Daily Archives: June 22, 2018

Most Countries Aren’t Prepared for the Next Epidemic

PreventEpidemics.org Highlights Gaps in Preparedness and Encourages Action to Save Lives

ASPEN, Colorado, June 21, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The world will face another unpredictable epidemic, but most countries are not ready to find, stop, and prevent its spread. A new website, PreventEpidemics.org, spotlights gaps in preparedness and highlights actions countries, donors, activists, and organizations can take to fill them.  An infectious disease can spread from one community to any country in the world in just 36 hours, but as PreventEpidemics.org shows, most countries have not yet taken the steps needed to prepare for this risk.

The website is being presented tomorrow at the annual Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health Festival by Dr. Tom Frieden, former US CDC Director and now President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, and Amanda McClelland, RN, MPH, its Senior Vice President, who coordinated frontline Ebola response during the 2014 Ebola epidemic.  The website is the first to provide advocacy tools based on each country’s progress towards epidemic preparedness, and a single score that displays how prepared countries are to find, stop and prevent epidemics.

“By the end of this year, nearly 100 countries will have completed a rigorous, transparent assessment of how prepared they are for an epidemic – but there has been too little support from the global community and countries to close life-threatening gaps,” says Dr. Tom Frieden.  “It’s not a matter of if there will be another global epidemic, but when. It’s time for the global community and countries to step up and improve preparedness.”

“The world won’t be safe until we step up by mobilizing and effectively using global, country, and local resources – including money and trained, supported public health staff,” said Amanda McClelland, who served as the Team Lead of Global Epidemic Preparedness of the International Federation of the Red Cross before joining Resolve to Save Lives. “How can we prevent a child in Ukraine from contracting measles, or a nurse in Sub-Saharan Africa from getting Ebola? Our website not only communicates the risk of epidemics at the country level, but, most importantly, encourages action to reduce these risks.”

Resolve to Save Lives partners with countries to help step up preparedness, especially in four critical areas: strengthening disease tracking systems, training and staffing epidemiologists, supporting laboratory networks, and developing effective rapid response teams.

A key feature of PreventEpidemics.org is the ReadyScore, a measure of country preparedness based on existing data from the Joint External Evaluation (JEE), an external assessment developed by the World Health Organization and partner organizations to help countries find and close gaps in epidemic preparedness.  ReadyScore uses JEE data to calculate a numerical score – from 0 to 100 – representing a country’s ability to prepare for and respond to an epidemic.  Resolve to Save Lives considers countries with a ReadyScore above 80 as better prepared for an epidemic, countries between 40 and 79 have work to do, and countries 39 and below are not ready.

These scores can drive action at the country and global level by motivating countries to go up a step in preparedness, overall and by specific area.

PreventEpidemics.org provides advocacy tools, including detailed global and country-level data, highlights of country preparedness strengths and gaps, and action plans to engage with decision makers to improve epidemic preparedness. Advancing toward a world safe from epidemics is central to the new WHO general programme of work, which was approved at the 2018 World Health Assembly.  One of three strategic priorities for 2019-2023 is ensuring that at least one billion more people are safer from health emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.

“Participating in the JEEs has shown true commitment by governments, but hasn’t been matched by a national commitment from the global community and by commitment of budget and human resources,” said Amanda McClelland. “PreventEpidemics.org helps empower advocates to ask their leaders for the human and financial resources needed to fill the thousands of life-threatening gaps identified by the JEE.”

Additional information:

A Joint External Evaluation is a voluntary assessment initiated at the request of countries and conducted first by a team of domestic experts and then validated by a team of independent international experts. The evaluation assesses and rates capacity in 19 preparedness areas, such as whether countries have effective disease surveillance systems, laboratories, communications mechanisms and coordination centers.  The JEE is one of four components of the IHR Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (JEE, Annual Reporting, After Action Review and Simulation Exercises).

Of the 65 countries that have conducted a Joint External Evaluation and released results, only nine countries (14%) scored over 80 in epidemic preparedness to address health threats, indicating better prepared public health systems, but all still have gaps and effort is needed to improve and sustain their capacity.  Fifty-six (86%) scored lower than 80, which means they have considerable gaps to fill to ensure their people are safer from infectious disease, chemical and radiologic threats.

The ReadyScore recognizes that no country will ever be completely safe from the threat of epidemics, however, strong and robust systems to find and stop threats can minimize preventable illness and death in the event of new or emerging infectious diseases.

An additional 21 countries, out of a total of 194 countries, have either requested or started a Joint External Evaluation. The rest are either using different metrics to evaluate their capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies and have not published the results or are not yet engaged in assessing capacities for health emergencies.

The ReadyScore consolidates 19 areas of epidemic preparedness assessed during a JEE. Within those areas, nearly 50 factors are assessed, such as whether a country has a national laboratory system to diagnose diseases, and what is the capacity of its public health workforce to find, stop and prevent epidemics. The JEE rates each of the indicators on a scale of 1 – 5. One, is “no capacity” and is coded red. Two and three indicate the “need to build capacity” (limited or developed capacity) and are coded yellow. Four and five indicate “sustainable capacity” and are in the desired green band. The ReadyScore is the average score of the nineteen area scores, placed on a scale of 0 to 100.

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a five-year, $225 million initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and housed at Vital Strategies, which works in 60 countries with the vision of a world in which every person is protected by a strong public health system. To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSL

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. The Vital Strategies team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Resolve to Save Lives expert, please contact Erin Sykes at +1 646-612-0001 or esykes@resolvetosavelives.org or Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies at +1 914.424.3356 or choneysett@vitalstrategies.org.

Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/709456/Vital_Strategies.jpg

Six arrested with suspected stolen copper in Upington

Northern Cape: Police in Pabalello are investigating a case of possession of suspected stolen copper. On Wednesday, 20 June 2018 at about 09:00, police followed up on information regarding the bakkie full of copper offloading at a house in Bellona Street.

Upon arrival, the house was raided and police found six suspects busy peeling the copper cable. Six male suspects aged between 32 and 49 were arrested and police confiscated copper cable to the estimated value of R 242 000.

Source: South African Police Service

2008 murder lead to arrest of seven suspects for fraud, corruption and murder

PRETORIA � The execution of KwaZulu-Natal Social Development official Thembinkosi Dlamini, 37, who was shot dead in his office in 2008, has led to the arrest of seven (7) suspects for fraud, corruption and murder.

Dlamini was a branch manager at the Welfare office at Ngwelezane and was assigned to conduct an internal investigation within the department following suspicions of alleged fraud and corruption.

On June 2008, a group of armed men charged into his office where he was shot and killed instantly. The men fled afterwards. The Durban Organised Crime Unit arrested six suspects at the time who were later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 by the Mtunzini High Court.

The Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation took interest after the sentencing in 2013 and launched an investigation into the alleged fraud and corruption at the department.

On Tuesday the Hawks and Empangeni Crime Prevention members swooped into the area and arrested five South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) officials, a doctor and the runner.

Gabriel Ndlovu (54), Mfaniseni Ngcobo (40), Ntobeko Mlaba (51), Balungile Mkhize-Mdletshe (37), Jeniffer Gumede (47), Thembelani Nyawose (40) and Beatrice Shandu (47) briefly appeared at the Empangeni Magistrate Court on Wednesday.

All seven suspects were remanded in custody and will appear again at the same court on 26 and 27 June 2018 where they will apply for bail.

It is alleged that the seven conspired and defrauded SASSA about R25 million between 2005 and 2008 through fraudulent grants. Three of the seven accused are also accused to have allegedly participated in the murder of Thembinkosi Dlamini.

The National Head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya has commended the members who worked around the clock to make a breakthrough in this case.

This demonstrates our zeal to deal with the killing of innocent people and theft of government funds. We will not rest until all suspects involved are arrested and face the full might of the law, said Lieutenant General Lebeya.

Source: South African Police Service


PRETORIA– The south Africa Cabinet has welcomed the intervention made by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in the wage negotiations dispute between the Eskom management and labour.

Last Friday, Gordhan convened a meeting with the Eskom board and management and the three labour unions — National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity — with the intention of getting all parties to engage on the issues around the employee salary negotiations.

Briefing the media on the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said a team has been assigned to deal with issues of wage negotiations, and they hope that all parties will appreciate the need to expedite the process and find an amicable solution towards the impasse at Eskom.

She said Gordhan will continue to update Cabinet, Presidency and National Treasury on any development that may arise.

Responding to criminal acts reported, including road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure, Mokonyane warned that nobody is entitled to destroy property, whether its organised workers or public.

There is a law in South Africa that has been passed in line with the Criminal Procedure Act, where there is an amendment that deals with destruction of public property as an act of crime, and it is within that, that even the destruction of property in terms of what we’ve seen at Eskom, must be deemed as an act of crime.

Nobody is entitled to destroy property It is an act of sabotage and it is going to cost the state. In this instance, it is economic sabotage and the amendment act must actually kick in and deal with these issues, the Minister warned.

She said several arrests have been made in connection with this.

Cabinet also strongly condemned the recent blocking of several highways by protestors in some parts of the country, warning that criminal acts of aggression and disruptions will not be tolerated.

Highways are a critical part of our transport infrastructure that supports the transportation of goods and services of the various sectors of the economy. Our constitutional democracy provides for platforms wherein people can raise their issues without causing any disruptions, Mokonyane said.

She further called on law-enforcement officers to take the necessary steps, within the confines of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.


CWP being up-scaled for bigger impact

Deputy President David Mabuza says government is working towards reconfiguring the Community Works Programme (CWP) to ensure that it has a bigger impact on reducing poverty.

The Deputy President said this when he fielded oral questions in the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town on Thursday.

This was his last questions and answer session before Members of Parliament go off on recess.

For as long as our economy is not generating sufficient number of jobs to absorb the majority of the poor and unemployed, government will continue to create work opportunities for the unemployed, especially the youth and women.

We are currently working on reconfiguration of our anti-poverty programme in order to improve better coordination, integration and synergies. Poor coordination and monitoring sometimes undermines the impact of this programme.

The extent of up-scaling this programme will be informed by the available budget, he said.

ANC MP from the Free State, Seiso Mohai, had asked the Deputy President whether there were any plans to expand the programme as a safety net for the poor, especially for the youth and women; and whether government was meeting the targets set out for the Community Works Programme to ensure it employs one million people by 2019.

The Deputy President said the programme is designed to alleviate poverty through the provision of work opportunities for poor and unemployed people, who are living in socio-economically depressed urban and rural areas including those under traditional authorities.

The programme, he said, forms part of the broad Public Employment Programme that is coordinated by the Department of Public Works.

The Community Works Programme has provided 729 257 work opportunities over the MTEF (annual, rolling three-year expenditure planning) period.

The programme has a footprint in all local and metropolitan municipalities and is being implemented in 226 sites.

As at end of March 2018, the female participation rate in Community Works Programme stands at 78%, far above the set target of 55%, and the youth participation rate at 37%, Mabuza said.

He said the programme was contributing to employment in sectors like agriculture, which includes the maintenance of community food gardens in schools, clinics, early childhood development centres and communal lands.

He said that the produce harvested from the community gardens helped feed the elderly as well as orphaned and vulnerable children.

The second most common work output is in the environmental and community services sectors where public spaces and facilities were cleaned or maintained such as schools, hospitals, sports fields, grave yards and parks.

Illegal dumping sites were cleared and recycling projects were undertaken at some of the sites. Blocked storm water drainage systems were unblocked, thus preventing potential flooding and saving lives.

Source: South African Government News Agency