Abenaitwe Cliff

Ebola crisis: Huge risk of spread – UN’s Tony Banbury

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The head of the UN Ebola response mission in West Africa has said that there is still a “huge risk” the deadly disease could spread to other parts of the world.

Tony Banbury declined to say if targets he had set in the fight against Ebola, to be achieved by Monday (December 01, 2014), had been met. The targets were for the proportion of people being treated and for the safe burial of highly infectious bodies.

West Africa has seen the worst Ebola outbreak ever.
West Africa has seen the worst Ebola outbreak ever.

The UN boss was speaking in Freetown, one of the worst-affected areas.

As BBC reports, on Sunday in Sierra Leone’s capital, bulldozers were clearing large areas for a new burial ground.

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Women bosses ‘more depressed’ than male counterparts

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Women are more likely than men to display symptoms of depression when in a position of authority at work, according to US scientists.

In men, authority, such as the ability to hire and fire people, decreases depressive symptoms, the study said.

The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, looked at 2,800 middle-aged men and women.

One expert said the study showed the need for more women in authority and more varied female role models.

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Story By BBC

Genetic tweak gave yellow fever mosquitoes a nose for human odor

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One of the world’s deadliest mosquitoes sustains its taste for human blood thanks in part to a genetic tweak that makes it more sensitive to human odor, according to new research.

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Story by Science Daily.

He who thinks i…

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If you think you are in a race but no one is following you, just know u are simply taking a walk.

Light at the end of the tunnel as Sperm test for infertile men could reduce surgery

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Light at the end of the tunnel as Sperm test for infertile men could reduce surgery

ImageScientists have developed a non-invasive test that can predict whether men with zero sperm counts are capable of fathering children through IVF.

Current methods rely on surgery to find out if a man has viable sperm that can be retrieved for fertility treatment.

The research, in Science Translational Medicine, suggests two biomarkers can identify who will benefit from surgery.

A UK fertility expert said the test, which will take at least a year to bring to the clinic, was “encouraging”.

Male infertility is responsible for about half of cases of infertility.

Men who produce no sperm can sometimes be helped to father a biological child through fertility treatment if they have normal sperm that can be extracted surgically.

Others will never be able to father a child naturally and need to use donor sperm.

The fact that two protein markers present in semen can be so well correlated with whether sperm are likely to be found is very encouraging indeed”

Dr Allan Pacey University of Sheffield

With current technology, the only way to find out if a man has viable sperm is to carry out surgery to look for sperm in the testes.

The new test, developed by scientists in Canada, has identified two biomarkers in sperm, which can be used to predict whether sperm retrieval will be successful.

Dr Keith Jarvi of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, said the holy grail of his research was to find a way to help men avoid unnecessary testicular biopsies.

He told BBC News: “The benefit of this is that we can predict without surgery whether or not a man has sperm or does not have sperm in the testicles.

“You could avoid unnecessary surgery for a number of these men.”

From BBC

He said work was under way to adapt the test for use in fertility clinics.

“Optimistically, it would be a year away,” he added. “Pessimistically, two years – we’re moving along really quickly.”

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the British Fertility Society, said the diagnosis of male infertility was tricky and it was hard to determine whether a man was producing sperm or not.

The conventional method was to first examine semen under a microscope to see if sperm was there, he said.

If no sperm was seen, the next step was to take tissue from a man’s testicle and examine it with a microscope.

“Quite understandably, many men would rather not undergo this procedure if they didn’t have to,” said Dr Pacey.

“Therefore, having an accurate biochemical test which might help doctors advise men whether taking a piece of the testicle is worth doing or not, would be very useful.

“It could help men make better decisions, avoid unnecessary surgical procedures and potentially help save money by not having to do surgical procedures that aren’t needed.

“The fact that two protein markers present in semen can be so well correlated with whether sperm are likely to be found is very encouraging indeed.”

The Gold- Poverty Paradox of Geita- An Inside Story

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By Abenaitwe Cliff

At the mention of Gold presence in an area, wealth expectations justifiably increase and when its mining is on, the area ought to change for the better. However, the story is different in Geita district located in the North Western part of Tanzania where gold mining has been taking place for over 50 years now.

Poor sanitary conditions, shanty dusty towns and trading centres, use of rudimentary tools, high population growth rate, high rate of rural urban migration, high number of idle youth and poor sanitation are a characteristic of Geita district located over 700 kilometres North of the capital Dar es Salaam.

In 1999, Angro-Gold Ashanti(GGM as it is popularly known)- a giant mining company got a license to mine gold  the area something that gave the residents most of whom were engaged in small scale mining hope for a brighter future. “When GGM came in, we thought large scale well managed gold production will increase and the whole area will develop,” says Barutwanayo Bernard, a native of Nyakabale in Geita district.

According to Baruntwanayo, the residents expected the company to provide them with jobs, contribute to the social welfare of the area through it taxes, fees and loyalties but this is still a dream after over 10 years.

On reaching the district’s main town of Geita, the streets are dusty, the schools along the road are in a poor state, people live in poor houses and a big number of youth can be seen on the streets idle as early as noon. “Our lives have not changed at all. I have tried to get a job in the mines but all in vain and this is the same situation with all my friends. If you do not know anyone in the mines or if you do not have money to bribe, you cannot get a job there”, a visibly worried young man Baraka Butundo noted adding that the mine owners usually get their own laborers from as far as Dar es Salaam.

Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.
Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.

Authorities in this relatively new district share the same view. Manzie Mangochie the District Commissioner reveals that the mining company pays only 200,000 dollars annually as loyalty fee to the district a figure which is like a drop in the ocean. “This money is little compared to the population, the size of the district and the needs of our people,” Mangochie told a group of journalist under the revenue watch program at his office in Geita town.

According to the jolly Mangochie, much as GGM pays taxes to the government, its direct relevance to the area is still a dream.

Though the situation is not desirable something can be done on the legislative front. “We need to change on the laws concerning the mining sector. There is a need to empower local leaders and communities to have a say in mining contracts because it’s their areas to gain or lose,” he elaborated.

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This is Geita town. Potholed roads, dust and poor houses are typical characteristics of the town that is sitting on gold.

These photos were taken from different areas of Geita district to show the situation on the ground.

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A cross section of Geita town. You will all agree with me, this place doesnot look gold.

 

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Part of Geita town-a stone throw away from the vast gold mine.

 

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The quality of people’s houses outside Geita town leaves alot to be desired

 

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Many young and energetic youth are unable to get jobs in the mines. They resort to this economic activity of crushing stones they steal from the GGM mining area to get gold from them.That is how they earn a living.

 

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One of the journalists looking on as one of the residents in the outskirts of the GGM gold mine crushes the stones looking for gold.

 

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This is Nyakabale village near the main gold mine. Locals in this area live in poor conditions.

 

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Looking for survival at all costs.These people in Geita are looking for gold from soil deposits.

 

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Its not only the youth but even the old women. This arises questions over the agricultural productivity in this area. Observers think these ladies should be in gardens as the youth look for money.

 

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The technology used by small scale miners is too rudimentary.

 

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This photo is of a collection of homesteads in Nyakabale village which is occupied by small scale and illegal miners.

 

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Small scale miners use dangerous methods in their quest for Gold. In this photo, mercury is mixed in the sad in the process of gold seeking. Health experts reveal that mercury is dangerous to human life

 

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With increased influx of people looking for opportunities in the gold mines, such houses and towns are expected to come-up.

 

Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa

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Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa

 

Cliff Abenaitwe

African countries have a long way to go if they are to achieve the
millennium development goal one (MDG1) of halving by 2015 the
proportion of people suffering from extreme hunger and poverty.
Less than 3 years to the deadline, the continent is still synonymous
with millions living below the poverty line and it is still affected
by hunger which seems to be going nowhere.

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African continent still has millions of poorly fed children despite its rich Agricultural potential.

According to the UN food and agriculture 2010-2011, sub Saharan Africa is home to 26 percent of the world’s undernourished population, has the highest number of countries experiencing food emergencies due to in part, to climate extremes such as drought and exacerbated by civil unrest. The same reports reveals that Sub Saharan African still experiences increased food imports and is very vulnerable to global food price increases.
Experts attribute this trend to the poor performance of the agricultural sector.
The academy of science of South Africa (ASSAF) in its 2012 regulation
of agricultural GM technology in Africa report reveals that the poor
performance of the agricultural sector undermines Africa’s prospects
of attaining the MDGs and sustainable development in general. “The low agricultural productivity is associated with a wider range of
factors, including low investments in education, infrastructure,
research and development and over reliance on convectional technologies”, the report explains.
The solution for Africa is to improve the performance of the
agricultural sector.
However this report warns that much as the application of the best
conventional agricultural technologies can make significant
contribution to improving food security, it is not sufficient in
itself. “ The expansion of cultivated land through mechanization and provision of fertilizers can make a positive impact on food security in Africa but further benefits can be achieved by the application of modern biotechnology methods to plant improvement programs, principally for the so-called ‘orphan crops’ of particular importance to Africa”, the
report suggests.

According to Doctor Fen Beed, a pathologist from the USA who has worked in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Ghana, it would be surprising if Africa met the MDG1 by 2015 but according to him, this can be achieved in years to come.“If African countries can adopt bio-technology and other good farming practices, poverty and hunger can be reduced but this will be after 2015,” he added.

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Expanding Agricultural productivity in Africa coupled with bio-technology and other good farming practices is key in attaining MDG1

Other scientists also agree with Doctor Beed on the role of bio-technology in agricultural improvement in Africa.

In the book Insights; Africa’s future.. can bioscience contribute?, Calestous Juma, a world renown scientist argues that African agriculture will need to intensify the use of science and technology more than would have been the case without the threats of climate change. “Investment in science and technology will be required along the entire agricultural value chain from resource intelligence through production, marketing, storage and ecological rehabilitation,” he explains.

Synonymous with what the researchers are recommending, African countries are making commendable progress in the use of Bio-science.

At Mukono zonal agricultural research and development institute research into improved crop species is under way and the institute has already developed improved fruit varieties. “The breeds we are developing as a result of grafting and cross breeding are disease resistant, quick maturing and high yielding,” Robinah Gafabusa, a fruits and vegetables research technician at this institute explains.

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Planting of poor crop varieties will give you poor yields and this further deepens poverty and hunger problem in Africa.

At the National research Organization NARO, researchers are developing different crop varieties to help farmers cope with the problem of diseases and low yields. According to Tendo Sali Lauben, a crop breeder at NARO, they have already developed banana varieties like M20, M9, M21 which mature fast, are disease resistant and they give high yields.

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The difference is clear. Improved Banana varieties will give better yields.

Numerous research institutions and scientists are currently working on developing different Bio- technologies and the African continent is getting itself ready for genetically modified technologies. However, Doctor Charles Lagu from the Mbarara agricultural research and development institute is calling for more sensitization of the farmers to adapt to these technologies if the current efforts are to bear fruits.

It is estimated that by 2050, the world population will increase to 9 billion people and this will increase food demand. The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) is predicting that food production will need to increase by 70 percent.

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If Africa embraces Bio-technology and other good farming practices, agricultural input will be increased. This will give people enough to eat and the surplus for the market.

To me, scientists and researchers, embracing Bio technology and genetically modified technology for agricultural improvement is the way to go and we all have a role to play in this.