The head of the World Health Organization is meeting with the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Conakry to launch a new, $100 million plan to curb the Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, those three presidents are skipping the African Leaders Summit in DC next week to focus on the outbreak. “The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities. Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers. The plan also outlines the need to increase preparedness systems in neighbouring nations and strengthen global capacities.” (WHO http://bit.ly/1k9U44w)

For his podcast, Mark talks to a WHO official who explains why this particular outbreak has been so difficult to contain. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1zz8YVN)

A Ceasefire in Gaza? A joint statement from Ban Ki Moon and John Kerry announces a new humanitarian pause: “This humanitarian cease-fire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place. We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian cease-fire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire. This cease-fire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.” (State Dept http://1.usa.gov/1rO46aX)

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Africa

About $100 million of funding is needed from international donors to pay for food-security programs in the Sahel, the UN has warned, as more than 20 million people continue to face shortages. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1zzrY6v)

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to 729, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, after 57 deaths were reported between July 24 and 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zzqQ2T)

The World Health Organization is not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the Ebola outbreak and there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew, the airlines association IATA said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zzqWYc)

Nigerian forces have arrested two Boko Haram suspects who were travelling with a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her, the government said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/Xk3XT4)

Agricultural experts say that small-scale farmers in Africa can play a key role in ending food insecurity in the region – if they are included in the value chain. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk5ZCR)

Standard Chartered Plc has pledged a further $3 billion to the White House initiative- Power Africa, which was aimed at improving access to electricity in Africa. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1zzxcze)

Coffee growers, dealers, experts and farmer organizations in Cameroon are all piling blame on faulty government policies dating back to the early 1990s and calling for renewed subventions to farmers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzyRVs)

A renowned economist, Kwame Pianim, says Ghana is facing a major economic crisis since the dark days of the economic recovery efforts of the 1980s. (Ghanian Chronicle http://bit.ly/1rMUwEZ)

MENA

Islamic hard-line militias, including the group accused by the United States in a 2012 attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, claimed control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, after overrunning army barracks and seizing heavy weapons. (Denver Post  http://dpo.st/1rO7kuS)

A senior diplomat from the Philippines is flying to north Africa to supervise the evacuation of 13,000 citizens from Libya after a Filipino worker there was beheaded and a nurse gang-raped. (BBC http://bbc.in/1rO6MVX)

Food price rises as far back as 2008 are believed to be the partial culprits behind the instability plaguing Arab countries and they have become increasingly aware of the importance of securing food needs through an international strategy of land grabs which are often detrimental to local populations. (IPS http://bit.ly/1zzzONm)

The White House said Thursday there’s little doubt Israeli artillery hit a United Nations school in Gaza, a deadly incident that a spokesman called “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1rMUFbI)

Asia

The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said on Thursday, but disputes still hang over the process. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzz4YS)

From Vietnam to Burma, the leading drug against malaria is losing potency, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. On the plus side, the same issue of the journal reports that a new antimalarial drug looks promising in an early test. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk6vRo)

Thailand’s military government this week approved a $23 billion, eight-year plan to upgrade the national railway system, marking another effort to boost and reshape the economy. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk7kJV)

A UN official who went to Vietnam to assess religious freedom there said Thursday that security agents closely monitored his visit and people he wanted to meet were harassed and intimidated. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zzug5L)

Nepal’s May 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act ruled out amnesty for rape during the country’s decade-long civil war that ended in 2006 with 16,000 dead and more than 100,000 displaced. However, despite this provision, activists say survivors of war-time sexual violence will hit a wall if they try to file their cases now. (IRIN http://bit.ly/XkeNsp)

The Americas

Venezuela is gearing up to pass a new law to combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, in a country where the epidemic claims nearly 4,000 lives and infects 11,000 mainly young people every year, including increasing numbers of women. (IPS http://bit.ly/1zzrmhe)

Argentina blames the US for its default, calling the mediator in debt negotiations which ended in failure “incompetent”. (BBC http://bbc.in/Xk4LHB)

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zzsVfa)

A key committee of the World Bank’s governing board Wednesday spurned appeals to revise a  draft policy statement that, according to nearly 100 civil-society groups, risks rolling back several decades of reforms designed to protect indigenous populations, the poor and sensitive ecosystems. (IPS http://bit.ly/Xk4x3p)

Opinion/Blogs

Who is going to pay for international development? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1zzs4uQ)

Research/Report

Five years ago, delivering food aid was all about hauling cargoes of wheat, rice and maize around the world. Today, instead of queuing for rations, recipients are quite likely to be given the means to buy their own food. As the cash transfer sector matures, IRIN spoke to experts to discuss the latest innovations and lessons learned. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1zzA674)

Investing in nutrition through agriculture (IFAD http://bit.ly/1zzrcGP)

The effects of climate change on children (UNICEF http://bit.ly/1zzre1o)

New research shows urbanization may be bad for people’s health, unless planners develop cities that allow healthier lifestyles and environments. (VOA http://bit.ly/Xk5uc0)

Discussion

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