ebola: what is working and what is not. (CNN)

(CNN)Despite a massive international effort, several treatments that once held great hope for fighting Ebola have turned out not to work against the dreaded virus that killed more than 11,000 people in the most recent outbreak.

The “harvest of that massive effort is thin,” writers in the journal, Science, recently commented.

But researchers are looking into some other options, with more studies coming out just in the past week. Here’s where various Ebola treatments stand, both the losers and those still up for consideration.

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

2014: Doctor treating Ebola with HIV drug

2014: Doctor treating Ebola with HIV drug 02:08

Read more

(All Africa) 10 Things to Watch in Africa in 2016

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC.
Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

ANALYSIS

By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen

Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.

Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.

Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.

Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.

Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.

Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.

 

Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.

The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.

The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.

A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.

Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.