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Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone
© IRIN/OCHA

An Ebola Vaccine is on its Way

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But it will take some time. Still, this is encouraging news. “Both GlaxoSmithKline and NewLink Genetics are working to boost their capacity to make Ebola vaccines, with a goal of a “very significant increase in scale during the first half of 2015″, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. Even under the best conditions, if the experimental vaccines are proven to be safe and confer protection in clinical trials, a significant number of doses will not be available until late in the first quarter of 2015, the WHO said. GSK and NewLink are conducting phase 1 trials in healthy volunteers currently or soon in more than 10 sites in Africa, Europe and North America, the WHO said in a statement after hosting a two-day meeting of 70 experts. Initial safety data was expected by year-end, with phase II trials early next year to generate more data.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rAk5wP)

USA Waives Sanctions on Countries that Use Child Soldiers…This happens every year. And every year it’s an embarrassment.  Washington is releasing some $26 million to Yemen in military aid and boosting funds to armies in five other nations, waiving sanctions imposed for recruiting child soldiers, a US official said Thursday. President Barack Obama on Tuesday fully waived sanctions and lifted bans on international military, education and training assistance to Yemen, Rwanda and Somalia applied under the Child Soldier Prevention Act, said deputy assistant secretary Michael Kozak. Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan were also given partial waivers for specific military purposes, while sanctions were maintained on Myanmar, Sudan and Syria, found guilty of the widespread recruitment of children into their armies.” (New Vision http://bit.ly/1vg6t7M)

Sanitation in india is Getting a Boost…”IndianPM Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to modernize sanitation within five years. He starting by trying to change attitudes and he set an example by taking a broom and sweeping up rubbish in a Delhi neighborhood occupied by members of the Valmiki caste, whose lot in life is traditionally “manual scavenging”, a euphemism for clearing other people’s feces. “(Reuters http://yhoo.it/YTQ0fe)

Africa

Five people are being infected with Ebola every hour in Sierra Leone and demand for treatment beds is far outstripping supply, Save the Children warned. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vAI2UX)

Britain and Sierra Leone are appealing for more help to slow the biggest ever Ebola outbreak — and are proposing a new type of clinic to do that. (AP http://yhoo.it/YTPX2U)

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau dismissed Nigerian military claims of his death in a new video obtained by AFP on Thursday and said the militants had implemented strict Islamic law in captured towns. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vAIkLA)

French peacekeepers killed up to seven people as they tried to control clashes between armed groups in the Central African town of Bambari that have left at least 16 dead, officials said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vAKSJx)

Lesotho’s feuding political parties have agreed to hold early elections by February, in a bid to exit a crisis that has seen a coup attempt and running battles among the security forces. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vALf6X)

Women’s anger is mounting in Sudan as a result of surging food prices and worsening repression in the name of Islam, rights activists said at the launch of a report. (TRF http://bit.ly/1vdWX52)

Airlines and airports handling travel to countries worst hit by the Ebola epidemic are trying to prove that flying to West Africa is safe, following concerns that the first case diagnosed in the United States could curtail worldwide services. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ve0YWY)

MENA

Turkish lawmakers voted Thursday to authorize military force against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, joining a growing international coalition against the Islamist militants as they continued to capture territory just south of Turkey’s border. (CNN http://cnn.it/1uhzwd1)

Islamic State militants pushed on with its assault on a Syrian border town on Thursday despite coalition airstrikes meant to weaken them. (TRF http://bit.ly/1vAMcfu)

At least 10 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa drowned Thursday and dozens more were missing after their boat sank in the Mediterranean offshore Libya, the coast guard said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vAKx9R)

The Obama administration has approved a $1.75 billion sale of Patriot missiles and associated items to Saudi Arabia to bolster the air defenses of the key U.S. ally in the Arab world. (AP http://yhoo.it/YTFmF8)

Asia

Thailand will revive talks with Japan and Myanmar aimed at kick-starting the floundering multi-billion dollar Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar, a junta spokesman said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/YTIKQp)

Crowds of protesters in Hong Kong swelled Thursday after police were seen unloading boxes of tear gas and rubber bullets, sending tensions soaring as authorities urged pro-democracy demonstrators to disperse “as soon as possible.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/YTL7mg)

A Malaysian low-cost housing project could lift some of the world’s 860 million slum dwellers from poverty by helping to secure jobs and food as well as shelter, Malaysia’s IRIS Corp. Bhd said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/YTPTQS)

A Swiss Red Cross worker died when shells burst through the heart of Ukraine’s main pro-Russian stronghold for the first time since the foes struck a September 5 truce aimed at ending Europe’s worst crisis in decades. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1rAkMGg)

The Americas

Prosecutors in Colombia say they have detained 33 soldiers suspected of killing a farm worker. (AP http://yhoo.it/1vAKdaX)

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff widened her lead ahead of Sunday’s presidential election and would defeat environmentalist Marina Silva in an expected runoff vote, pollster Ibope showed late on Tuesday. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/YTPJcg)

Police say violence has erupted in several slums around Rio de Janeiro. At least two people are reported dead. (AP http://yhoo.it/1vALf6M)

For more than two months, Mexico did little to explain how a Mexican army patrol escaped practically unharmed from a gunfight that left 22 suspected criminals dead in a grain warehouse. This week, officials changed their story to say soldiers may have committed murder, but questions about the lopsided confrontation remain. (AP http://yhoo.it/YTFBjx)

Opinion/Blogs

Somaly Mam, in her own words (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/YTxvYh)

Accepting flaws & doing good: Cognitive dissonance (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1E5ncRy)

The Return of America’s Favorite Anti-Trafficker (The Baffler http://bit.ly/YTxrb1)

Lessons from FDR can help regain public trust during Ebola crisis (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1vAManM)

Advice for the #UmbrellaRevolution, from Tiananmen protest veterans (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/YTQVw0)

With camps limiting many refugees, the UNHCRs policy change is welcome (Guardian http://bit.ly/YTRgij)

Analysis: South Sudan at a crossroads (IRIN http://bit.ly/YTRpT4)

A Double-Edged Sword: Livelihoods In Emergencies (Women’s Refugee Commission http://bit.ly/1rAmIPf)

The New Hunger Figures: What Do They Tell Us? (Development Horizons http://bit.ly/1E5nasN)

Seven Million Lives Saved: Under-5 Mortality Since the Launch of the Millennium Development Goals (Brookings Institution http://bit.ly/1E5noQH)

Obama’s Law: When Western advocacy misses the mark (Pambazuka http://bit.ly/1ve78qm)

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Canada is Joining the Iraq Coalition–And that Matters. (Really!)

Canada is joining a growing group of nations that have committed military resources to the campaign, including France, Britain, Australia, Belgium, Denmark and the UAE. This is a big deal, and not just for Canadians.

As the coalition of countries supporting the US-led campaign grows – both in size and diversity, as Gulf nations and nations who were not part of the 2003 “coalition of the willing” are offering their support – so too does the legitimacy of the military efforts against IS extremists. In a conflict where the enemy has a powerful social media and PR strategy, the broader and more diverse the coalition, the harder it will be for ISIS to single out the US or “the West” as the enemy.

Canada is considering sending two CF-18 fighter jets to participate in the airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, as well as an air-to-air refueller aircraft and CP-140 Aurora reconnaissance planes. Canada has already contributed a small number of highly trained special forces soldiers, who are currently deployed on a short term mission in Iraq. The Canadian government is debating these options today, with little parliamentary discussion debate, triggering concerns about political and public support for increasing Canada’s military participation in the campaign.

Canada – like France - was strongly opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and while Canada has not shirked away from military involvement in Afghanistan, Libya or even Kosovo, there are concerns that Stephen Harper’s decision would not reflect the will of the people. Harper said he believes “that the mission undertaken by our allies . . . is of necessary actions and of noble actions,” adding that “when we think something is necessary and noble, we do not sit back and say only other people should do it. The Canadian way is we do our part.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister John Baird, warned that “there are no quick fixes“, and that the public should be prepared for a long term involvement. This is not to say that Canada’s participation will involve troops in a combat role, but it is a realistic assessment of the possibility that Canadian military assets might be engaged for a significant period of time. As the Canadian government weighs its options, one thing is clear: Stephen Harper is not prepared to let Canada stand idly by while other allies are directly involved in the fight against IS, and the Canadian public should be prepared for a new Canadian military campaign in the Middle East.

One of the interesting questions raised by Canada’s growing involvement in the fight against ISIS is whether the military support for the US-led campaign constitute “going to war”, and whether parliamentary approval is required. In the UK, parliament voted in support of airstrikes in Iraq – but not Syria. In France, parliamentary approval was not specifically sought, and the government made the decision as part of our routine defense operations. Moving forward, and as the fight against IS extremists expands and deepens, interesting legal questions will arise: can a country be “at war” with a non-state actor? What degree of parliamentary approval is appropriate, and how will public opinion react?

Photo credit: Stephen Harper’s Flickr Stream.

Caption: PM Harper welcomes home members of the Canadian Armed Forces returning from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan

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Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam, in her own words

Somaly Mam is on the line today. She is the Cambodian anti-sex trafficking activist who came to prominence a few years ago as celebrities in the west rallied around her and her organization. That all came crashing down this year when Newsweek published a cover story calling into question the credibility of her amazing personal story, which includes escaping from the sex trade herself. She was ousted from the organization that bears her name and was tarnished by some of her closest allies. Then, in September, Marie Claire published an article calling into question some of the claims of that Newsweek takedown, suggesting that key details were incorrect.

So what is the real story? I don’t know. The point of this interview was not to engage in a back and forth with Somaly about whether or not she fabricated claims about past. Rather, I was interested in learning what she is up to now, and how this controversy has affected her personally and her work rescuing girls from the sex trade. To be honest, I’m not sure I succeeded. It was a tough interview. I’ll let you decide. Please feel free to direct your criticisms and critiques (or, if you like it, your approbation) of this interview to me personally, via @MarkLGoldberg

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syria map

Source of Tainted Measles Vaccine ID’d in Syria

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Last month, at least a dozen Syrian children in a rebel held area died after receiving a measles vaccine. The WHO and UNICEF promptly suspended a vaccination drive and promised an investigation. On Wednesday, the UN released its finding: a tragic mistake by an NGO. “The World Health Organization last month said the muscle relaxant had been kept in the same refrigerator as a substance meant to dilute the measles vaccine. It said the exact person or group responsible for the laboratory was not known.  [A UN Spokesperson] on Wednesday did not name the NGO partner and referred to the WHO report.Syria’s conflict between the government and rebel groups, now in its fourth year, has caused the collapse of its health system in contested areas. Nationwide vaccination efforts have been thrown into disarray, and polio re-emerged in parts of Syria last year.After the children’s deaths, the Western-backed opposition based in Turkey said it had suspended the second round of measles vaccinations. The campaign was meant to target 60,000 children.  (AP http://yhoo.it/1rMBHEU)

Quote of the Day…World Bank President Jim Kim, re: Ebola: “Now, thousands of people in these (three) countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place,”This … shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1E1UKjw)

Africa

Doctors Without Borders said it had rejected cash for the Ebola response from Australia, asking the country instead to deploy desperately-needed medical teams to west Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/ZsqBdy)

Mauritius is going against the advice of the WHO and demands of the Security Council and is banning all travelers from ebola affected countries. (NPR http://n.pr/1E1Uil8)

HRW says more than 100 demobilized fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from starvation and disease in a remote military camp. (VOA http://bit.ly/YOb5aN)

Pestilence, cyclical droughts and floods, and the West Africa Ebola crisis have pushed hunger to record levels in Gambia, where 200,000 people need urgent food assistance, the United Nations says. (TRF http://bit.ly/YOc0Ig)

The United States warned South Sudan’s president and rebel leader to engage in serious peace talks to end nearly a year of violence in the world’s newest state or face United Nations sanctions. (Reuters http://bit.ly/YOccaH)

Fighting the Ebola epidemic means confronting the issue of inequality, as people in poor countries have less access to knowledge and infrastructure for treating the sick and containing the deadly virus, the head of the World Bank said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1wZ4Ywg)

Ugandan police Wednesday arrested two men over an anti-unemployment protest where they paraded four piglets painted in the ruling party colors and branded the country’s leaders “pigs.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1rMBr8N)

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA http://bit.ly/1rMBQbj)

In Zimbabwe, the issue of contraceptive use remains controversial and divisive in this country of 13.72 million people. Parents and educators are agreed on one thing: that levels of sexual activity among high-school students are on the rise. What they do not agree on, however, is how to deal with the corresponding increase in teenage pregnancies. (IPS http://bit.ly/1rMD7ix)

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA http://bit.ly/YOmp6M)

MENA

Acts of terrorism and violence in Iraq killed more than 1,100 people in September, continuing what has been a particularly deadly year for the country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1rMx5i6)

Morocco has secured a $519 million loan from the World Bank to partly finance two solar power plants with a combined capacity of up to 350 megawatts, the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, the bank said in a statement. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/YOj0VK)

A wave of violence between militia groups vying for power is sweeping across parts of Libya, prompting international organizations to put forth an ambitious plan to provide humanitarian aid to 85,000 people by the end of this year. Yet concerns remain over the feasibility of such an operation, given the security risks, access issues and communication problems. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1rMvZTq)

Asia

Reports on leprosy and elephantiasis in India and Bangladesh highlight the prejudice and economic cost faced by sufferers. (Guardian http://bit.ly/YO5Urk)

Hong Kong officials on Wednesday held ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of communist China as city leaders remain locked in a standoff with protesters demanding greater democratic reforms. (VOA http://bit.ly/1rMwHjE)

Myanmar awarded licenses Wednesday to the first foreign banks allowed to operate in the country in a half-century. (AP http://yhoo.it/YOftGY)

India could run out of a critical medicine in its free HIV/AIDS drugs program in three weeks due to bureaucratic bungling, a senior government official said, leaving more than 150,000 sufferers without life-saving drugs for about a month. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1rMzSI3)

WFP is providing food or cash for approximately 190,000 people in urgent need of assistance in Sri Lanka. A WFP-led Rapid Drought Assessment estimates that as many as 770,000 people have been affected by the drought, which has resulted in the loss of about one third of the paddy harvest in parts of the country. (WFP http://bit.ly/1rMC7ew

The Americas

The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in a U.S. hospital was evaluated initially and turned away, a critical missed opportunity that could result in others being exposed to the deadly virus, infectious disease experts said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rMxEsj)

Mexico has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, and women can find themselves criminalized even after miscarriage. (Guardian http://bit.ly/YO75XV)

The United States and Brazil have come to an agreement designed to end a decade long dispute over cotton subsidies, reports say. (BBC http://bbc.in/YO93Ym)

Opinion/Blogs

Ebola comes to the U.S. and loses its deadly punch (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/ZsFKLV)

Why Quantifying the Value of Tropical Forests Matters for Development (CGD http://bit.ly/1rMwahD)

Must Read of the Day: The MDG Leaders Report (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/ZsFIDA)

India-Pakistan Dialogue: Is It Possible? (VOA http://bit.ly/YO9h1s)

On Reproductive Rights, Progress with Concerns (IPS http://bit.ly/YOjY4l)

El Salvador’s ‘hidden war’ being waged against women’s rights (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/YOmMhC)

From “Power to the People” to “Information is Power” (Development Impact http://bit.ly/1oB92gR)

The West Steps Forward in the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation (Development Channel http://on.cfr.org/1oB9ls8)

The Extreme Poor Shouldn’t Have to Make Extreme Choices (USAID Impact http://1.usa.gov/ZsFgoX)

Could Myanmar’s hunt for energy derail peace? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/ZsFBrQ)

Research/Reports

Older people are expected to make up one-fifth of the world’s population by 2050. So governments must prepare to expand social pensions and ensure that this growing demographic plays a full role in society, according to the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1rMursw)

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CITIZENS OF BOMI COUNTY, LIBERIA, WAIT FOR A VISIT OF PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF. AUGUST 2014. PHOTO: UNDP IN LIBERIA

This is the Most Frightening Ebola Statistic

Ebola has reached the United States and there’s a collective media freakout. But ebola will not spread in the United States, so the media’s attention really ought to focus on what is truly frightening about ebola: donors are still not ponying up the resources required to contain the outbreak in West Africa.

Funding levels for the international response to ebola are pathetically low. On September 16th, the UN launched a $987 million appeal for resources to stop the outbreak. The appeal covered things like protective equipment, fuel to keep the lights on in the hospitals, pay incentives for health care workers, and pretty much everything else required to halt the outbreak. Two weeks later the international response has been…muted. To date only $254 million has been committed against that plan. That’s just about 25%.

In other words, ebola is spreading out of control yet donors are doing about one quarter of what needs to be done to beat back the outbreak. Until resources are committed to the fight against ebola in west Africa, we can expect more imported cases to the USA and the rest of the world.  And, of course, we can expect the disease to spread exponentially in West Africa.

 

 

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And What A UN Week that Was!

The UN Summit officially ended yesterday with Paraguay delivering the final address before the General Assembly. And what a UN Week it was!

Ebola, Syria, climate change, peacekeeping and the Millennium Development Goals were top of the agenda.  Meanwhile, throughout it all, we saw encouraging signs of renewed American engagement with the UN system.

I speak with Richard Gowan of the Center on International Cooperation, who sorts through the big stories coming out of the UN summit.  It’s a great conversation for all you UN nerds out there.

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