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Monday, October 14th, 2019

 

WHO and UNICEF back Philippine government in vaccinating 1.8 million children against polio

MANILA, Philippines, 14 October 2019 – The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are supporting the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) in the synchronized polio vaccination campaign launched today in Metro Manila, Davao City and Marawi City. The immunization campaign that started on October 14 will continue until October 27. The campaign aims to cover around 1.8 million children under 5 years old in the three areas as well as in Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur.

“The polio outbreak is a wakeup call for the Philippines. We must act now to protect children against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization,” said acting WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe. “To stop this outbreak, we aim to reach nearly two million children within two weeks. We will work closely with the Department of Health to achieve this target. We need bayanihan [community-spirit] from everyone – the parents and caregivers, mayors, governors, community and religious leaders, health workers, volunteers, and media partners.”

Polio is a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death in a matter of hours. There is no cure for polio. However, it can be prevented through safe and effective vaccines.

The Philippines has seen a decline of immunization coverage in the past few years, including for protection against polio. In 2018, 66% of children completed their oral polio vaccine (drops) doses and 45% received their inactivated polio vaccine (injection) dose. At least 95% of children under 5 years of age need to be vaccinated, irrespective of their current vaccination status, to stop the spread of polio in the country.

“Every child under 5 years old in these priority areas need to be vaccinated now,” said Oyun Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative. “There is no alternative to protect children from the risk of polio than vaccinating them. The polio vaccine is safe and effective. UNICEF is working with WHO to support DOH meet the country’s immunization targets,” she affirmed.

WHO and UNICEF are working with the Philippine Government to support vaccine supply and cold chain management, on-the-ground coordination, operations support and monitoring. WHO and UNICEF are also working to ensure clear communication to mobilise the general public aiming to achieve high turnout of all children under 5 years old for vaccination. The Philippine Government is also partnering with other UN agencies as well as international and local non-government organizations.

Vaccination campaign

The Department of Health announced a polio outbreak in the Philippines last 19 September 2019.

To rapidly boost population immunity in response to the outbreak, additional doses of polio drops are being provided to eligible children, free of charge, living in Davao City, Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao, and in Metro Manila, starting 14 to 27 October 2019. WHO and UNICEF urge all children under five years of age living in these areas to receive additional doses of polio vaccine, regardless of their previous immunization status.

Across the Philippines, WHO and UNICEF are also reminding parents and caregivers of children under the age of five to ensure that their children are vaccinated against polio according to the national routine immunization schedule. Vaccination is provided for free at health centres and involves three doses of polio drops and one injection.


New policy on civil servant hiring to ruin competence and continuity

By JOHN SHIKOMERE
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The Public Service Commission (PSC) will no longer employ entry-level civil servants on permanent and pensionable terms and has placed its workers on short contracts.

The PSC has not officially communicated these changes to its employees beyond the media, nor has it engaged the Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS), the sole body legally mandated to organise and represent government employees in all matters relating to their terms and conditions of employment.

The policy is retrogressive: it goes against the traditions that underpin a permanent service system in a democracy anywhere.

A permanent civil service provides continuity and develops expertise and institutional memory for effective policymaking.

But the three-year contract does not provide room for the young employees to develop in-depth knowledge and expertise public affairs.

A highly-motivated new employee requires time and energy to learn the ropes from experienced staff to work productively with minimum supervision.

POLICY ADVISERS

But they will, instead, be spending time and energy scouting for a new job since there is no guarantee that the contract will be renewed. His loyalty will be impaired.

Traditionally, civil servants serve the government of the day. A permanent and impartial civil service is more likely to assess the long-term social payoffs any policy, whereas the political executive may have a tendency to look for short-term political gain.

The chief foundations of all governments are not just good laws but honest and competent administration.

As policy advisers to the political establishment, civil servants — from the policy adviser to the rank and file — have two things politicians don’t have: knowledge and expertise and the long-range view of things and protection of their jobs.

A permanent civil service helps to ensure uniformity in public administration and also acts as unifying force particularly in vast and culturally diverse nations.

SUCCESSION

Such an ideal cannot be attained when tenure in the service is temporary and in permanent instability. The PSC wants to undermine this characteristic of the civil service.

The prolonged freeze in employment of entry-level employees has affected succession management.

We have an ageing staff with vast experience and knowledge exiting the service with invaluable institutional knowledge that cannot be easily shared.

The Pendleton Civil Service Act 1883, enacted in the wake of US President James Garfield’s assassination by a frustrated jobseeker, established the tradition and mechanism of permanent federal employment based on merit rather than political party affiliation (the spoils system).

Are we saying that Kenya is at its best with a mercenary civil service, like the Italian statesman Nicolai Machiavelli’s Mercenary Armies, “disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies”?


Do radical surgery on tea sector urgently

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The story of Kenya’s bitter tea made chilling reading in the past few days.

It’s a story of a sector deeply captured by wheeler-dealers and cartels that skim off the sweat of farmers; an industry ensnared in politics and a business managed by an agency with wide and unfettered powers and one that has minimal regard for tea producers.

Despite the harrowing experience of the tea farmers, the government has hardly been bothered about the industry being steeped in a crisis.

Little intervention has been forthcoming from the government and authorities charged with the responsibility of managing the sector.

At the centre is the Kenya Tea Development Agency that manages the sector and which, from the available reports, has outlived its welcome.

The KTDA is a master with an array of responsibilities, ranging from managing tea cultivation to weighing and collecting green leaf, transportation to manufacturing and marketing of processed tea.

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From all these processes, the agency is expected to generate good money and pay farmers generous cash. This is not forthcoming. And here is the thrust of the matter.

This financial year, the KTDA announced a drastic cut of bonuses for farmers. And the reason is that the earnings from tea exports and sales plummeted to Sh69.8 billion from Sh85.7 billion last year, which fact the agency attributes to political and economic crises in the traditional tea markets of Sudan, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan.

But this masks a far deeper problem. The entire sector is badly managed, and given the influence of brokers, farmers are convinced that some underhand practices are at play.

It is not far-fetched not to rule out price fixing that ultimately diminishes farmers’ returns.

To be sure, the court, through a public spirited suit, has determined that the prices be investigated by independent experts. But that is not the subject for this discussion.

The way tea and other cash crops, such as coffee and sugarcane, have been managed has created the equivalent of South American sharecroppers, where entities meant to manage the industries turn into de facto owners of the land, literally dethroning real owners and forcing them to existence at the periphery.

When, for example, we consider the ratios of earnings that accrue to the KTDA and farmers, the metaphor takes an eerie dimension.

Given the loud silence from the Agriculture ministry, we urge political leaders and lobbies to take up this matter and push for proper compensation for farmers and, in the long run, restructuring of the KTDA and revitalisation of the sector to weed out the cartels and create systems that favour tea growers.


Change tack in security

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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As the country celebrates spectacular performances by the two top athletes being feted globally for writing records in marathon running, it is also bleeding from a grave security breach in the north that calls for increased vigilance.

The spectre of terrorism continues to dog the country. The Saturday incident in which 10 General Service Unit officers died when their vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED) in Garissa County has been rightly condemned by President Uhuru Kenyatta as a cowardly act.

Our enemies are opting for tactics meant to instil fear in Kenyans. However, it would be terrible to despair, having known that this would be a long-drawn-out affair.

This threat must be confronted as the security organs seek to secure the country, and especially its borders.

AIRSTRIKES

The long, largely porous border with Somalia, from where Al-Shabaab terrorists organise attacks, remains a big challenge.

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While the rest of the country has seen fewer incidents, there have been sporadic attacks in this region.

There is a need, therefore, to change tack and enhance the capacity to pre-empt attacks. The enemy has been planting IEDs on the roads knowing that this is a favoured approach of the security personnel.

An apt response is needed. Until the safety of the roads is ascertained, it is, perhaps, time to assault the enemy from the air, using helicopters and increasing patrols on foot.

There has been a tendency to quickly mobilise in response to attacks but, as soon as the dust settles, everything is forgotten until another incident occurs.

Intelligence gathering must also be stepped up for security forces to launch decisive strikes to secure the region and the country as a whole.


Diesel power hits three-year low

PATRICK ALUSHULABy PATRICK ALUSHULA
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The share of expensive thermal power in the national grid has reduced to 13.4 percent, the lowest in three years on increased uptake of green energy, despite the relatively static power bills.

Official data for eight months to August 2019 show that the amount of thermal power generated dropped 15.6 per cent to 1,014 gigawatt hours (GWh) as wind and solar power production was stepped up.

During this period, the combined share of wind and solar energy to the grid rose to 15.5 percent from last year’s 0.34 percent, majorly boosted by 310 megawatts from Lake Turkana Wind Power project and 54.6 megawatts from Garissa solar plant.

This has cut the share of thermal energy in national grid for the second straight year to 13.4 percent of the 7,572 GWh total local electricity produced in eight months.

Thermal energy had a share of 26.46 percent in the national grid in 2017 before falling to 16.5 per cent last year. It was at a high of 34.49 percent in 2014 owing to erratic rains that reduced hydropower source.

Consuming more electricity from green sources is supposed to result in lower electricity bills given that wind power is priced at Sh8 per kilowatt hours (kWh) compared to thermal power, which costs about Sh15 per kWh.

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Fuel cost charge — which is influenced by the share of electricity from diesel generators- averaged Sh3.17 per kWh in eight months to August, being 29.8 per cent lower than the average of Sh4.52 per kWh in a similar period last year.

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority has maintained that more savings could only be realised when the country’s demand for electricity rises so that customers share the fixed cost element in power production.

Kenya is still stuck with expensive thermal power purchase agreements whose termination could attract up to Sh9 billion, according last year’s estimates the Energy ministry.

The first contract ends in 2023 while the longest one expires in 2031.

This could see consumers wait longer for cheaper bills despite wind power having overtaken thermal to number three in contribution of electricity to the national grid.

Geothermal is the biggest accounting for 44.12 percent of electricity generation mix at 3,341 GWh, while hydro is second at 26.98 percent with 2,043 GWh.


Syria: Devastating impact on civilians, water shortages feared

Geneva (ICRC) – An update from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the situation in north-east Syria:

The ongoing hostilities are having a devastating impact on the civilian population, with tens of thousands of people fleeing their towns and villages near the border. The immediate area around where hostilities are taking place may result in the displacement of 300,000 people who are living in main cities in two governorates, Hassakeh and Raqqa.

Water shortages are a major concern that the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working to address. There are concerns that Hassakeh city (approximate population 400,000) may run dry as the main water station serving the area has been affected, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and several emergency measures have been taken to provide clean water from alternative sources. Water infrastructure (water stations and dams) are located near the current frontline, and it is critical that they are protected.

The people who have fled their homes need shelter and emergency humanitarian assistance. The ICRC, along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, is supporting hundreds of such families in Hassakeh. The families – mostly women and children – are staying with family or friends, and other host families are sharing their homes, food and water. Other new arrivals are in staying in schools that have been turned into makeshift shelter. Such upheaval also has a ripple effect: thousands of students in Hassakeh now can’t attend school.

Here’s how the fighting is affecting one family. Um Ali, 38, is from Ain Issa town: “We had just finished lunch when we heard a big explosion near our house. My small children started crying. My husband and I took our kids, left the house and walked for hours. We did not have money to rent a car to reach Hassakeh so it took us two days to reach the city. Now, we are staying in this school where we feel a bit safer, but we brought no food, no water, no mattresses.”

How ICRC/Syrian Arab Red Crescent is helping: More than 515 families (more than 2,500 people) have been assisted so far in several schools in Hassakeh that were turned into emergency shelters. Distributed items include canned food, blankets and mattresses, and bottled water. Their teams are working on alternative emergency solutions for water, for example: supporting a local water board to restart a water treatment plant; equipping boreholes to provide emergency drinking water for water trucking in some locations; and organizing water trucking in Hassakeh city, which served residents, IDP centers, a health center and two bakeries. AV News available here.

For more information, please contact:

Ruth Hetherington, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 4473726, rhetherington@icrc.org
Jason Straziuso, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 9493512, jstraziuso@icrc.org
Matthew Morris, ICRC London, + 44 7753 809471, mmorris@icrc.org
Anna Nelson, ICRC Washington, +1 202 255 2715, anelson@icrc.org
Diana Santana, ICRC New York +1 917 455 9035 dsantana@icrc.org


16-year-old boy killed, four injured in Guinea protests

AFPBy AFP
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A 16-year-old boy was killed and four other people were injured Monday when police in the Guinean capital Conakry opened fire in clashes with protestors, a doctor said.

The incident happened in the suburb of Sonfonia Gare, on a day of demonstrations called to oppose constitutional changes that could enable 81-year-old President Alpha Conde to seek a third term in office.

In the district of Cosa, an opposition stronghold, police fired stun grenades and teargas against groups of protesters, an AFP reporter saw.

An alliance of unions, opposition parties and civil society groups called the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) had appealed for a massive turnout.

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Conde is a former opposition figure who in 2010 became the West African state’s first democratically-elected president, but his tenure has been marred by a crackdown on protests.

Last month he called on the public to prepare for a referendum and elections, stirring speculation that he is planning to overcome a constitutional bar on a third term. The next presidential ballot is due to be held late next year.

The opposition says about 100 people have been killed since Conde took office in 2010, winning re-election five years later.

About 20 people have been arrested since Saturday, according to the FNDC.


Ian Khama discredits former party, backs opposition ahead of poll

AFPBy AFP
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Botswana’s influential former president Ian Khama on Sunday threw his weight behind the opposition, a fierce critic of his when he was leader, in a bid to oust his handpicked successor in the country’s upcoming elections.

Earlier this year Khama dramatically defected from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has ruled the southern African country since it gained independence from Britain in 1966.

His departure and condemnation of President Mokgweetsi Masisi has thrown the party into an internal crisis ahead of a high-stakes general election on October 23.

The vote will test the strength of the BDP after more than five decades in control of the diamond-rich country, which has a reputation as a beacon of stability in a troubled continent.

SHIFTED LOYALTY

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Khama, a 66-year-old former general whose father led the country to independence, had a bitter fall-out with his former deputy Masisi after he took office last year.

At a rally in his eastern home town Serowe on Sunday, Khama told thousands of supporters that the BDP — which was co-founded by his father — was dead.

“The party of the founding father of the republic is no more. It is dead,” he said.

“Let us go and vote BPF and UDC,” Khama said, referring to the Botswana Patriotic Front, a party formed by his allies who split from the ruling party, and the main opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change.

He urged voters to cast their ballots for the UDC in constituencies where the BPF was not fielding a candidate.

ENDORSING OPPOSITION

Khama even endorsed the UDC’s leader Duma Boko.

“Life will be good like before, if voters elect Boko,” he said.

It represents a remarkable turnaround from Khama’s time in office from 2008-2018, when the UDC was a fierce critic.

In the run-up to the 2014 election, Boko even claimed he was on a hit list of Khama’s party.

The former president has said he regrets having chosen “autocratic, intolerant” Masisi as his successor.

Khama is a traditional chief of Serowe, which sits in a central region that has been a traditional BDP stronghold and could be critical in the elections.


Brexit on October 31 a 'priority' for British govt: Queen

AFPBy AFP
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out his government’s priorities at a parliamentary ceremony full of pomp and pageantry attended by the queen, with Brexit top of the agenda.

But with time running out for an amicable divorce deal before EU leaders meet later this week, few of the proposals look likely to be enacted, with predictions of a snap election.

Queen Elizabeth II announced in a speech to lawmakers a list of 26 new bills ranging from implementing a yet-to-be finalised EU divorce agreement to criminal sentencing and the environment.

“My government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on October 31,” the 93-year-old monarch said from a gilded throne, delivering words written by government officials.

“My government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation.”

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SHORT TIMELINE

The raft of policies outlined included plans for an EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill to enshrine in British law a deal that Johnson is still racing to agree with Brussels, before the scheduled end-of-month departure date.

The Conservative leader has repeatedly said Brexit must happen this month, more than three years after Britons voted narrowly in a 2016 referendum to leave the bloc after nearly five decades of membership.

But if he fails to get the deal by an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, he risks having to ask Brussels to delay under a law intended to prevent a potentially damaging “no deal” exit. 

The Queen’s Speech to formally reopen the new parliamentary session was the first since June 2017 and was delivered in the upper chamber before ermine and red-robed peers, and their counterparts from the lower chamber, the House of Commons.

The monarch was taken to parliament at the Palace of Westminster from her Buckingham Palace residence in a horse-drawn carriage, escorted by the Household Cavalry, with other members of the armed forces lining the route.

She was accompanied by her eldest son, the heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.

The speech — the queen’s 65th since she began her reign — comes after Johnson tried to suspend parliament for five weeks in September, a move subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court for trying to stop lawmakers debating Brexit.

POST-BREXIT PLANS

The government’s programme included plans for new regimes for fisheries, agriculture and trade after Brexit, and laws to protect Britain’s financial and legal services sectors.

It also set out legislation to end freedom of movement for EU citizens after Brexit, and outlined a new points-based immigration system that will come into effect in 2021.

Addressing the estimated 3.4 million Europeans currently living in Britain, the monarch said the government was committed that they “have the right to remain”.

She also announced bills to protect animal welfare, fight plastic pollution, support the state-run National Health Service, address domestic violence and introduce tougher sentences for criminals.

But few are likely to come into effect, as Johnson has no majority in the House of Commons with which to push them through.

The political deadlock means that, once the October 31 deadline is passed — with or without a deal or a delay — most commentators expect an election within months.

The winning government would then have to set out their legislative agenda again — with a new queen’s speech.


Ngige in pole position at Safari Tour

LARRY NGALABy LARRY NGALA
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Thika Sports Club’s Simon Ngige finally jumped onto the top of the leader board with a two rounds of four under par 140 in the third leg of the on-going Safari Tour at the par 72 Royal Nairobi Golf Club course on Monday.

During Monday’s second round of the Magical Kenya and Absa sponsored event, Ngige, who had shared the first round lead with local pro Erick Ooko, fired one under par 71, while Ooko dropped to joint third with David Wakhu of Golf Park and Sigona’s Mohit Mediratta.

Ooko carded 76, Wakhu 73 and Mediratta brought home 75 for the three to tie on one over par 145.

But back on the leader Ngige, it was not a fine start as he dropped a shot at the par four-first hole, before settling with two quick pars at the second and third until at the fourth where he made his first birdie of the day.

FIVE SHOTS

He added one more at the par five-seventh to turn to the back nine on one under par 35, though a couple of bogeys on the 11th, 14th and at the home green almost ruined the day for him, though he had made an equal number of birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th holes which gave him the day’s 71.

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Ngige will start Tuesday’s third round five clear shots from Wakhu of Golf Park, home pro Ooko and the Sigona-based Mediratta, and a further six shots ahead of amateur Daniel Nduva from Nyali Golf and Country Club Mombasa, who carded level par 72 for a two rounds total of 146, with six others including the long hitting Dismas Indiza, Mathew Wahome, Jacob Okello, Tony Omulli, Alfred Nandwa, and Njuguna Ngugi tying on 147.

Apparently, no visiting pro made it to the last two rounds with Uganda’s Brian Toolit being the closest on 152, despite his four under par 68 in the second round.

In all, 21 players made the cut and will begin the chase for the Sh1 million prize kitty from 8.30am, while the final round is set for Wednesday.

The leader board;

140 Simon Ngige 69, 71

145 David Wakhu 72, 73

145 Mohit Mediratta 70, 75

145 Erick Ooko 69, 76

146 Daniel Nduva (Am) 74, 72

147 Tony Omuli 78, 69

147 Njuguna Ngugi 76, 71

147 Alfred Nandwa 75, 72

147 Mathew Wahome 75, 72

147 Jacob Okello 74, 73

147 Dismas Indiza 74, 73.