Daily Archives: October 27, 2017

Kenyan Wins $100,000 Grant for Device to Help Expectant Mothers

A Kenyan university student has won a $100,000 research grant for an idea aimed at decreasing maternal and infant deaths among cattle-raising families on the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

Dahabo Adi Galgalo secured the 2017 innovation award from AESA, Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa, for designing a GPS-like device to track expectant mothers in the area and ensure they seek health care for themselves and their babies.

Born into a pastoralist family in Kenya’s Marsabit County, Dahabo told VOA Horn of Africa that she always wanted to improve health care for families in the border area who depend on raising and selling livestock to make a living.

“The area of the pastoral community is so vast. The hospitals and health workers are very few. In fact, Marsabit County is among the top counties in Kenya in maternal and infant death,” she said.

One of the key factors contributing to the high death rates, she believes, is a lack of antenatal care (ANC) for pregnant women.

ANC clinics providing prenatal services are few and far between in the area, and pastoralists don’t often visit the ones that do exist, partly because of the long distances they would have to cover.

Dahabo says that in 2015, she conducted a study of mothers who gave birth at a regional hospital. Out of 1,042 mothers who delivered during the one-year period, she says, 116 lost their babies during delivery.

Of those 116 women, she says, 40 percent had never gone to an ANC clinic. And those who did make a visit, often traveled 50 to 80 kilometers to receive checkups and treatment.

“That is when my idea of going mobile came to my mind,” Dahabo said.

Her goal was to give expectant mothers a GPS-like device to help health care workers track them, remind them to get proper antenatal care, and arrange a visit with a doctor or health care volunteer.

The solar-powered device � which Dahabo helped design and a manufacturer is helping to build � is the size of a coin, and designed to be worn on a bracelet.

“With this, we can track the expectant mothers wherever they are and give them treatment,” she said.

Under Dahabo’s envisioned system, the program would be centered at the Moyale regional hospital and would cover the majority of Marsabit County with a radius of 160 kilometers.

The program aims to reach up to 200 expectant mothers for an initial period of two years. “We follow the expectant mothers for nine months and follow their children for full immunization,” Dahabo said.

Dahabo has been involved in research and control of diseases for more than 10 years in the Kenyan ministry of health.

She is among eight African inventors who have received research grants from AESA, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

One of the other winners, Diawo Diallo from Senegal, is working on a surveillance system to track Zika-infected mosquitoes.

Another winner, Niaina Rakotosaminanana of Madgascar, is developing a low-cost, minimally invasive diagnostic test for pregnant women using blood samples drawn from finger pricks.

Source: Voice of America


CAPE TOWN, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says the government needs to fast-track reform and make difficult, bold decisions in order to return the South African economy to a desirable growth path.

Briefing a joint sitting of the parliamentary Select and Standing Committees of Finance and Appropriations in the National Assembly here Thursday, a day after he tabled the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in Parliament, he said a low economic growth rate and low tax compliance had strained the national purse with tax revenue collections being at levels which cause concern.

Over and above a revenue shortfall, he announced a risk of breaching the expenditure ceiling following the recapitalisation of State-owned South African Airways (SAA) and the Post Office. The government has decided to sell a portion of its shares in telecommunications company Telkom to avert the expenditure ceiling breach with an intention of buying the shares back in the future.

The Minister gave the Members of Parliament a frank overview of the economic and fiscal outlook of the country, saying the National Treasury needed to present this bleak picture to the nation and to also say much of what needs to be done.

Uplifting the economy remains within the hands of all sectors of the economy. We need to do the right thing to increase the pace and scale of reform to be decisive in the actions that we need to take,” Gigaba said.

One of the questions has been whether we are detracting from what has been a path of fiscal consolidation and the answer is clearly no. We need to be concerned as South Africans that whereas both the global outlook as well as the sub-Saharan outlook are positive, that the South African economy’s performance remains subdued, trailing behind the growth curve that is being experienced both in sub-Saharan Africa and globally, he added.

In presenting his mini-budget on Wednesday, the Minister announced that while economic growth had had to be revised downwards, the government’s consolidated budget deficit was set to widen to 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, higher than the targeted deficit of 3.1 per cent of GDP when the 2017 Budget was presented in February.

We need to address the reasons why this is such, why our economy is performing in that way and ensure that we lift the business confidence, the investor confidence and address the challenges that we are facing,” he told the MPs.

I think what the statement represented yesterday was that the times are tough, but we have got to be tougher, to be bold and get ourselves out of the present situation because if things don’t change then we will find our debt escalating and we will find ourselves unable to instil confidence that we are able to manage finances as well as we should and of managing our economy as well as we should.

National Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane said the department was committed to making tough decisions. He said radical economic transformation is required to change the economy to include South Africans and government’s budget is progressive and redistributive and makes large contributions to transformation and growth.

The government, said Mogajane, remained committed to a path of fiscal consolidation and maintaining the expenditure ceiling over the medium term. The only sustainable solution for the country’s development and the health of the country’s finances was to grow the economy inclusively.

Among the other measures aimed at changing the course of growth, he said interventions need to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing exports and to promote localisation and reindustrialise the economy.

He said work was underway to license broadband spectrum, to optimise government’s asset portfolio and to reform the governance of state-owned companies and to also encourage private sector participation. A stronger package of measures to stimulate economic growth is being developed, he added.


Analysts Fear Low Voter Turnout Will Undercut Kenya Election Results


Kenya’s electoral commission has called for patience and calm as it tallies the results of Thursday’s re-run presidential election. However, some analysts already fear that the low turnout � just 35 percent compared to nearly 80 percent in the previous poll in August � may undercut the credibility of the results.

The chief of Kenya’s electoral commission says 6.5 million voters, about one-third of all registered voters, cast ballots in the election Thursday.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga told his supporters to boycott the vote, and some polling stations looked like ghost towns. Others had lines, but significantly shorter than the original August election. Some were closed entirely due to security concerns.

Murithi Mutiga, the International Crisis Group’s Kenya analyst, said “if this turns out to be the final act in what has been a very dramatic election, it will be a very unsatisfactory conclusion for all sides.”

The president, Mutiga added, will “move forward with what seems like a very shaky mandate, without a clear mandate from the people; that’s a very, very low turnout. It’s the lowest turnout in Kenya’s multiparty history. We’ve had six elections since 1992 and the lowest was just about 57 percent. In general, Kenya election turnout levels are always above 65 percent.

The electoral commission said voting would take place Saturday in four areas of western Kenya where polling was halted due to violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

But late on Friday, the commission said electoral staff would be at risk and postponed the voting to an undetermined future date.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, the IEBC reported that it has received the large majority of official polling station forms and official constituency forms back from the field, but had yet to announce any vote count.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is making his second attempt at re-election. The Supreme Court nullified his victory in the August 8th poll, ruling that the electoral commission had not followed electoral law and the constitution.

Odinga called for several members of the commission to step down and for the polls to be postponed beyond a 60-day deadline announced by the court.

The opposition has not said whether it plans to file a legal challenge the results of Thursday’s election.

Source: Voice of America


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa’s finance and energy ministers have revealed their differences over the development of nuclear power plans after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said the country cannot afford any new nuclear power project because of the weak economy.

Energy Minister David Mahlobo has contradicted Gigaba regarding nuclear power development after Gigaba delivered his first Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in the National Assembly on Wednesday when he said that South Africa will not build any new nuclear power stations in the near future because of the weak economy and a surplus in the supply of electricity.

On Thursday, Mahlobo said South Africa remained committed to expanding its nuclear energy programme, specifically the expansion of the Koeberg nuclear power plant in Western Cape Province.

Gigaba had stated that the country could not afford the proposed expansion. “The country at the present moment can’t afford nuclear, and the budget can’t; we have an electricity (supply) surplus because of the low perfomance of the economy and absence of uptakers for electricity.

“When the economy is performing well and we have assessed that we can afford, we will take the decision at that time.”


Al-Shabab Stones Somali Mother of 8 to Death

Al-Shabab militants in Somalia have stoned a mother of eight to death for allegedly committing adultery.

Hundreds of residents gathered at a public square in the town of Saakow, about 400 kilometers south of Mogadishu, to watch the execution on Thursday, residents said.

In an audio posted on an al-Shabab website, an al-Shabab judge said the woman, identified as Habiba Ali Ishaq, married a second husband while already married to another man, and as a result was convicted for adultery.

The al-Shabab judge said his court acted after receiving a complaint from the woman’s original husband, Ali Ibrahim Ali, 44. The judge said Ishaq and Ali have eight children together.

“The husband told the court that one day his wife told him she will be going to visit relatives in Mogadishu and in Baidoa and that after 18 days absence, he heard she got married in the countryside in Nus Duniya,” the judge said. Nus Duniya is a village not far from Saakow.

The judge said he asked the woman if the man’s account was true, and says she admitted marrying another man while married to Ali.

Saakow residents say militants buried Ishaq up to her neck on Thursday and threw rocks at her head until she was pronounced dead.

Al-Shabab did not say what happened to the woman’s alleged second husband, who was not brought to the square. VOA Somali has learned that the group told relatives of Ishaq that the man, Farah Abdirahman Jelle, has escaped from prison.

Marriage in dispute

VOA also learned from residents that Ishaq’s marriage to her original husband was in dispute. One account says she left Ali after complaining about a lack of support.

Sources also told VOA Somali that Ishaq visited one of her children, who was ill, and got into a heated argument with Ali before al-Shabab arrested her.

This is the second stoning al-Shabab has conducted this year. In late May, the group stoned a 44-year-old man to death in the town of Rama Addey, also for alleged adultery. The man, Dhayow Mohamed Hassan, was found guilty of impregnating a woman outside of marriage.

Al-Shabab runs its own court system as part of its effort to impose a strict form of Islamic law on Somalia. Court proceedings are not public, making it hard to verify confessions and testimony.

Source: Voice of America