The opening of a new HIV/AIDS care clinic in northern Botswana has helped extend the reach of the government's national treatment and prevention programme. The Infectious Diseases Care Clinic at Maun General Hospital was officially handed over to the government last week by the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP), as part of its support to Botswana's antiretroviral (ARV) drug programme.
ACHAP is a public-private partnership backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates, and drug company Merck, foundations. "Last November, the government asked ACHAP to assist with the construction of four infectious diseases care clinics and sixteen satellite clinic extensions, to be ready by the end of 2003. I am happy to report that we are on track," ACHAP team leader Dr Donald Korte said.
The Maun clinic is also expected to play a key regional role in supporting the government's prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes, provided through the public health service.
"The expanded clinic will ... extend the government's capacity to reach out to those infected and affected across northwestern Botswana. This infectious disease care clinic already accommodates referrals from five primary hospitals in Kasane, Gweta, Gumare, Rakops - and thus forms an important centre for effectively dealing with treatment and care," Korte said. (Source: IRIN)
International NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF) said on August 11 it had temporarily evacuated its expatriate staff from Kayanza Province, northern Burundi, after gunmen stormed one of their homes stealing computers, communications equipment, radios and vehicles.
Nevertheless, it said it was continuing its nutritional and food security programmes in the region. The estimated 20 robbers overpowered the four guards and burst into the house on August 9 without firing a shot, although gunfire of undetermined origin was reported as they fled. (Source: IRIN)
Central African Republic
Police in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), have arrested the chairman of the CAR Red Cross Society's dissolved executive board, Francois Farra-Frond, for his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of donor funds, a Red Cross official said on August 12.
"All the Red Cross's partners have suspended their support," Red Cross Secretary-General Albert Sangou-Gbaya said. He added that Red Cross personnel had not been paid salaries for eight months.
After dissolving the executive board on July 9, Social Affairs Minister Lea Koyassoum Doumta appointed an interim body, pending the election of a new executive board in January 2004.
Responding to the dissolution, Farra-Frond, who was minister of state for finance in the early 1980s, said on July 13 that the action was illegal and motivated by internal conflicts. He said he would file a complaint with the courts.
Operational since 1966 and with a total of 10,000 volunteers in 14 of the CAR's 16 provinces, the Red Cross actively involved itself in the exhumation and reburial of badly buried corpses during the repeated crises of the last six years. (Source: IRIN)
The government of Cote d'Ivoire has released 54 political prisoners accused of supporting rebels who occupy the north of the country under the terms of an amnesty law which was approved by parliament, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.
The spokesman said on August 11 that the 16 military personnel and 38 civilians were released from prison in Abidjan on August 9. Most were arrested after civil war broke out in September last year, but some had been in detention since disturbances at the time of the September 2000 presidential election.
Most of those freed were members or tagged as members of the opposition Rally of Republicans (RDR) party of Alassanne Ouattara, who sought refuge in the French embassy as the fighting broke out and subsequently went into exile in France.
Ouattara, a northerner who served as prime minister under Cote d'Ivoire's first president, Felix Houphouet Boigny, was banned from standing as a presidential candidate in the 2000 elections on the grounds that he was not Ivorian.
President Laurent Gbagbo has said Ouattara is free to come home and his party is represented in parliament, but is still regarded with suspicion as being pro-rebel by the head of state and his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party and other organisations of the political class.
Prominent RDR figures released at the weekend included Ahmed Bassam, the head of ASH, the company which collects rubbish and cleans the streets in Abidjan, and Ali Keita, a public relations officer of the party.
The amnesty law covers all those who took up arms against the government from the time of the 2000 presidential election and paves the way for policemen and soldiers who joined the rebellion to be reincorporated into the security forces without punishment. (Source: IRIN)
Belgium has given €12.5 million (US $14.2 million) to fight African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), its embassy in the capital, Kinshasa, announced on August 12.
It said that efforts would be focused on provinces in which it was particularly endemic, namely Kinshasa, Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur, Katanga, Kasai Occidental, Kasai Oriental and Maniema.
It added that it hoped to achieve a rate of infection less than 0.1 percent by 2007 - the level at independence - and that this would be achieved primarily through epidemiological surveillance and training of local medical staff.
The Belgian embassy said that this would be the third phase in its most recent efforts to fight sleeping sickness in the Congo, following a first phase from 1997 to 1999, and a second phase that began in 1999 and due to conclude in September 2003.
Along with Angola and Sudan, the DRC is one of three countries in the world where there is an epidemic of the disease, in terms of very high cumulated prevalence and high transmission, according to the World Health Organisation. Other affected countries include the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda.
African sleeping sickness is caused by trypanosomes, or protozoan parasites. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of the tsetse fly (genus Glossina). (Source: IRIN)
Eritrea is witnessing the worst floods in 40 years with large swathes of farmland completely destroyed, according to the government.
It said the Gash river had burst its banks in the western Gash Barka region last week, resulting in heavy crop losses in and around the main town of Tesseney. Part of the road to the town had been cut off.
Wendy Rappeport, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Eritrea which carries out much of its work in the Tesseney area, confirmed that the seasonal rains were exceptionally heavy this year.
She said however that as yet, there had been no reports of damage in the areas where refugees were returning from Sudan. Tens of thousands of returnees, assisted by UNHCR, have been arriving in western Eritrea over the last three years.
"We are monitoring the situation very closely," she added. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Sudan the UN and NGOs have appealed for US $8.6 million to help tens of thousands of people left homeless by severe flooding in the Kassala area.
Excessive rainfall in the Eritrean highlands, alongside localised rains, caused the Gash river to burst its banks late last month. Thirteen people have been killed and 56 injured, while thousands of houses have been destroyed along with Kassala town's only hospital. (Source: IRIN)