‘Anti-malarial mosquitoes’ created using controversial genetic technology

Scientists aim to tackle malaria by creating bugs unable to spread the parasite, but caution recommended over unpredictable ecological consequences

Hundreds of genetically modified mosquitoes that are incapable of spreading the malaria parasite to humen have been created in a laboratory as part of a revolutionary approach to combating the disease.

The move marks a major step towards the development of a powerful and controversial technology called a gene drive that aims to tackle the disease by forcing anti-malarial genes into swarms of wild mosquitoes.

The procedure can quickly transform the genetic makeup of natural insect populations, making it a dramatic new tool in the fight against an infection that still claims over 400,000 lives a year. The same technology is being considered for other human diseases and infections that devastate crops.

This is a significant first step, said Prof Anthony James at the University of California, Irvine. The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently generate large populations.

But gene drive technology is so powerful that resulting researchers have recommended scientists in the field to be cautious. A warning published in August in the prestigious publication Science, by squads in the UK, US, Australia and Japan, said that while gene drives have the potential to save lives and bring other benefits, the accidental release of modified organisms could have unpredictable ecological consequences.

They call on scientists to ensure that experimental organisms cannot escape from their labs, be released on purpose, or even find their way out accidentally in the event of a natural disaster. Researchers should also be open about the precautions they take to prevent an unintended release, they said.

In the latest study, mosquitoes were engineered to carry genes for antibodies that target the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum . When released into the wild, researchers believe the modified insects will breed with normal mosquitoes and pass the anti-malarial genes on to their young, making an ever-increasing proportion of future generations resistant to the malaria parasite.

James and his squad employed a genome editing procedure called Crispr-Cas9 to write anti-malarial genes into the Dna of eggs belonging Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes. A major carrier of the malaria parasite in Asia, the strain is responsible for more than 10% of malaria cases in India.

In lab tests, the modified mosquitoes passed on their anti-malarial genes to 99.5% of their offspring, is recommended that the procedure was incredibly effective and efficient. To track which bugs inherited the antibody genes, the scientists added a tracer gene that devoted carriers red fluorescent eyes.

James, who signed the warn in Science, said more run was needed to perfect the gene drive before modified insects can be tested in field trials. But describing the experimentations in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, he wrote: Strains based on this technology could have a major role in sustaining malaria control and elimination as part of the eradication agenda.

Dr Simon Bullock, a geneticist at the MRCs Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, helped to perfect the use of Crispr genome editing in flies, and also signed the call for precautions over gene drive research. Gene drive technology has great potential to help tackle malaria and other global problems in public health. But the capacities of genetic changes to spread rapidly in the wild population means that great caution should be taken when building gene drive systems in the laboratory.

Accidental or malicious release of a gene drive system into the wild could have unpredictable ecological consequences and thus researchers must use multiple safeguards the hell is robust to human error and nefarious actions. Fortunately, several safeguarding strategies are already available, he said.

But Bullock, who was not involved in the research, was surprised that the California group had not described the safeguards they put in place to ensure the mosquitoes did not escape. Devoted the highly sensitive nature of this technology and their call for transparency in this area of research, Im flabbergasted that the authors have not are set out in the publication detailed information on the containment procedures used in this study and how they were evaluated, he added.

Prof Anthony Shelton who studies pest management at Cornell University in New York said the California-based team was justified in its optimism over the procedure. Before open field test, they need to test their bugs in small arenas and field cages to decide the potential for it to work on a larger scale, he told. In theory this technology should work in the field, but farther exams are needed and only then will the full potential of this breakthrough be realized for the benefit of humanity.

Prof Gregory Lanzaro at University of California, Davis added: Concern that narcotic and insecticide resistance are eroding recent successes in managing malaria has drawn attention to alternative approaches, including the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. This new study marks a significant advance toward the development of this strategy.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

HIV infecting 2m more people every year, warns UN

Goal of eradicating Aids by 2030 will be impossible without more work on prevention, tells UNAids report

Talk of the end of Aids was premature, according to a new UN report that exposes the steady decline in new HIV infections stalled five years ago and that, in some areas, the numbers are rising again.

We are sounding the alarm, told Michel Sidib, executive director of UNAids. The power of prevention is not being realised. If there is a resurgence in new HIV infections now, the epidemic will become impossible to control. The world needs to take urgent and immediate action.

Nearly two million people have been newly infected with HIV every year for the last five years, tells UNAids, one week before the International Aids Conference in Durban. If that continues, it will be impossible to meet the UN goal of eradicating Aids by 2030.

Even though there are many well-understood ways to prevent infections including education about health risks, furnishing condoms and, most recently, narcotics that can protect the partners of those who are infected the numbers are going up , not down, in many regions.

Between 2010 and 2015, there was a 57% increase per year in new infections in eastern Europe and central Asia. The numbers of new infections had been falling for years in the Caribbean, but over the same period they rose annually by 9 %. The annual rise in the Countries of the middle east and North Africa was 4% and in Latin America it was 2 %. Although other regions did not insure a rise in infections, there was no drop-off either.

The trend is a blow to those who had predicted that the epidemic would be over in the foreseeable future. In 2011, Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, foresaw the end of Aids, saying that US endeavors had helped to lay the foundations for an historical opportunity, one that the world has today to change the course of this pandemic and usher in an Aids-free generation.

In June, the UN general assembly issued a declaration committing to speed up efforts to end the epidemic by 2030. The roll-out of antiretroviral drugs to people with HIV has cut the death toll, but the above figures from UNAids show that much more will need to be done on prevention.

Money is a major issue. The medication therapy programmes are costly and experts agree that maintaining all those infected now 36.7 million people worldwide on drugs for life is not sustainable if the numbers continue to rise.

But Aids has a lower profile now that the deaths are falling and this has led to a drop in funding from international donors, from a peak of $9.7 bn in 2013 to $8.1 bn in 2015, although the affected countries have increased their spending on HIV, so that now they contribute 57% of the total which was $19.2 bn last year.

Most of the money goes on treatment simply 20% is spent on prevention, says UNAids. The report recommends that resources should be focused on high-risk groups.

In east and southern Africa, for example, three-quarters of all new HIV infections among 10 to 19 -year-olds are of daughters, tells research reports. They do not know enough about HIV and are prey to older men, unequal in their societies and subjected to violence.

Worldwide only three in ten adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years have comprehensive and proper knowledge about HIV, says research reports. Reaching adolescent girls and young women, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, will be a key factor in ending the epidemic, it says.

Elsewhere, there are other issues. In eastern Europe and central Asia, 51% of new HIV infections occur among persons who inject narcotics. More than 80% of the regions new HIV infections in 2015 were in Russia. There are few damage reduction programmes to help those at risk.

In western and central Europe and Northern america, about half of all new HIV infections pass among gay humen. Between 2010 and 2014, new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with humen increased by 17% in western and central Europe, and by 8% in North America.

The International HIV/ Aids Alliance, which represents community groups worldwide, said it was concerned about the trend.

Shaun Mellors, the alliances associate director for Africa, said: It is significant that UNAids has publicly acknowledged the concerns that remain about HIV prevention. To respond to this global prevention gap, we need rapid investment and implementation of tailored combining prevention services for all populations at risk of HIV.

Meeting these targets requires a rapid acceleration in treatment and prevention programmes, rooted in human rights and gender equality, and centred on people living with or affected by HIV.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Rise in use of contraception offers hope for containing global population

More women than ever use family planning, tells the UN, and having one child fewer could dramatically curtail the global population by 2030

The number of women use contraceptives in developing countries has risen to record levels in recent years, such that projections for global population growth could be cut by as much as 1 billion over the next 15 years.

The latest figures by the UN prove more females than ever now use family planning, with some poorer regions recording the most wonderful pace of growth since 2000.

In 2015, an estimated 64% of married females, or women living with a partner, aged between 15 and 49, were utilizing modern or traditional forms of family planning. In 1970, the rate was 36%.

The population division of the UNs Department of Economic and Social Affairs( Undesa) predicts high rates of contraceptive use in Africa over the next 15 years; a region with the largest demand but least access to modern contraceptives.

Undesas projections for global population range between 8 billion and 9 billion by 2030.

The UN projections of population growth already give us an idea of the impact that increased access to family planning could have. If by 2030 the average family size is just one child fewer, then by 2030 the world population is estimated to be approximately 8 billion rather than 9 billion, told Jagdish Upadhyay, head of reproductive health commodity security and family planning at the UN population fund( UNFPA ).

Evidence shows that women who have access to family planning choose to use family planning, often resulting in smaller families, higher educational achievements, healthier infants[ and] greater economic power as well as influence in their households and communities, told Upadhyay.

If all actors can work together to provide women in every country with the entails, which is their right, to voluntarily exert yet another right to freely ascertain their family size, then we are likely to see a significant slowing of global population growth.

In Nigeria, one of the countries predicted to see the biggest population growth over the next few decades and with a contraceptive prevalence rate of 16%, an increase of one percentage point in the use of modern contraceptives would entail about 426,000 more females would be using family planning.

Upadhyay said many countries, particularly those in west Africa which has a high unmet need for contraception, to have been able to reap the demographic dividend: a boost to the economy that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependants.

However, he cautioned that despite the successes of the past 40 years, huge, and sustained, investment in family planning is needed to keep up with demand and gratify the needs of women who are unable to access services.

Julia Bunting, president of the Population Council, told: To impact population projections will require real commitment from countries like Nigeria to invest in high quality, voluntary family planning programmes to expand access to contraceptives.

The timing, scale and pace of those efforts will determine the dimensions of the impact on population projections.

According to Undesa figures, 142 million married women or those living with a partner, who would like to avoid pregnancy and use a modern sort of contraception, are unable to access them. When single females are included, the number rises to 225 million.

Africa has the highest unmet require, with an estimated 33% of women use contraceptives in 2015. East, central and south Africa are expected to increase coverage over the next 15 years, but over that time its big youth population will be reaching reproductive age.

Sarah Onyango, a senior consultant for service delivery at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said continued increases in contraceptive utilize could have an impact on population figures, but the trend necessitates more detailed analysis.

Over the next 15 years, were going to see growth in contraceptive use and demand because an increasing number of women of reproductive age will require contraceptive services, she said.

Right now, the population of Africa is generally young people almost 50% of the population are youths. If current trends in contraception employ continue, we will probably insure some shiftings in population.

At an international summit on family planning in London in 2012, donors pledged $2.6 bn ($ 1.8 bn) to improve access to contraceptives for 120 million women and girls by 2020.

Last September, world leaders promised to ensure universal access to family planning by 2030, recurring a pledge they had built in 1994.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The giant rats that love avocado- and can diagnose deadly TB | Kate Lyons

A team in Tanzania have developed African pouched rats to make life-saving discoveries, sniffing out cases of tuberculosis missed by health clinics

After scampering about a sleek glass and aluminium enclosure, a rat named Riziwan has made a crucial discovery.

In just minutes, Riziwan has positively identified 13 people who may have tuberculosis. The discovery is potentially life-saving news for those whose sputum samples were marked as clear by their local health clinics. But it’s all in a day’s- or rather 15 minutes’- work for Riziwan and the other giant African pouched rats that work at Belgian organisation Apopo‘s TB centre in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Riziwan , now almost a year old, has been trained- almost since birth- to pick up the smell of the disease, which is notoriously difficult to detect.

To carry out his run, Riziwan is placed in a large cage. Into its base, technicians insert a metal bar holding 10 dishes of human sputum, sent to Apopo by a TB clinic. All samples have been heat-treated so there is no risk of infection to either rats or humen. One by one, metal grates in the bottom of the enclosure are opened to allow Riziwan to sniff each petri dish.

There is silence among the technicians as Riziwan investigates the samples. He moves on quickly from slots one and two, but at the third he pauses and scratches the metal bottom of the enclosure, indicating that he reeks the disease.

At the seventh hole he scratches again, and again at the eighth. This time Harumi Ramadhani, the training superintendent, presses a clicker, meaning Riziwan has correctly identified a control sample from one of the clinics. It earns him a reward of mashed banana, avocado and rat pellets.

Apopo rats find an additional 40% of TB suits on top of those discovered by clinics

In all, Riziwan checks 100 samples. His run done for the day, he is returned to a large open-air playpen. The enclosure is cleaned and a second rat- a female named Pink- is brought in to test his findings.

” No person will be treated only on the comments of a rat ,” says Lena Fiebig, head of the TB programme at Apopo.” The rats at this moment are not approved as a standalone diagnostic tool. We’ll then use a recognised method, and this is mostly concentrated microscopy, where a laboratory technician will re-check these samples. But the rats have already contributed tremendously to narrowing down the focus, so it’s not a team of 10 lab technicians who need a week to re-check .”

On average, Apopo rats find an additional 40% of TB examples on top of those discovered by clinics. Since they started work 10 years ago, they have screened nearly half a million samples and detected more than 12,200 missed lawsuits. They can get through 100 samples in 10 to 20 minutes: a human with a microscope takes four days to test the same number.

The World Health Organization estimates that last year 4. 1m TB occurrences ran undetected, despite it being the world’s top infectious killer in 2016, resulting in 1.7 m demises. Detection rates use conventional light microscopy- the technique used during the clinics that send samples to Apopo for checking- can be as low as 20%.

Tuberculosis is an obvious target for the keen-nosed rats.” It’s known, or perceived, that TB has a specific odour. Reportedly dogs would avoid patients’ rooms with the disease ,” tells Fiebig.” Even physicians have reported cases where they receive a smell off TB patients .”

Workers at the Apopo TB detection centre

The centre began developing the rats on samples from the central TB laboratory for Tanzania, and the programme became operational in 2007. Apopo now partners with 57 clinics in Tanzania, and has operations in Mozambique and a centre about to open in Ethiopia.

” They are incredible ,” tells Ramadhani.” They can do a lot of things and they’re an easy animal to work with .”

Life is pretty good for the African pouched rats. At the end of the week- on” full-cheek Friday”- they are allowed to stuff their famous pouches with a feast. They live about eight or nine years and when they are too old to run are retired to the playpens.

The versatile species has also proved adept at detecting landmines. In the past 20 years, Apopo’s rats have found more than 100,000 landmines and unexploded regulations, clearing 22 m square metres of land in countries including Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia. The NGO hopes to send teams to Colombia and Zimbabwe next year.

Mine-clearing is still core to what Apopo does and in the early hours of one morning, handlers transport a dozen rats to a 24 -hectare( 29 -acre) field where defused landmines have been interred for them to train with.

The animals, which are nocturnal and susceptible to sunburn, have their tails and ears slathered in clear sunscreen. They are fitted into harness, and methodically check every square inch of ground.

Burhani is being tested today. If he passes- rub at the soil above every interred landmine- he will be sent to Angola to replace a rat nearing retirement. Werrason( named after a Congolese musician) is progressing well, but misses two ours, so is not yet ready to be deployed. The third, Chifupa( named after a late Tanzanian MP) is struggling. She is still on one of the smaller, easier develop fields and misses about half of the mines buried in it. It will be some time before she catches up with the rest of her class.

The human de-miners must have complete religion in the rats’ ability. They are merely let on to minefields when they can detect every explosive in the field during develop, with only one false positive- compared with the tuberculosis rats, which are operational with a sensitivity rate of 75 %.

After a piece of land has been cleared of ours, as part of the handover ceremony to the community, Apopo staff will run across it to prove to sceptical locals that it is safe.

In the past 20 years, the rats have found more than 100,000 landmines and unexploded ordinances

Cindy Fast, head of Apopo’s training, the investigations and developing, is always on the lookout for more ways the animals might put their noses to good employ.” We are just beginning to tap into their potential ,” she says.

There is talk of using them in disaster zones, receiving survivors buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings. And this week a group of rats began training to recognise the fragrance of African hardwoods as well as the scales of the pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world, so they can be used in anti-smuggling operations.

Slowly, these projects are turning rats from pests into heroes among locals.

” In the beginning it was very difficult to get people to understand what we’re doing ,” says Shaibu Hamisi, one of the mine detecting rat trainers.” People didn’t understand how the rodent could be helpful .” He adds that there is still stigma around the animals.

The trainers miss their charges when they are sent abroad for different projects, Hamisi says, but” when we hear this rat has discovered two landmines today, we feel really proud “.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

One meal a day: the Lake Chad crisis in pictures

The extreme north of Cameroon is suffering a food famine exacerbated by climate change and conflict with Boko Haram

Ramata Modou, 58, holds a photograph of herself. Ramata is community leader at an internal displacementcamp for women and children in Mm

When armed men entered Ramatas village her husband suffered a heart attack and succumbed. Her 17 -year-old daughter was kidnapped, her three-month-old daughter strapped to her back. When she first fled to Mm she slept under trees for two months with her six children.

She now lives in a camp for internally displaced women and children. All the women here have lost the men in their lives spouses, fathers, friends, sons to the conflict. They built their own makeshift homes from sticks and thatch. There is a water pump but no sanitation.

Ramata holds her half-eaten lunch of ground red maize, white rice and crushed mango leaves. It is the only meal she and her children will eat today. The food was gathered by running house to house in the village to beg.

Leaving my village was very difficult. We used to own kine and sheep, but we had to leave all of those things behind. We had no choice, we had to leave. Even the roofs of the houses have now been stolen.

People have fled violence in their village, often in the middle of night, leaving with nothing, sometimes not even their shoes. Those who arrive in Mm are forced to rely on the kindness of new neighbours to provide clothes and food. Most families arrive with nothing, and even a battered spoonful is a gift to be treasured.

Aminas Remains of the daily snack for seven – ground red maize, white rice and crushed mango leaves. This plate is the half-eaten lunch of Ramata Modou, 58, and her family This battered spoonful belongs to 20 year-old Amina, a young pregnant mom of two
A plate of ground red maize, surrounded by a green sauce made from mango leaves A stick of red maize Tomatoes – a luxury in Mm, expensing 160 CFA( 21 p) for three at Mm market A cracked bowl of food, containing a few grains of rice and some beans the last few morsels of a lunch Niebe( black-eyed) beans. Seen in the fissure of a wall at Alis home on the outskirts of Maroua
A bowl of fish bones for flavour. When you only eat one meal day, people look for anything to add flavour. A bowl of fish bones is all that remains of this meal. These small, brittle, dried fish are used to season bland staple foods, such as maize. These fish have almost no meat on their bones This woven bowl contains maize husks. Food is so scarce here that even the chaff of maize is saved and eaten
A piece of charred firewood. Firewood is an important commodity here. Not only is it are applied to cook, but people forage for timber in the bush and sell it in the village to earn money to buy food

How bitter herbs and botched abortions kill three women a day in the Philippines

In a country where more than 65% of women dont use contraceptives and terminating pregnancy is illegal, torturous practices are often the only option

Outside the gates of Manilas Quiapo church, deals are being done. Bitter herbs and abortion drug are traded illegally.

Next to an imposing statue illustrating a foetus clasped in the hands of Christ, stalls offer an array of rosary beads, amulets, mangoes and songbirds. Here, the abortion pill misoprostol is on sale for just$ 5( 3.90 ), as well as the herb pamparegla, which can induce menstruation and aim pregnancy. All this goes on in the shadows of the largest Catholic church in Manila.

The irony is not lost on womens rights activists who want legal access to abortion.

Marevic Parcon has been called an abortion cheerleader. Its no understatement. In a country with an outright ban on processes and conservative opinions on contraception, she is defiant in the face of criticism.

I mean, why not? Is it shameful? At the end of the working day abortion is about human rights, she says. No matter how much they deny the existence of abortion in the country, its happening under their noses.

Parcon is programme coordinator at the Womens Global Network for Reproductive Rights( WGNRR ). If you are for womens rights, it is inevitable to talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights. And you cannot talking here sexual and reproductive health without talking about abortion rights.

Her views dont go down well in a country where more than 80% of the population are Catholic and the church holds tremendous sway.

Such conservative postures kept an act awarding universal access to family planning at bay for 14 years.

More than 65% of women dont use modern contraceptives, and maternal mortality rates are still high in the Philippines, standing at 114 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.

It was the efforts of women like Parcon that eventually helped drive the law over the line. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act also referred to as RH law was ultimately passed in 2012.

This whole culture of patriarchy controls womens bodies. Women should be able to exercising their own sexuality and they should be able to enjoy sex, says Parcon, who has been on the frontline of womens rights activism for more than 20 years.

Although its against the law to objective a pregnancy in the Philippines, an estimated 610,000 abortions take place every year.

Its an open secret that techniques are available, albeit unsafe ones.

As well as the herbs and medications on offer at Quiapo, women who want to end unplanned pregnancies have their stomachs massaged hard every day for a week, in the hope of inducing abortion.

It is horrific. It is tantamount to torture, says Parcon. Unsafe abortion is torturous to women, especially the massage kind, because it is so painful.

Others resort to barbaric methods such as inserting barbecue sticks or coathangers into their womb, or throwing themselves down the stairs. Three girls succumb every day from post-abortion complications in the Philippines.

The job of campaigning for womens reproductive health and rights there is tough. But its about to get tougher. Although the work of Parcons organisation, WGNRR, is not funded by the US, Donald Trumps decision to reinstate the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, will bolster her opponents.

The gag rule bans foreign aid to international healthcare providers who discuss abortion or advocate abortion rights.

It will definitely make it more difficult for any reproductive health NGO, says Parcon.

When you talk about reproductive health you will always touch on abortion. The global gag rule says that even the mere mention of abortion is not allowed. It is a challenge a big, big challenge. But its not something we should be afraid of.

On paper the Philippines looks like its making progress on uphold womens rights. In 2009 the Magna Carta of Women was introduced, promising to eliminate discrimination against females by recognising, protecting, fulfilling and promoting the rights of Filipino girls. The country has also ratified the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against females( Cedaw ).

But the fight over the introduction of the reproductive health law clearly showed that the country still has a long way to go.

Everything was reduced to the debate of whether or not contraception was[ causing abortion][ but] how are you able enjoy life if you have 12 kids? asks Parcon.

There are other hurdles ahead: the furnish of contraceptives is poor, and legal challenges from religion groups are blocking distribution of the contraceptive implant.

But Parcon remains positive.

My hope is that one day Filippino girls can say abortion and that theres no dishonor in the word. Before, we couldnt even have this conversation. But right now we are having it, so there is hope.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Hope for ‘end of Aids’ is disappearing, experts alert

Those opposing epidemic say 2030 target is unrealistic as make further efforts to defeat it falter amid rising infection levels and drug resistance

Efforts to combat Aids in Africa are seriously faltering, with drugs beginning to lose their power, the number of infections rising and funding declining, raising the prospect of the epidemic once more spiralling out of control, experts have warned.

The UN has set a target of 2030 for the end of Aids, which has been endorsed by donor governments including the US, where the president, Barack Obama, said the end was in sight last month.

But the reality on the ground, particularly in the developing world, looks very different. Many experts believe that the epidemic will continue to spread and the Aids death toll, still at 1.5 million people a year, could begin to soar again.

Prof Peter Piot, the first executive director of UNAIDS and director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Protector: I dont believe the slogan the end of Aids by 2030 is realistic and it could be counterproductive. It could suggest that its fine, its all over and we can move to something else. No. Aids is still one of the biggest killers in the world.

At the recent International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa, Bill Gates, a self-proclaimed optimist whose foundation has invested heavily in combatting HIV, warned of trouble ahead.

If we only do as well as we have been doing, the number of people with HIV will go up even beyond its previous peak, Gates said. We have to do an incredible amount to reduce the incidence of the number of people get the infection. To start writing the story of the end of Aids, further ways of thinking about therapy and prevention are essential.

Those fighting the epidemic face a devastating combining of problems 😛 TAGEND Every year, around the world, nearly 2 million people, 60% of them girls and young women, become newly infected with the virus, despite prevention endeavors. In developing countries, HIV is becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat people and keep them well, which means they will increasingly require other drugs that are currently unaffordable. Donor countries are cutting back on funding. A girl walks past Aids information on the wall of the Redemption hospital in New Kru Town near Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: Ahmed Jallanzo/ EPA

Thousands march in Lima in protest over forgivenes for former Peru president

Alberto Fujimori, 79, was serving 25 -year sentence for corrupt practices and authorising death squad killings

Thousands of Peruvians have marched through Lima to vent their outrage over a forgivenes for the jailed former chairperson Alberto Fujimori, in the biggest protest since the decision was announced.

The public opprobrium was directed at Peru’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who granted the forgivenes on health grounds on Christmas Eve to lift the 25 -year sentence, Fujimori, 79, had been serving for corrupt practices and authorising death squad killings.

Public indignation threatens to push Kuczynski’s beleaguered government into a political crisis as he reshuffles his cabinet and seeks to forge a new confederation with the majority opposition party led by Fujimori’s daughter Keiko.

” The chairman has lost all legitimacy ,” said Maria Isabel Cedano, a feminist campaigner who supported Kuczynski, known as PPK, in Peru’s 2016 presidential runoff to avoided a victory for Keiko Fujimori.” He has betrayed us. He should resign and convene new elections .”

Amid the face-painted drummers, workers’ unions, students and feminist collectives wearing traditional Andean embellished skirts, Kuczynski’s image was a new addition to the rubber-faced puppet caricatures worn by performers waving bundles of banknotes in the burlesque parade usually reserved for Fujimori and other former leaders tainted with corruption.

Marchers wore headbands reading” The forgivenes is an insult” and carried placards saying ” Justice cannot be negotiated” as they chanted” Out, out PPK .”

People holding pictures of victims of the guerrilla conflict march against President Kuczynski’s pardon for former chairwoman Alberto Fujimori in Lima. Photograph: Mariana Bazo/ Reuters

Alberto Fujimori, whose authoritarian leadership in the 1990 s left an indelible mark on the country, continues to casting a long darknes over modern Peru. His supporters credit him with stamping out the Maoist Shining Path movement and responsibility for Peru’s economic success while others hold him a corrupted and iron-fisted dictator.

Speaking from a hospital bed on Tuesday, Fujimori asked for forgiveness from the Peruvians he said he had “let down”. He thanked Kuczynski for the forgivenes and pledged to back the president’s call for national reconciliation.

” It was a taunt ,” said Rosa Rojas Borda, who lost her eight-year-old son Javier and husband Manuel, in the 1992 Barrios Altos carnage, one of two carried out by a military death squad Fujimori was convicted of having created.

” He should ask for forgiveness from the relatives of those he had killed. They have a first and last name ,” she told the Guardian as she strode at the front of the marching with other family members carrying placards bearing black and white photos of their loved ones who were killed in the early 1990 s.

” PPK has never invited us- the families of the victims- to visit him, as “hes having” Keiko and Kenji. We’ve asked him three times ,” said Carmen Oyague, 70, whose daughter, Dora Oyague Fierro, was one of nine students and a university professor who were kidnapped and killed in 1992.

Her niece, Carolina Oyague, 36, said:” You can’t reconcile the country by decree ,” referring to a message on Tuesday in which the 79 -year-old leader asked young people to leave aside” negative emotions” and” turn the page “.

Human rights lawyers in Peru say there are legal grounds to challenge the forgivenes because it was a political and not a humanitarian decision.

Public indignation threatens to push Pedro Pablo Kuczynski s already beleaguered government into a political crisis. Photo: Martin Mejia/ AP

Carlos Rivera, a lawyer at the Legal Defence Institute, said Kuczynski issued the pardon as a part of a deal to avoid impeachment on corruption accusations last week . The chairman has denied wrongdoing.

Human rights experts at the UN called the pardon an appalling “slap in the face” to the victims of human rights abuses, adding it was granted on” politically motivated grounds” and was a” major setback for the rule of law in Peru “.

Fujimori’s” remorse is not in question” and he did” not satisfy the legal requirements for a forgivenes”, they concluded.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed “deep concern” over the pardon.

” The pardon is a major reversal in the consolidation of Peru’s democracy ,” says Paulo Drinot, a senior lecturer in Latin American History at University College London.” PPK has undermined the rule of law for his own political survival. He will go down as one of the most pusillanimous and unprincipled chairpeople in Peruvian history.

” With the pardon, he may also have created the conditions for a much more fractious and openly confrontational period of Peruvian politics ,” he said.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Zika virus counterattack: Brazil’s big plan to combat menace not easing anxieties

Health officials welcome mega-operation but remain cautious as education and removing breeding sites not enough to eradicate mosquito that carries the virus

Amid rumors and anxiety over the Zika virus, the Brazilian government is preparing to launching a mega-operation to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites and to train the public about its role in combating the spread of disease.

Brazils public health experts have welcomed the initiative, but few believe that these actions alone will eradicate the Aedes Aegypti the mosquito species that carries the virus.

And without concrete information concerning the virus and its link to microcephaly , none of the anti-mosquito strategies proposed by the authorities are without their share of controversy.

In a nationally televised broadcast last week, President Dilma Rousseff announced the mobilisation of 220,000 soldiers to accompany the countrys 300,000 health workers on house-to-house visits.

As science has not yet developed a inoculation against the Zika virus, the only effective redres we have to prevent this disease is a vigorous fight against the mosquito, she said.

According to the ministry of health, health workers or members of the armed forces have visited 20. 7m Brazilian homes, equivalent to around 30% of all the countrys private residences. The ministry estimates that 80% of the breeding grounds of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito are based on private properties.

As well as Zika, which has been linked to a surge in cases of microcephaly, Aedes Aegypti also transmit chikungunya and dengue fever, which killed 843 Brazilians in 2015.

It takes between seven to 10 days for a hatched egg to develop to adulthood; as such, health workers recommend Brazilians check their properties at least once a week. Gutters should be cleared; bottles upturned; rubbish bins firmly closed and water tanks sealed.

It is clearly a mammoth task, with little chance of total success. The Aedes Aegypti cannot be eradicated, Christoph Hatz, a prof of epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, told the BBC.

But Brazil did succeed in eliminating the insect once before. In 1958, the Pan-American Health Organization( PAHO) declared Brazil free of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Eleven years earlier, an outbreak of yellow fever inspired the PAHO to launch a Continental Campaign for the Eradication of the Aedes Aegypti in 1947.

In part, this continent-wide programme built on much of the progress made by Brazilian researchers in the first part of the 20 th century.

Vaccination programmes, improved public sanitation and the widespread employ of insecticide succeeded in dramatically reducing the incidence of mosquito-borne illness and eventually led to the eradication of the Aedes Aegypti in 11 countries in the Americas.

Living with microcephaly: It drives me to achieve my aim video

But the success came at a cost. A compulsory vaccination programme implemented in Rio de Janeiro in 1904, carried out by the Brigadas Mata Mosquitos[ Mosquito-Killing Brigades] resulted in some of the most serious rioting in the citys history. The success of the pesticide campaign meant that DDT continued to be used as a kind of vector control in Brazil until 1997.

Aedes Aegypti reappeared in the Amazonian city of Belem in 1967, and then began to spread across Brazil in the late 1970 s and early 1980 s.

For the historian Rodrigo Cesar da Silva Magalhaes, who wrote his doctoral thesis on the eradication programme, the responsibility for the current epidemic rests as much with the government as with the public.

In an interview with O Estado de Sao Paulo in the midst of last years dengue epidemic, he argued, while there is no political will on the part of the state and investment in research, sanitation, urbanization and permanent anti-mosquito activities, it[ the mosquito] will continue to kill.

Alongside the current campaign, researchers are also experimenting with other methods of controlling the mosquito population, including the deployment of genetically modified mosquitos and

the introduction of Wolbachia a naturally occurring bacteria which prevents illnes transmission, into the local mosquito population.

But dedicated how much remains unknown about both the Zika virus and its potential link with microcephaly, both health workers and researchers in Brazil have to contend with a profoundly sceptical public.

On social media sites rumours abound about the disease and its causes. The Brazilian health ministry has taken the unusual step of reassuring the public that the cases of microcephaly are not linked to a course of vaccines for pregnant women; nor are they a by-product of the bacterial anti-mosquito campaign.

It has also denied a rumour that there has been a surge in cases of serious neurological disorders among young children and the elderly.

Still, many Brazilians are reluctant to let government agents into their homes and there have been reports of thieves masquerading as health guests.

As Dr Magalhaes observed, there remains a tension between the basic tenets of a democratic society and the goal of eradicating the mosquito.

How do you construct people open their homes to health agents without recourse to authoritarian laws or postures?

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Five steps to put young people at the heart of development | Carla Kweifio-Okai

Responding to the needs of the worlds 3.5 billion young people will be vital in achieving the global goals. How do we get them more involved in policy-making?

With more than half the global population aged under 30, issues affecting young people are receiving greater attention from policymakers. Tackling high youth unemployment and low school attendance rates, and providing greater access to sexual and reproductive health services, are now top priorities. Leaders are beginning to realise that responding to young peoples needs is the only way to meet the biggest challenges facing the world.

But how involved are young people in the decisions that affect them? We asked campaigners involved with the youth-led NGO Restless Development what needs to be done to bring them closer to the heart of development.

Offer us a seat at the table

Though there are more young people than ever in the world, youth campaigners remain underrepresented in global decision-making. We feel that local and national leaders dont hear us, says Joseph Buyaga, president of Tanzanian NGO Youth Vision Sound. This comes from negative cultural perceptions of young people in society they dont always value our contributions at village meetings, for example.

Amro Hussain

Campaigner Amro Hussain, 25, agrees. I think the main issue facing young people is underrepresentation in the institutions that govern their lives, as this negatively impacts every other issue affecting young people, he says.

Dont make us your tokens

Once there are more young people included in policy talks, what next? Commit to it, says Hussain. Young people need to be offered a genuine opportunity to change the narrative that they are apathetic or incapable, but this requires both meaningful inclusion and time.

Ronagh Craddock

Ronagh Craddock, a youth delegate at the UN summit for sustainable development, says involving young people from the start is the most effective way to ensure their views are included. One of the main challenges, I find, is that young people are often involved by government and development organisations at a late stage to deliver development messages and enthuse the public but we need to be involved from the beginning.

Ani Hao, a 24-year-old researcher based in Rio de Janeiro for the youth-led project Case for Space, agrees that young people are too often add-ons to existing forums or policies: There has been significant tokenism and a lack of real space for young people to truly influence agendas and gain power and autonomy. Still, there is now more awareness and conversation about this.

Fund youth-led, grassroots projects

Ani Hao

The antidote to tokenism, Hao argues, is meeting young people where they are and that means venturing outside the formal NGO sector. Many youth-led civil society organisations around the world, especially in the global south, are informal that is to say, unregistered and there are a variety of reasons for this, Hao says. Many governments actively monitor and crack down on registered civil society organisations, knowing that these organisations represent movements and voices that criticise government activities and often corruption. Other youth activists simply prefer to remain independent and not become NGO-ised, or, in their eyes, increasingly divorced from grassroots activism and the real movements. These youth-led movements simply do not get the attention that they deserve from their own societies, let alone the world. They are starved for funding, capacity-building and networks.

Young men take photos in front of graffiti depicting poverty and homelessness in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Photograph: Amr Dalsh / Reuters/Reuters

Collect data on the issues that affect us

To engage effectively with young people, leaders have to know the issues that affect them most, says Buyaga. He recommends governments recruit young people to collect information in order to fill data gaps about under-30s, helping to inform national development plans in the process. We can collect and analyse the data that is missing on young people, and share this with the big decision-makers, he says.

Buyaga says this is particularly important in countries with hard-to-reach communities, or where young people feel marginalised and misunderstood by their leaders. Young people in Tanzania face various issues like youth unemployment, poor education systems, lack of livelihood or entrepreneurial skills, lack of capital. If given a chance, the young campaigners can improve this. We can provide a voice to government to inform policies that enable young people in Tanzania to participate effectively in the economy.

Teach us what you know

If young people dont know their rights, they cant improve their futures, saysPrince Mthandazo Khumalo, 29, from Zimbabwe. Many young people are still [languishing] in excruciating poverty without job prospects. They still lack the platform to exercise their rights and without that they lack prospects for change.

Young people are keen to learn how to campaign on their own behalf, says campaigner Hussain. States and development organisations need to target the factors that limit youth involvement. They need to empower youth through education, training and the creation of networks. Lots of young people are increasingly involved in development and social change but most are still held at arms length, either left in the dark about their roles as agents of change or limited in those roles due to lack of support.

Primrose Manyalo

Primrose Manyalo, global campaigns coordinator for Restless Developments Youth Power movement, says the perception of young people as leaders is improving, and was evident in recent consultations for the sustainable development goals.

In the spirit of leaving no one behind, she says, there were increased efforts by the UN, governments and civil society to increase young peoples participation in the SDG formulation process compared to the millennium development goals that came before them. Working directly with young people at grassroots, national, regional and global level, I have witnessed how, when young people are given enough capacity, support and trust, they are an unstoppable force for positive change.

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