Capitalising on Africa’s agriculture to achieve ‘zero hunger’

 

 

It’s a sobering fact that, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 233 million children, women and men in Africa went to bed each night hungry in 2014-16.

CABI Board Member and 2017 Africa Food Prize winner Professor Ruth Oniang’o has devoted her career helping farmers grow nutritious and healthy crops, to not only help reduce hunger but to achieve sustainable and profitable livelihoods.

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The recognition of Mycetoma: much needed attention finally given to long neglected tropical disease (NTD)

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Image: Woman in the West Indies with mycetoma caused by a fungal organism
CDC/ Dr. Lucille K. Georg

From Harpur Schwartz, an economics/global health student from Connecticut College, USA,  interning with Cabi’s Global Health team.

While tuning in to the live broadcast of the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly taking place at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, mycetoma reached the discussion floor. At the risk of sounding naïve, I’m going to tell you that I had never heard of mycetoma – although a quick google search revealed images resembling elephantiasis. As a student studying global health, I was a little disappointed with myself; I mean I have at least heard of the other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). But if mycetoma was unfamiliar to me, how many other people had never heard of this disease? I have provided answers to some basic questions I had about mycetoma in case you too are unfamiliar with this disease…

What is mycetoma?

The World health Organization describes mycetoma as, “… a chronic, progressively destructive morbid inflammatory disease usually of the foot but any part of the body can be affected”. This disease is caused by a bacterial (actinomycetoma) or fungal (eumycetoma) infection where the organism enters the body through a minor trauma or a penetrating injury (i.e. commonly a thorn prick). It is believed that the infection enters the body after this pricking occurs, but there are no concrete studies determining transmission. A good video on it can be found here in Global Health Now's Spotlight on Mycetoma by Amy Maxmen.

Is there a cure?

In terms of treatment, curing actinomycetoma using antibiotics has about a 90% success rate. The use of antifungals to treat eumycetoma has a success rate of about 35%, but in 2016 a new antifungal agent, fosravuconazole, will be the subject of the First Clinical Trial in Mycetoma conducted by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Institute (DNDi). Because the disease takes a slow, relatively pain-free progression, mycetoma is at its most advanced stages once it is diagnosed. It is at these later stages when amputation becomes necessary.

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More from AHILA14: Information literacy, ICT and the problems in rural areas

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AHILA14 delegates. Courtesy of Jean Shaw, Phi.

Report from Jean Shaw of Partnerships in Health Information, attending the 14th biennial AHILA congress.  Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. AHILA14 Days 2-4.

The papers at the past three days at the AHILA Congress have covered a wide spectrum of subjects reflecting the Congress themes: ICTs and access to information and knowledge. Information seeking behaviours, access to and resources for health information have been extensively reported in papers covering disparate groups ranging from academic researchers and students to mothers and students, teenage pregnant girls and older people (60 onwards).

Health information in rural areas..the role of community health workers

The problems of providing health information in rural areas, where some religious and cultural values can be a barrier to western medicine were the subject of a number of studies and lengthy discussion. They were enhanced by a session organised by Dr. Neil Pakenham-Walsh of HIFA, who had invited community health workers and their Project Manager, Dr. Edoardo Occa, to describe the work of CUAMMDoctors with Africa (an Italian organization involved in the training of Community Health Workers at the grassroots level in seven African countries). 

 

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Dr.Occa with Tanzania community health workers & trainers, CUAMM. The NGO works in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

 

IT was an eye-opener to learn of the tremendous workload and the problems they met.

Neither of the two health workers who spoke had ever been to Dar es Salaam and their presentations were given in almost instant translation by Mr. G. Faresi a community health worker trainer with the project. To round it off we were shown all the books and equipment that has to be carried by visiting health workers as they cycle great distances. It is obviously very heavy.

This was followed up by an excellent and complementary description of training Community Health Extension Workers in Kenya – an initiative carefully planned and carried out by the Kenya Chapter of AHILA (Ken-AHILA).

This blog also appears on Global Health Knowledge Base

 Editors comment

  •  the 3rd day of AHILA 14 was devoted to the  2nd HIFA conference.
    The session on community health workers & CUAMM, formed part of the HIFA conference.
  • CABI's Global Health database has 1030 records on community health workers (FREETEXT search).  Even more records can be achieved using this searchstring:  "community health" and "medical auxillaries".

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ICT and Governance in East Africa : Preliminary Fieldwork Findings (Part 1) Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
ICTs and access to health Information and knowledge:role of african health librarians
ICTs and access to health Information and knowledge. AHILA14 Congress.
Partners' forum conference-2014, to shape the post -2015 development agenda

ICTs and access to health Information and knowledge: role of african health librarians

Ahila_14_cropReport from Jean Shaw of Partnerships in Health Information, attending the 14th biennial AHILA congress.   This year, for the first time, there is to be a CABI prize for a short report on health information activities in an AHILA member country (known as a chapter). The prize is £500 and is awarded by AHILA/Phi. There will be daily conference reports/blogs.

AHILA14, Day 1.

Professor Maria Musoke's keynote presentation encompassed the main themes of the Congress and AHILA's role in accommodating the huge changes that have taken place over the 30 years of its existence – both the benefits and the challenges. These themes were taken up by the principal guest speakers – the representative for the Minister, for Health and Social Welfare and His Excellency the Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania who emphasised the importance of e-health resources in the education and practice of health care and the effects of health on poverty and the national economy.

The next exciting event was the presentation of the CABI prize by His Excellency to Dr. Alison Kinengyere & Glorias Asiimwe (Uganda) for their report on the activities of the Uganda Chapter of AHILA and their aims. Their main focus is, and continues to be, on training and the promotion of continuing professional education.

Then  began a rich feast of presentations which addressed some of the challenges to be faced by the information professions: a web based site to improve collaboration and efficiency of clinical trials for new drugs; social media and "infodemiology" of misinformation – its identification and containment; an African perspective on sensitive health-related data; and MEDBOX an online library suitable for health workers in crisis situations.

As Professor Musoke [The University Librarian, Makerere University] emphasised in her keynote address, AHILA and its Chapters must ensure that its structure is able to meet and support the benefits and challenges of ICT in the provision of  relevant, safe and secure health information to all who need it.  

 This report also appears on the Global Health Knowledge Base .

 Further Reading

AHILA e-newsletter October 2014

 

No strings attached: public health messages from puppets!

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Image:Loren Javier           Father Christmas & wife puppets         Happy Christmas!
                                                                                       

One intriguing way of getting health messages across to communities who are illiterate and whose spoken language may not even have words to describe the medical concept, is to entertain them. Travelling theatre groups  in Africa sing or act out AIDs prevention stories, board games educate children on climate or help mothers cope with domestic violence, and, not to be left out, there is now an online game that can support the fight against hunger (see UN food aid agency helps create online game to fight hunger)

Another way is storytelling with puppets and I am going to tell you about the work of one particular company No Strings.

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Recent developments in the world of biofuels

Water hyacinth mat on river Opinions on the use of crops for biofuel and bioenergy continue to be polarized – are they a ‘good thing’ or not? When are they a ‘good thing’? Who benefits?

How do you measure the impacts and their interactions at a local, national and international level on food security, land resources, water, greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, poverty, social development, sustainability…and try to remain impartial and objective?

The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework developed by FAO aims to address these issues by providing an analytical framework and set of tools which can be used to measure these impacts. Using a step-by-step methodology, the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their country and identify suitable policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks.

Three separate reports describe the implementation of the framework in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand, with suggestions for suitable options for each country.

Another source of information is Recent developments in the world of biofuels, a critical analysis by CABI scientists of the latest research on the potential and realities of growing and processing jatropha, algae and biomass for biofuels or bioenergy – see Biofuels Information Exchange.

Land use and poverty alleviation issues in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India, China and Brazil are discussed as well as research into using problematic invasive aquatic weeds (water hyacinth – pictured above – is a favourite) for bioenergy. The pros and cons of algal biofuels, and the latest technology for concentrating biomass energy into a more energy-dense form which makes transport to a processing plant more feasible are discussed, and more…

BIE is an impartial site for exchanging information on biofuels research – the exchange on pests of jatropha has generated the longest running discussion over the last 2 years – and the site provides open access to documents on biofuels, including the peer-reviewed Land Use Change: Science and Policy Review (copublished with Hart Energy Consulting) and abstracts of the latest research on biofuels from the CAB Abstracts database.

For a comprehensive resource of published information on research into man’s impact on the environment see CABI’s Environmental Impact which has a special section on biofuels research information – abstracts, books, book chapters, reports, reviews.

Better farm productivity is not enough – We need to “talk more about losing less”

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If humanity is to continue to avert disaster and the Malthusian nightmare as growing populations exert ever increasing pressures on scarce earth resources, then we need some new solutions to old problems in agriculture, and we need to use some of the old solutions a lot better. In particular we need to recognise that we can’t just go on indefinitely hoping to produce more food, we also need to look after what we’ve produced and reduce losses and waste.
 
Cabi global summit session 1 The CABI Global Summit, being held in London today brought together some of the world’s experts on the issue of Food Security. In the first open session they directed their discussion to thoughts on how we might hope to achieve the first and potentially the most intractable Millennium Development Goal, to ‘Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger’.
 
The problem is stark: the current world population is approaching 7 billion, and is set to top 9 billion by 2050. Of these about 1 billion of the poorest people go hungry most days. “Those in poverty want the same as the rest of us, good education for their children, security and hope for the future, but most of all they want to know where their next meal is coming from”, said Dennis Rangi, CABI Executive Director for International Development. In the past year, prices in global food commodities have soared, in part as a result of the global economic crisis, and those that have felt the impacts most have been the global poor. Many producers of food in are often themselves acute sufferers of food shortages; smallholder farmers.
 

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