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October 5, 2015

Civilian deaths as U.S. bombs hospital in Afghanistan

Civilian deaths as U.S. bombs hospital in Afghanistan

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Kunduz province in Afghanistan.
Image: User:TUBS.

The location of the hospital in Kunduz.
Image: © OpenStreetMap contributors.

Twenty two civilians, including three children, died, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported, on Saturday after a United States airstrike hit a hospital in the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Amongst the fatalities were twelve charity staff working for MSF. MSF said there were about two hundred people in the building.

Cquote1.svg Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Cquote2.svg

—Médecins Sans Frontières

Cquote1.svg The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. Cquote2.svg

—United States military

A statement was issued on the MSF website criticising the attack and stating “Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body.” The US military released a statement saying they had struck “against individuals threatening the force” and “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” The US Government announced there would be three separate investigations, carried out by the Afghan forces, the US military, and NATO. The Afghan interior ministry claimed there had been a Taliban presence in the hospital although this was denied by the insurgent organization.

The attack was also condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross, whilst the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, described the strike as “inexcusable” and called for a full investigation.

On September 28, the Taliban launched an assault on Kunduz. The US has been carrying out air strikes to support Afghan government forces attempting to recover the city. MSF said it had often provided the Afghan and US governments with details of the location of the hospital, particularly on September 29. The Taliban had unsuccessfully tried to capture Kunduz in April this year, but they were pushed back by government forces.



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December 5, 2009

State of the health care system in Sierra Leone critical

Filed under: Africa,Archived,Health,Médecins Sans Frontières — admin @ 5:00 am

State of the health care system in Sierra Leone critical

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

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According to Médecins Sans Frontières the health care system in Sierra Leone causes loss of life because the poor cannot afford medical treatment. The maternal death rate and the child mortality rate in Sierra Leone are the highest in the world. Experiences of Médecins Sans Frontières had shown that free care or low fees lead to a dramatic increase in the number of patients. Nonetheless the national health system of Sierra Leone demands payment for all treatment with simple consultations costing as much as 25 days of income. According to Action Against Hunger the number of children with acute malnutrition has reached almost twice the level of the WHO’s emergency threshold of 2% in the Moyamba district of Sierra Leone.

The Los Angeles Times writes that Sierra Leone, in spite of decades of foreign aid, has not yet increased the standard of living of its people considerably and 60% of the public spending of Sierra Leone come from other governments and nonprofit organizations. Since 2002 the country received $1 billion in aid but the infant mortality rate is almost the highest in the world, lower than Angola but higher than Afghanistan. The newspaper further reports that the United Nations state that 1 in 8 Sierra Leonean women die giving birth, as compared to 1 in 4,800 in the United States and that life expectancy in Sierra Leone is merely 41 years while in Bangladesh life expectancy reaches 60 years.

The government of Sierra Leone had expressed its intend to abolish user fees for women and children with a new plan for a fairer health care system that was to be revealed on the Sierra Leone Investment and Donor Conference, which was held in London on November 18 and 19.

“The Sierra Leone government has publicly stated its commitment to abolish user fees, and the UK government and other donors have promised to help,” said Seco Gerard, advisor at Médecins Sans Frontières’s analysis and advocacy unit. “What is crucial now is that Sierra Leone actually receives the necessary funding and technical assistance to realise this objective. It is time that words are being followed up by concrete action. If not, people who could otherwise be saved will continue to die needlessly every day.”

The Telegraph reports that president Bai Koroma was also hoping to secure a significant increase in aid donations with his new health plan. While Germany declined to support president Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change” and urged to give more consideration to women’s welfare the country received support from the European Union, DFID, UNIPSIL, World Bank, IFAD and the African Development Bank. From the pledges of $850 million the government of Sierra Leone was hoping for only about $300 millions could be secured, with attached conditionalities concerning the use of funding.

In a presentation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Freetown the Unicef representative for Sierra Leone, Mr. Mahimbo Mdoe, expressed gratitude about a pledge of about $1.3 million conveyed by the Ambassador of Japan to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Mr. Keiichi Katakami, and about earlier donations to UNICEF-Sierra Leone in the past years, amounting to over $20 million. The intended application of the funding is the goal to half child and maternal mortality by 2010, to introduce a social health insurance scheme, to improve equipment and to train health professionals.



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November 14, 2009

Six aid groups suspend work in Chad after killing

Six aid groups suspend work in Chad after killing

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Red Cross in Chad
Image: Mark Knobil.

Médecins Sans Frontières in Chad
Image: Mark Knobil.

Six aid groups have suspended work in Chad today after the killing of one aid worker, a rash of banditry, and a kidnapping, according to the United Nations. The UN says about 37,000 people will be affected in some way by the move.

UN spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs noted that the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) are among those to halt operations. “To date, five NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] have temporarily suspended their activities in the east,” Byrs said. “Serious acts of banditry in eastern Chad over the last two weeks jeopardise the continuity of humanitarian operations.”

This comes soon after a worker for the Red Cross, Laurent Maurice, was kidnapped earlier in the week and another local aid worker for the Solidarités agency was killed.

Over fifty attacks on humanitarian aid workers in Chad have been made this year by bandits. Relief workers are targeted by criminals because they have valuables and vehicles.



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October 19, 2009

Kidnappers release two aid workers in Darfur, Sudan after more than 100 days

Kidnappers release two aid workers in Darfur, Sudan after more than 100 days

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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Two members of Irish aid agency GOAL, kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region last July, were freed on Sunday, and are “in good health,” according to Abdel Baqi al-Jailani Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki say they are “thrilled” to be free at last.

Capture and release

Irish citizen Commins, 32, and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki, 42, were working for GOAL in a compound run by the charity in the North Darfur town of Kutum. Armed men seized them on July 3.

Following their release early Sunday morning they described their captivity as a “difficult time”, and thanked everyone who had worked to secure their freedom in a joint statement released through the GOAL. They were, “naturally thrilled to be released after such a long period in captivity”.

“We know it must have been a traumatic period for our families especially and for our friends,” they said. “It was of course, a difficult time – but we found strength in each other and in our friendship.” They also could “hardly wait to get home” to spend time with their families.

Al-Gilani indicated the pair were in Kutum and due to fly to Khartoum later the same day prior to them respectively returning to Ireland and Uganda.

John O’Shea, president of GOAL, told AFP by telephone that, “[w]e are all relieved,” and that all at the charity were particularly happy for their families. “We don’t yet know when they will go home but we hope it is as soon as possible.”

No ransom paid

Countering claims earlier in the year that the kidnappers demanded US$2 (€1.34) million for the pair’s release, al-Gilani stressed “no ransom was paid,”. adding that local tribal chiefs pressured the kidnappers into freeing the aid workers.

Increased hostility and threats

The captors held the two aid workers for over 100 days, the longest-running kidnapping in Darfur since the 2003 start of the region’s conflict. Until March, the longest an aid worker had been detained in Darfur was 24 hours.

Following the issue of an arrest warrant in March by the International Criminal Court for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for masterminding war crimes, aid workers say hostility and threats have increased towards them, and that Sudan’s relations with foreign relief organisations have declined dramatically.

In March and April two civil workers of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and French aid agency Aide médicale internationale (International Medical Aid) were kidnapped then released after three and 26 days respectively. A different group still holds captive two employees of the region’s joint United Nations—African Union peacekeeping force. These are the only two workers left in captivity.

No amnesty

To date, Sudanese authorities have not punished kidnappers; however al-Gilani announced yesterday that those responsible for the latest kidnapping must be brought to justice. In talking with AFP, he stated, “[t]hey must be punished otherwise there will be no more order”. The government called the kidnappers “bandits” and state no amnesty will be granted for the release of aid workers.



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January 8, 2009

International experts probe deadly Ebola Reston virus outbreak in Philippine pigs

International experts probe deadly Ebola Reston virus outbreak in Philippine pigs

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Transmission Electron Micrograph of the Ebola Virus. Hemorrhagic Fever, RNA Virus.

Global animal and health authorities’ emergency mission to the Philippines is investigating whether the strain of deadly Ebola Reston virus, recently discovered in dead pigs, poses a threat to human health. Unlike more-deadly strains of Ebola virus, Philippine health officials say this particular strain, known as the Reston ebolavirus, has never caused human illness or death, and it’s not immediately clear there is a public-health issue.

A 22-member team of experts from three United Nations agencies arrived in Manila on Tuesday for a joint risk assessment on the virus contamination of local swine, to help the government contain the outbreak. The mission will coordinate with the Philippine counterparts – the Departments of Agriculture and Health. According to chief veterinary officer, Davinio P. Catbagan, six of 28 swine samples tested positive for Ebola-Reston by the U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory. The infected pigs came from two commercial and two backyard farms in three provinces north of Manila. Both Ebola and related Marburg hemorrhagic fever, are considered to infect humans via primates.

The Straits Times reported that as of December, about 6,000 pigs at Pandi, Bulacan and Talavera farms had tested positive for the Ebola-Reston virus. “Eating pork remained safe as long as it is handled and cooked properly (at a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius or 158 degrees Fahrenheit) and bought in outlets accredited by the government’s National Meat Inspection Service,” said a joint statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). “Our teams are doing field and laboratory investigation to determine where the Ebola-Reston virus came from and how it was transmitted,” Caroline-Anne Coulombe, WHO risk communications officer, explained.

Crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) in Lopburi, Thailand.

According to FAO team leader, Juan Lubroth, it was the first time that the Ebola-Reston virus strain had infected animals other than monkeys and the first recorded worldwide in swine. The U.N. mission is scheduled to perform 10 days scientific tests, on two hog farms in Manaoag, Pangasinan and Pandi, Bulacan, but it would take months to publish evaluation reports on the virus.

As early as May, a high incidence of swine sickness and death in three provinces caused Philippine authorities in August to send samples from the dead pigs to the NY Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The results found the presence of several diseases, including Ebola Reston virus and PRRS.

In late October laboratory tests confirmed that pigs in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan farms were infected with the Ebola-Reston virus and the highly virulent strain of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRS). In early 2007 pigs on those farms died at a faster rate than usual amid the conducted lab tests. PRRSV, or Blue-Ear Pig Disease (zhū láněr bìng 豬藍耳病), is a viral and economically important pandemic disease which causes reproductive failure in breeding stock and respiratory tract illness in young pigs. Initially referred to as ‘mystery swine disease’ or ‘mystery reproductive syndrome’, it was first reported in 1987 in North America and Central Europe. The disease costs the United States swine industry around $600 million annually.

In December, the Philippine health authorities conducted testing of about 10,000 swine in two northern Luzon quarantined farms. Reuters reported that “the Ebola-Reston virus in some pigs in two commercial farms and two backyard farms in the Philippines were discovered by accident in United States laboratory tests in September, when samples were sent to test another disease.”

Ebola virus is one of at least 18 known viruses capable of causing the viral hemorrhagic fever syndrome. It is the common term for a group of viruses belonging to genus Ebolavirus, family Filoviridae, and for the disease which they cause, Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The virus is named after the Ebola River where the first recognized outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred in 1976. The viruses are characterized by long filaments and have a similar shape to the Marburg virus, also in the family Filoviridae, and share similar disease symptoms. Since its discovery, Ebolavirus has been responsible for a number of deaths.

In the central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the highly contagious Ebola virus was first detected in September, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres. “As of Tuesday January 7, a total of 42 patients have been reported with suspected Ebola haemorrhagic fever in the province of Western Kasai… 13 of these 42 patients suspected of having Ebola have died,” it said.

Transmission Electron Micrograph of the Ebola Virus.

The Reston ebolavirus is suspected of being either another subtype of the Ebola or a new filovirus of Asian origin. It was first discovered in crab-eating macaques originating in the Philippines, from Hazleton Laboratories (now Covance) in 1989. This discovery attracted significant media attention and led to the publication of The Hot Zone. There was then, an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever among monkeys imported from the Philippines to Reston, Virginia. The Ebola-Reston strain was discovered among Philippine monkeys in the U.S. again in 1990 and 1996, and in Italy in 1992.

According to the World Health Organization, African strains kill 50 percent to 90 percent of those infected through lethal bleeding and organ failure. “Since the 1970s, scientists, veterinarians, microbiologists and physicians have been looking at thousands of species to see if they can find this elusive reservoir, and we have been pretty much empty-handed,” Juan Lubroth, head of infectious diseases in the animal health unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, explained.

Despite its status as a Level-4 organism, the Reston ebolavirus is non-pathogenic to humans and is only mildly fatal to monkeys; the perception of its lethality was skewed due to the monkey’s coinfection with Simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV). During the incident in which it was discovered, six animal handlers eventually became seroconverted, one of whom had cut himself while performing a necropsy on the liver of an infected monkey. When the handler failed to become ill, it was concluded that the virus had a very low pathogenicity to humans.

In January 1997, The Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources had ordered the immediate slaughter of some 600 monkeys in Ferlite, a breeding farm in Laguna, to prevent an outbreak of the deadly Ebola Reston strain virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had donated 8,000 test kits to diagnose the ebola reston strain. “I am more concerned in the international community because we have proven in our December sales that this ebola did not affect consumer confidence,” Albert R. T. Lim, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc., warned. The Philippines Department of Agriculture (DA) has directed the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Commission (NMIC) to conduct swine tests in South Cotabato using the US test kits for the Ebola Reston virus, before approval of the “Meat in a Box” shipment to Singapore. The initial export of the meat for December was deferred pending outcome of the ERV tests.

Meanwhile, in eight Barangays of Santa Maria, Davao del Sur, in Mindanao, at least 50 pigs died since December due to viral and bacterial infections. Dr. Nestor Barroga, provincial veterinarian, said that he could not however detect yet the type of the infecting virus. The village of Pong-pong had the largest number of casualties. Mercy Olalo, a hog raiser, said their pigs would suddenly become weak and eventually die. “The pigs developed red skins and they salivate excessively,” she said.



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September 3, 2008

UN aid plane crash kills 17 in Democratic Republic of the Congo

UN aid plane crash kills 17 in Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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A Beechcraft 1900, similar to the one involved in the crash
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

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A United Nations (UN) aid plane in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has crashed, killing all seventeen passengers on board. According to a spokesperson for the organisation “The plane was found 15 kilometres (eight miles) northwest of Bukavu airport. There were 15 passengers and two crew on board.”

Air Serv International, the operator of the aircraft, said that it did not believe there to be any survivors. They also said in the statement that “the staff of Air Serv International express their condolences and deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew.”

The UN has identified the victims as a Canadian member of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), an Indian who worked for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, two members of Medecins Sans Frontiers, one from France and one from the Republic of Congo.

The other thirteen were citizens of the DRC. Two were employees of Air Serv and were the crew. Four were with the UNDP and another four were civil servants, while the last three worked for Handicap International.

The UN spokesperson also said that “the helicopter landed far away [from the wreckage] and the search and rescue team headed to the site on foot.”

The plane was on a journey from Kinshasa to Goma, with stops at Mbandaka, Kisangani and Bukavu.

Air crashes are common in the DRC and, as a result, Congolese airliners are banned from flying in the airspace of countries in the European Union.



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April 2, 2008

Two UN contract workers kidnapped in Somalia

Two UN contract workers kidnapped in Somalia

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

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Two foreign aid workers attached to a United Nations (UN) project were kidnapped in southern Somalia on Tuesday. The UN stated that the two men, one British and one Kenyan, were abducted at gunpoint while conducting a survey of local rivers. The men were taken hostage on a road leading to Bu’aale, in the southern Lower Jubba region of Somalia.

Lower Jubba region in Somalia.
Image: Sven-steffen arndt.

Briton Murray Watson was abducted along with his Kenyan colleague, Patrick Amukhuma, by six armed militiamen who ambushed their armed convoy. The abduction took place on a main road between Saakow and Bu’aale.

Gunfire was exchanged between Somali bodyguards and militia members. According to Agence France-Presse, local elders said that the gunmen fired shots during the attack and wounded one of the hostages, and The Daily Telegraph reported that witnesses said Watson was wounded in the leg.

Local district commissioner Ibrahim Noleye spoke with Agence France-Presse about the incident: “two foreign aid workers from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were intercepted by armed militiamen on their way to Buale … We believe they are being held hostage”.

Amos Nyaoro of Somalia Water and Land Information Management, the UN-supported agency where Watson was working, told The Daily Telegraph: “We are attempting to make contact with the people who abducted our colleagues. It is unclear why this attack has taken place. We understand that Mr Watson has been hurt, but we don’t know the extent of his injuries.”

Reuters has reported that local militias were pursuing the kidnappers in an attempt to free the hostages, and local clan elders are pressing for their release. Hajir Bille, an official from the Juba region in Somalia, told the Associated Press that security forces were looking for the abductors.

Cquote1.svg Witnesses on the ground say there was gunfire when the men were taken, but there is no information to suggest that any serious injury was sustained by either man. Cquote2.svg

—United Nations country office for Somalia

A statement released by the UN country office for Somalia addressed reports that one of the men kidnapped had been wounded: “Witnesses on the ground say there was gunfire when the men were taken, but there is no information to suggest that any serious injury was sustained by either man.” Reuters has reported that the hostages are being held “in or near” the town of Jilib.

UN officials in Rome, Italy said that the two men worked for an Indian-based group sub-contracted to do aerial survey work for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency. The men are not themselves members of the FAO, but are employees of Genesys International Corporation, an information technology company in Bangalore, India.

Genesys International Corporation performs aerial surveys in Somalia which help the area population deal with flooding due to a rise in water level of the Juba and Shabelle rivers.

Western companies and organizations have paid ransoms to free their employees, and kidnappings in the area have increased as a result. In recent months attacks on foreigners in Somalia have increased, but had been localized to the northern region of Puntland. Médecins Sans Frontières withdrew its international staff from the country after three workers were killed by a bomb in February.

Attacks against Somalia’s weak government and its Ethiopian military backers have increased in the last six months. Somalia’s government has not been functional since civil war began in 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and rival warlords then turned on each other.

Over one million citizens in Somalia depend on foreign aid, and UN aid helps millions of Somalians each year.



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September 16, 2007

Health organisations respond to Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Health organisations respond to Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Location of DRC within Africa.
Image: Rei-artur..

The World Health Organization (WHO), non-governmental aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sent experts to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to assist local health authorities with a recent outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Kasai Occidental province of DRC. The illness had been unidentified until laboratory test results confirmed the presence of the virus.

DRC President Joseph Kabila described the situation as being contained. “The village of Kampungu has been quarantined to prevent population movement towards Kananga,” Kabila said on Thursday. Kananga is the provincial capital. “The situation is at the moment, I cannot say under control, but at least the problem has been contained very well in the area,” he continued. “There is no risk that the whole country will be affected.”

WHO is working closely with officials from the DRC Ministry of Health and MSF to improve local facilities in order to better contain the virus. A mobile field laboratory is to be established in order to provide rapid sample analysis and, subsequently, diagnosis of patients. There are concurrent outbreaks of other diseases, such as dysentery (Shigellosis), that have been complicating diagnoses and need to be identified as well.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever generates mortality rates in the range of 50 to 90 percent, typically. There is currently no vaccine or effective treatment for Ebola. WHO describes the symptoms of Ebola as being “characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings show low counts of white blood cells and platelets as well as elevated liver enzymes.”

MSF, who now have 14 experts in DRC, arranged for eighteen tons of supplies, such as medical and sanitation material, to be delivered to the province of West Kasai. MSF indicated that the transportation of supplies from the airport to the affected areas has been a challenge, due to poor road conditions. It has taken up to three days to travel the 250 km to the outbreak area from the provincial capital city, Kananga.

A patient (non-Ebola) in a public hospital in DRC, May 2006.
Image: IRIN.

MSF experts will provide advice on sanitary burial procedures, which would include the use of body bags and spraying. Both the WHO and MSF will disseminate information to the local population regarding the transmission of the virus and measures that could be taken to reduce the spread of the disease.

The MSF emergency team coordinator in Kampungu, Rosa Crestani, described the isolation ward set up at Kampungu’s health centre. “Our isolation centre is basically divided in three parts. One is completely isolated, where the sick patients are; another is where the staff dresses with the complete protection uniform and then undresses after having been in contact with the patients; and the third part is a space for disinfection in between,” said Crestani. “In the coming days, we will decide with the Ministry of Health and the WHO whether we set up isolation structures in other locations of the health zone.”

Neighbouring countries, such as Rwanda and Zambia have issued alerts to their citizens, warning of travel to and from DRC. Zambian Health Minister Brian Chituwo stated that all people coming into Zambia from DRC will be watched for symptoms of Ebola for up to eight hours. Chituwo noted, however that it would be unlikely for an infected person to travel into the country, as the time between onset and death is very rapid and that the symptoms are severe.

There has been a minimum of 395 people affected by haemorrhagic fever, including 160 deaths, in DRC in the past few months. Since arriving in Kampungu in early September, MSF have seen 25 patients admitted with suspected Ebola haemorrhagic fever, of which eight have died.

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July 3, 2007

Detained AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin released in Myanmar

Detained AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin released in Myanmar

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

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Phyu Phyu Thin
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HIV/AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin has been released from police custody in Myanmar, after being detained more than a month ago.

“I am fine and I will meet my patients tomorrow,” Phyu Phyu Thin was quoted as saying in an Associated Press (AP) report today.

A supporter of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Phyu Phyu Thin heads the NLD’s volunteer HIV/AIDS relief effort, in which she visits patients’ boarding houses and homes and helps them obtain free treatment from international organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières.

She has been an outspoken critic of the Burmese military government’s handling of HIV/AIDS, saying not enough is being done.

Phyu Phyu Thin was taken from her home by police on May 21, after she had participated in a march calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the NLD.

She was never charged with a crime, she said. She was released at around 9 p.m. local time last night (0230 GMT) from a detention center in Yangon.

While in detention, Phyu Phyu Thin engaged in a hunger strike, taking only liquids for about a week, which left her very weak.

“I staged the hunger strike demanding to know why we were arrested without charges. I demanded to know on what grounds we were detained and if we were accused of breaking any law,” Phyu Phyu Thin told the AP.

The United States Department of State had issued a statement last week, calling on the Myanmar junta to release Phyu Phyu Thin.

While Phyu Phyu Thin was being held, 11 HIV/AIDS patients were detained last month for a few days at a hospital after they had held demonstrations, calling for her release.

“Efforts and pressure by all parties including the international community are always very important for those who have been arrested,” Phyu Phyu Thin told the AP.

Phyu Phyu Thin’s release follows the release of 51 NLD supporters who also were detained last month in a government crackdown on the NLD’s prayer vigils for Suu Kyi.

Phyu Phyu Thin, 36, had previously been detained in 2000, after she and other supporters were bundled away by special police from a rally for Suu Kyi. She and the others were held in Insein prison.

Speaking of the HIV/AIDS situation in the country, Phyu Phyu Thin said in an interview with The Irawaddy before she was detained: “The situation is worse now than ever before”. “I get 40 to 50 new cases a month of people urgently in need of treatment and there’s nowhere for them to go … there’s too much emphasis on education and not enough on treatment; treatment should come first,” she said.

Related news

  • International Red Cross condemns Myanmar regime” — Wikinews, June 29, 2007
  • “Supporters of Myanmar’s Suu Kyi mark detained leader’s 62nd birthday” — Wikinews, June 19, 2007
  • “Eleven HIV/AIDS patient-protestors detained in Myanmar” — Wikinews, June 8, 2007

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Phyu Phyu Thin

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

June 12, 2007

With pressure from France, Chad and Sudan open door to possible troop deployment

With pressure from France, Chad and Sudan open door to possible troop deployment

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

File:Idriss Déby headshot.jpg

President Idriss Déby of Chad.
Image: Brian Smithson.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

After meeting Sunday with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Chadian President Idriss Déby opened the door to the possible deployment of United Nations (UN) or European Union (EU) troops to Chad’s volatile eastern region. Yesterday, Kouchner met with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Until Sunday, Chad had rejected the idea of allowing military troops in to assist with security at its border with Sudan. In Chad’s eastern region, the government has been fighting an insurgency, which it claims has been supported by Sudan. While dealing with the insurgency, Chad had been amenable to an international police presence, but not a military force.

An estimated 234,000 Sudanese refugees have fled the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan and crossed the border into Chad. In addition, Chad is coping with an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons. The conditions in the camps set up to deal with the refugees have been criticised as inadequate by the aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Refugee camp in Chad.
Image: Mark Knobil.

France’s newly appointed foreign minister, and co-founder of MSF, Bernard Kouchner, and Chad’s President Déby were able to work out some concessions on the use of foreign troops. Following the meeting, Déby was asked by reporters whether he would allow UN or EU military troops to take a role in security and stabilization measures for a humanitarian mission. “Why not,” Déby replied.

Déby revealed that plans for an international force for Chad would be made public by the end of June. “We are agreed on the principle of deploying a force, but there are still some points to resolve, on which we must agree,” said Déby. “The results of the discussions will be made public before the 25th of this month.”

“We have been proposing this to the international community since 2004,” said Déby. But Chad’s Prime Minister, Delwa Kassiré Koumakoye, commented recently that neighbouring countries may take the use of foreign troops as a threat.

On June 9, MSF issued a press release warning of a humanitarian crisis developing in Chad. “It is imperative that the emergency in eastern Chad be fully recognised, that aid organisations provide massive, immediate aid to the IDPs and that the Chadian authorities facilitate humanitarian aid,” said Isabelle Defourny, manager of MSF programmes in Chad.

Progress in Sudan

File:Bernard Kouchner.gif

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Image: Photographic Dept. of the Prime Minister.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Following his visit to Chad, Foreign Minister Kouchner traveled to Sudan where he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sudan has, in the past, rejected the deployment of an international force, and has resisted the use of a UN-African Union (AU) force. During their meeting Monday, al-Bashir told Kouchner that he would only accept troops from Africa.

Kouchner indicated that his meetings with al-Bashir and other officials had been productive and would “lift a certain number of complications” in obtaining agreements with Sudan. He and al-Bashir also discussed the unilateral sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States. Kouchner felt that the sanctions haven’t been useful and that the Sudanese “seem clearly affected by this issue, considering how much they raised it.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed some optimism on the issue of troop deployment and acknowledged he received a letter recently from al-Bashir on the matter. As stated in the letter, al-Bashir has accepted in principal the idea of a UN-AU force of 23,000 troops to be stationed in Darfur. “I sincerely hope that we will be able to have early resolution of this issue,” said Ban.

One roadblock may be al-Bashir’s refusal to accept any force other than African. The UN and AU stated they would attempt to use only African troops, but indicated that non-African troops may be used if that were not possible.

“Darfur cannot be only an African problem,” said Kouchner. “At a certain level, the respect for human rights concerns the whole world.”

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