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UNICEF, WHO rally support for breastfeeding

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the  World Health Organisation (WHO) say that they are rallying supports for breastfeeding as the first pathway to preserving a  healthier planet.

The Nutritional Officer of  UNICEF in Ebonyi, Mr Cyprain Ogbonna,  gave the encouragement to people on Saturday in Abakaliki during an event to mark the starting of the  2020 celebration of World Breastfeeding week.

The theme of the World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.

The event is marked every year between Aug. 1 and  Aug. 7 to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.

Ogbonna said that adequate breastfeeding had, over the years , prevented several childhood diseases and brought  lifelong positive benefits associated with child spacing.

He said  that other benefits include: risk reduction for some breast and ovarian cancers as well as hypertension.

He described breast milk as a nature-given-first food that needed to be preserved for its undebatable benefits to a mother and her baby.

He added that the milk was a critical part of a sustainable food system.

He said that it would be best to start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and exclusively done for the  first six months of life, after which mothers should introduce  appropriate complementary foods to her baby for  two years and beyond.

He  stated that misuse of breast milk substitutes should be condemned.

He advised that breastfeeding should be maintained, but hygienically done during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Ogbonna said: “Mothers are recommended to breastfeed their child or children within 30 minutes of birth.

“While mothers doing exclusive breastfeeds go for the first six months of life.

“Also mother or caregiver timely introduces complementary feeding based on local food products at six months while continuing breastfeeding up to two years and beyond,” he said.

Also, the Nutrition Manager of UNICEF in Enugu, Hanifa Namusoke, said that she had championed the cause in Ebonyi to increase the valve and improve the well being of mother and child.

Namusoke said in line with the theme, WHO and UNICEF called on governments to protect and promote a critical component of breastfeeding support.

“Breast milk is complete for a healthier planet and that is why WHO and UNICEF recommend optimal infant and young child feeding practices with emphasis on early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” Namusoke said.

NAN

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Covid-19: FCT Minister tasks health professionals on synergy

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The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, on Friday enjoined all health professionals to collaborate with each other to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello gave the advice when a delegation from the FCT Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja.

He noted that the successes recorded in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was largely due to the synergy between the various health professionals in the FCT.

Bello, therefore, urged them to continue to function as a unified team in the fight against COVID-19.

The minister commended the good works of all the health workers in the FCT especially for their efforts at combating the Coronavirus disease.

He pledged that the FCT Administration would continue to partner with the PSN as a large number of its members are staff of the FCTA who are also involved in the fight against the COVID-19.

Bello urged the PSN to forge a robust relationship with the National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in order to reduce the menace of drug abuse among residents of the territory.

Earlier, Chairman of the FCT PSN, Mr Jelili Kilani, commended the FCTA for the support it has always rendered to the association.

Kilani emphasised the need for greater collaboration between the PSN and the FCTA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PSN used the visit to donates Personal Protective Equipments, First Aid materials and hand hygiene products to the FCTA.

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Africa records 30% increase in COVID-19 cases– WHO

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By Cecilia Ologunagba

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there has been 30 per cent increase in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the African Region in the past week.

WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, disclosed this in COVID-19 Situation Report posted on its official Twitter account @WHOAFRO on Thursday.

In external situation report number 19 issued on July 8, it stated that COVID-19 outbreak continued to grow in the WHO African Region.

It said the virus continued to grow since it was first detected in Algeria on 25 February, 2020.

“Since our last External Situation Report 18 issued on 1 July, 2020, a total of 91, 038 new confirmed COVID-19 cases (a 30 per cent increase) was reported from 45 countries.

“Of the 91, 038 reported new cases in the region, the majority 71 per cent (64, 646) were recorded in South Africa.

“South Africa remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the region and the country is now among the top 15 most affected countries globally.

“South Africa has the cumulative number of cases (215, 855) exceeding that for Turkey (206, 844), Germany (196, 944) and France (159, 568), which previously reported the highest numbers.

“On 4 July 2020, the WHO African Region and South Africa recorded their highest daily case count of 13, 474 and 10 853, respectively.’’

Similarly, it said the WHO African Region and South Africa registered the highest daily death toll of 225 and 192, respectively, on 7 July 2020.

“During this period, five countries in the region observed the highest percentage increase in incidence cases.

“Lesotho recorded 237 per cent increase (from 27 to 91 cases), Namibia 166 per cent (from 203 to 539 cases) and Madagascar 57 per cent (from 2, 214 to 3, 472 cases).

“Also, Malawi recorded 48 per cent increased (from 1,265 to 1, 877 cases) and South Africa 43 per cent (from 151, 209 to 215, 855 cases).

“Equatorial Guinea and United Republic of Tanzania did not officially submit reports indicating any confirmed case.

“A total of 119 new health worker infections were recorded from three countries: Ghana (70), Malawi (38), South Sudan (7), Sierra Leone (2), Gambia (1) and Lesotho (1).

“Two countries: Gambia and Lesotho reported their first health worker infection this reporting period,’’ it stated.

In addition, it stated that from 1 to 7 July, 2020, 1, 221 new COVID-19 related deaths (20 per cent increase) were registered in 33 countries, with 845 (69 per cent) of the deaths recorded in South Africa

This was followed by Nigeria, with 79 (6.5 per cent) deaths and then Algeria with 56 (4.6 per cent) deaths.

The report further stated that currently, 33 (70 per cent) countries in the region were experiencing community transmission, seven (15 per cent) have clusters of cases and seven (15 per cent) have sporadic cases of COVID-19.

It stated that the region had also observed increased incidence of importation of cases from affected countries within the region, largely fueled by long-distance truck drivers and illicit movement through porous borders.

(NAN)

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Coronavirus – Africa: WHO calls for equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines in Africa

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The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa (www.Afro.WHO.int) joined immunization experts in urging the international community and countries in Africa to take concrete actions to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as researchers around the world race to find effective protection against the virus.

“It is clear that as the international community comes together to develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, equity must be a central focus of these efforts,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”

WHO and partners launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to speed up the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. It brings together leaders of government, global health organizations civil society groups, businesses and philanthropies to form a plan for an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO is collaborating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair allocation of vaccines to all countries, aiming to deliver 2 billion doses globally for high-risk populations, including 1 billion for low and middle-income countries.

The African Union has endorsed the need for Africa to develop a framework to actively engage in the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Countries can take steps now that will strengthen health systems, improve immunization delivery, and pave the way for the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine. These include: mobilizing financial resources; strengthening local vaccine manufacturing, and regulatory, supply and distribution systems; building workforce skills and knowledge; enhancing outreach services; and listening to community concerns to counter misinformation.

Globally, there are nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates and currently 19 are in clinical trials. South Africa is the first country on the continent to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom. The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is expected to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18–65 years and include some people living with HIV. The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.

According to the African Academy of Sciences only 2% of clinical trials conducted worldwide occur in Africa. It is important to test the COVID-19 vaccine in countries where it is needed to ensure that it will be effective. With more than 215 000 cases, South Africa accounts for 43% of the continent’s total cases. Clinical trials must be performed according to international and national scientific and ethical standards, which include informed consent for any participant.

“I encourage more countries in the region to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of populations in Africa are factored in to studies,” said Dr Moeti. “Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, our researchers have helped develop vaccines which provide protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and a number of other common health threats in the region.”

Earlier, this month WHO Africa’s principle advisory group on immunization policies and programmes – the African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) – also noted the need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 and other vaccines in the region.

“As the world focuses on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, we must ensure people do not forget that dozens of lifesaving vaccines already exist. These vaccines should reach children everywhere in Africa – no one can be left behind,” said Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the RITAG.

Initial analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunization in the African Region suggests that millions of African children are likely to be negatively impacted, as routine immunization services and vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningitis and human papilloma virus have been disrupted.

Despite these challenges, RITAG members also noted significant milestones and markers of progress. For example, there have been tremendous gains in the fight against wild poliovirus, and the African Region is expected to be officially certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2020. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also announced the end of its 10th Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, which was the worst in its history. An effective vaccine was a key tool in the response.

Dr Moeti spoke about COVID-19 vaccine development in Africa during a virtual press conference today organized by APO Group. She was joined by Professor Shabir Madhi, University of Witwatersrand, Principal Investigator of Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Trial in South Africa; and Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, Director of the MCR/UVRI and LSHTM Ugandan Research Unit. The briefing was streamed on more than 300 African news sites as well as the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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