Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Migration tragedy: 21 dead and hundreds missing as boat sinks in Mediterranean sea

April 1, 2009

In the cold waters off Libya, a frail fishing boat carrying about 250 aspiring migrants to Europe sank during stormy weather on Friday, March 27, 2009. At least 20 illegal aliens drowned and more than 200 hundred were reported missing. Mostly from Africa and Middle East, the victims were part of an undetermined number of illegal travelers who perish each year in their bid for a better life.

“Thousands of African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing wars and poverty use Libya and other North African countries as a launching pads for the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to southern Europe — often in rickety, overloaded boats. Another flimsy vessel with about 350 migrants was rescued about a day later in the same area where the fishing boat capsized.” AP (03/31/09, Fergany, AM; Santana, R)

Although 350 migrants in a second boat with no casualties were rescued and brought back to Tripoli, Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland said this sea mishap could be the biggest in terms of the number of dead and missing of a sea vessel leaving North Africa to Europe.

The cause of the sinking has not been known, but a Libyan police officer said the boat was overloaded, and bad weather could be a contributory factor. Some survivors however spoke of a hole that caused the boat to capsize.

The death of the migrants brings to light the growing problem of illegal immigration. In spite of efforts to curb unlawful movement of people in Europe, nationals from impoverished countries worldwide risk their lives in search for better economic opportunities.

Even those who travel with valid papers also face hardships and alienation in their search for jobs. A recent case is the humiliation and abuse by Chip Tsao, an arrogant HK journalist who disparagingly insulted overseas Filipinos whose country he referred to as “a nation of servants.” (Photo Credit: Holvic) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “New Immigration Laws Worry Illegal Aliens In Europe ” Posted by mesiamd at 6/22/2008


Pope Benedict XVI’s lenten visit to Africa

March 18, 2009

In his first visit to Cameroon, Africa, Pope Benedict VI renewed his calls to all believers of the Roman Catholic Church to help the impoverished people of the world.

He underscores the need to protect and defend the poor African family from the snares of secularization that is fraying traditional values, causing a lot of misunderstanding and suffering in many nations. Cameroon is listed as among the poorest countries of the world where hunger is prevalent.

Amidst criticism versus the Vatican for preaching against artificial contraception, the German-born pontiff stresses his opposition against the use of condom. He says condoms distract people from personal discipline and proper sexual behavior. His long-standing religious perspective upheld by Catholics is contrary to the United Nation’s (UN) belief that condoms are necessary tools to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Catholic Opposition to the UN Declaration of gay rights

In another vein, the Catholic Church along with the Islamic faith opposes UN’s position on gay rights—-the decriminalization of homosexuality. It is expected that under Barack Obama’s secular leadership, USA will a signatory to the declaration.

This is a complete reversal from the conservative position espoused by former Pres. George W. Bush, a perspective supported by many of America’s 76% Christians who are against abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and stem cell research. In December last year, 66 of U.N.’s 192 members signed the decriminalization of homosexual acts, but 70 countries continue to outlaw the practice which they believe lead to deplorable sexual acts in society. (Photo Credit: DMalantic) =0=


The Ebola-Reston virus scare in the Philippines

March 2, 2009

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

There was panic and alarm when Ebola virus first emerged as a fatal bleeding disease in Congo (Zaire) in 1978. Similar outbreaks in neighboring countries in Africa occured. Transmitted mainly by body fluids, the acute infection (aka Ebola hemorrhagic fever, EHF) of the Filoviridae family of RNA viruses presented like a typical viral infection— fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, sore throat, and weakness after an incubation of 2 to 21 days. Some manifested with a skin rash, conjunctival injection, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, internal and external bleeding.

There were those who survived and spontaneously recovered, but many with severe infections showed signs of hemorrhage, fluid loss, shock, and eventual death. EHF is feared because it is highly transmissible and carries a high mortality rate.

Reported cases of EHF have been zoonotic infections (animal borne.) A potential agent of bioterrorism, Ebola can present as a nosocomial infection, a disease contracted in hospitals and medical facilities during an outbreak. The exact origin, location, and natural habitat (known as the “natural reservoir”) of Ebola virus aren’t fully known. This makes containment of the infection difficult.

The first 4 of the 5 subtypes of Ebola is known to cause disease in humans: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo. The virulence and lethality of these viral strains are suggested by World Health Organizations’s (WHO) containment recommendations below. EHF has no known vaccine nor specific cure.

WHO’s containment of Ebola

•Suspected cases should be isolated from other patients and strict barrier nursing techniques implemented.
•Tracing and following up people who may have been exposed to Ebola through close contact with patients are essential.
•All hospital staff should be briefed on the nature of the disease and its transmission routes. Particular emphasis should be placed on ensuring that invasive procedures such as the placing of intravenous lines and the handling of blood, secretions, catheters and suction devices are carried out under strict barrier nursing conditions (biohazard.) Hospital staff should have individual gowns, gloves, masks and goggles. Non-disposable protective equipment must not be reused unless they have been properly disinfected.
•Infection may also spread through contact with the soiled clothing or bed linens from a patient with Ebola. Disinfection is therefore required before handling these items.
•Communities affected by Ebola should make efforts to ensure that the population is well informed, both about the nature of the disease itself and about necessary outbreak containment measures, including burial of the deceased. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried. — World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO’s therapy and treatment of Ebola

• Severe cases require intensive supportive care, as patients are frequently dehydrated and in need of intravenous fluids or oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes.
• No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Several potential vaccines are being tested but it could be several years before any is available. A new drug therapy has shown some promise in laboratory studies and is currently being evaluated. But this too will take several years.
• Experimental studies using hyper-immune sera on animals have shown no protection against the disease. —World Health Organization (WHO)

Ebola Reston virus in the Philippines

“In 1989, Reston, an Ebola virus subtype, was isolated in quarantined laboratory cynomolgus monkeys (Macacca fascicularis) in Reston, Virginia, USA. From 1989 to 1996, several outbreaks caused by the Ebola Reston subtype occurred in monkeys imported from the Philippines to the USA (Reston in Virginia, Alice in Texas and Pennsylvania) and to Italy. Investigations traced the source of all Ebola Reston outbreaks to one export facility near Manila in the Philippines, but the mode of contamination of this facility was not determined. Several monkeys died, and at least four people were infected, although none of them suffered clinical illness.”—World Health Organization (WHO)

The Ebola-Reston (ERV,) the fifth subtype of the virus was first found in Philippine monkeys. It has caused disease in primates, but not in humans. Mainly because this that local health authorities seem to be “in control” over the simmering Ebola outbreak that has infected pigs in Pandi, Bulacan.

To make sure the ERV doesn’t spread to the general population, the Philippine government in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) is on the process of slaughtering 6,000 infected pigs. So far no person has been reported to have fallen ill of the disease, but there are 6 farm workers and butchers who turned positive for Ebola antibodies. This is surely a cause of concern.

In spite the Department of Health’s (DOH) effort to contain the disease, nobody knows the extent ERV has spread in the country at this time. It is unclear which other animal species harbor the disease agent and need isolation or killing. Philippine health authorities can only speak of what they know—that a number of pigs and some individuals were proven to be positive for antibodies— which means they encountered the virus without suffering signs of illness.

With the potential to mutate and acquire virulence, Ebola-Reston can be transmitted to susceptible hosts and become infective to more animals and humans. Though ERV doesn’t cause disease in healthy individuals, it’s unclear what happens if the virus infects people with weak immunity or those sick of debilitating illnesses. That’s why to avoid epidemics, isolation or euthanasia of infected animals (like in the Avian Flu infection) are high in the list of priorities.

Awareness of the disease is enhanced through step-up public health education. Cleanliness is important. There is heightened watch over the sale of “double-dead” meat that may carry the disease agent. As a precaution, testing for ERV is expanded and export of porcine meat to other countries has been halted.

The strategies to combat ERV is complex and tedious. Despite DOH’s monitoring and vigilance, medical workers have to deal with the challenges of a serious health threat whose outcome is just starting to unravel. The danger of Ebola doesn’t only rest on the Philippines, but on the entire world as well. It’s a global effort that this disease is nipped on the bud. (Photo Credit: [][][][][]/ /KeeAun)=0=


Aardvark in Detroit Zoo

December 30, 2008

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a nocturnal animal of Africa that thrives on ants and termites. Because of its pig-like features, it is also called earth pig or earth hog.

Known to live in savannahs, grasslands, and rain forests, the mammal with a characteristic elongated snout, hairy body, sharp claws, and large ears shares some features of the South American anteater. In captivity it grows to 88 to 123 lbs and lives to up to 23 years.

Africans admire the aardvark’s relentless search for food at night. The porcine-like warm-blooded animal lives in burrows and comes out at night to forage in an area that can extend form 10 to 20 kilometers. With poor eyesight, the earth hog whose natural predator includes leopards and lions is hunted by humans for bush meat. In a Detroit Zoo a newborn aardvark is born showing how unusual animals try to survive in captivity. (Photo Credit: Mark Gaskill/ Detroit Zoo)=0=


"If you are poor, you are not likely to live long"

July 19, 2008

“There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate who have not been able to conquer poverty. Poverty has gripped our people. If you are poor, you are not likely to live long.” –Nelson Mandela’s Message to the World on his 90th Birthday (07/18/08)

A towering symbol of anti-apartheid, an inspiration of decency, pardon, and resolute defiance against injustice, Nelson Mandela, 1993 Nobel peace prize awardee who served 27 years in jail, celebrates his 90th birthday on Friday, July 18, 2008, in his home with his family in Qunu, South Africa, 18 years after he was released from prison, 14 years after he was elected president in his country’s first democratic National Assembly election, 10 years after he married his 3rd wife Marcha Grachel, and 4 years after his recession from public life. Photo Credit: Habebe/AP

“This man, who had been vilified and hunted down as a dangerous fugitive, incarcerated for nearly three decades, would soon be transformed into the embodiment of forgiveness and reconciliation. Those who had hated him would, most of them, be eating out of his hand—-the prisoner become President, in time to be admired by the whole world in an extraordinary outpouring of adulation.“ No Future Without Forgiveness (1999, Tutu, Desmond. p10.)=0=