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Weedkiller vote poisons European politics

An EU vote approving the use of a controversial weedkiller for another five years triggered an immed..

An EU vote approving the use of a controversial weedkiller for another five years triggered an immediate backlash from Paris and Rome, and is poisoning German politics on the eve of grand coalition talks.

After more than two years of fierce political debate over whether glyphosate causes cancer, EU countries on Monday voted to renew the license of the world’s most common herbicide thanks to a dramatic U-turn from Berlin.

Germany ultimately gave the green light after months of abstaining on the issue. Most recently, Berlin’s envoys said that their hands were tied because Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives had been exploring a coalition deal with the fiercely anti-pesticide Greens. Those talks fell apart a week ago, freeing Merkel to approve glyphosate.

The EU vote in a food safety committee attended by national officials came as a relief to farmers across the Continent, who see the weedkiller as vital to preserving bumper crop yields. At the height of the debate, it often looked as if environmental campaigners would win the political battle by arguing that glyphosate was both carcinogenic and harmful to the soil.

While northern and eastern European countries largely voted in favor of a new glyphosate license in Brussels on Monday, France and Italy sought to block it.

Any hopes that the vote would lay the glyphosate debate to rest were immediately confounded by French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina, who said Paris and Rome would still ban glyphosate over the next three years.

Activists outside the European Commission in Brussels protesting against glyphosate | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

“I asked the government to make the necessary arrangements so that the use of glyphosate is prohibited in France as soon as alternatives have been found,” Macron tweeted after the vote.

A ban by France is a bold move from Macron. While he will win support from a solid caucus of green-minded voters, he risks a stinging backlash from French farmers using more than 600 glyphosate products. Martina said Rome would also seek to eradicate glyphosate domestically by 2020.

Bad blood in Berlin

The domestic political fall-out in Germany was equally startling.

Just as politicians from Merkel’s conservatives are seen to be inching toward talks on renewing a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, the two factions came to blows over the glyphosate vote.

J’ai demandé au gouvernement de prendre les dispositions nécessaires pour que l’utilisation du glyphosate soit interdite en France dès que des alternatives auront été trouvées, et au plus tard dans 3 ans. #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 27, 2017

Moments after the food committee made its decision, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks from the Social Democrats angrily asserted that she had been double-crossed on Berlin’s position by conservative Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt.

In an unusually damning statement, she said Schmidt had confirmed in a text message to her that Germany would abstain. Simultaneously, a different order to vote in favor of renewing the herbicide was sent to officials in Brussels attending the vote.

“No one who is interested in trust building between partners can behave like this,” Hendricks said, adding that Germany should have abstained due to ongoing disagreements between the environment and agriculture ministries.

Andrea Nahles, leader of the SPD group in the Bundestag, called Schmidt’s move “a massive breach of trust” and said: “I really wonder whether Merkel has her people under control.”

Martin Häusling, a Green lawmaker from Germany in the European Parliament, laid the blame for the decision on the fact that his party was no longer likely to play a part in the next coalition government.

“The decision in favor of the controversial herbicide glyphosate, which is suspected of causing cancer, is inflicted on Europe by the desolate state of the government’s formation in Germany … The behavior of the Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt lacks foresight and is scandalous.”

Schmidt’s office said that the bill approved on Monday had already factored in provisions on biodiversity which Hendricks had backed. His office recalled that Hendricks had said last year that “the federal government can approve a prolongation” of glyphosate as long as the EU “protects biodiversity.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that his country will ban the weedkiller regardless | Thibault Camus/AFP via Getty Images

Schmidt did not specifically refer to the dispute over text messages.

The clash between Hendricks and Schmidt is not the first sign of left-right tensions that could muddy the waters in German politics as a grand coalition comes into increasing focus.

Der Spiegel on Monday reported that a fissure between the SPD and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) created problems over the way the country should vote on who should host the European Banking Authority after the U.K. leaves the EU. The magazine reported that the SPD minister at the meeting did not support Dublin’s candidacy as the CDU had wanted.

Monday’s decision sparked an angry reaction from environmental groups, who have argued for years that policymakers should have paid closer attention to an assessment carried out by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer.

Both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, by contrast, determined the chemical was safe.

Matthew Karnitschnig and Jakob Hanke contributed reporting

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Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, t..

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.

When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.

“When she collapsed, a friend called me,” he explains. “By the time I arrived she was already unconscious. I decided to take her to the health center and luckily someone who had a motorcycle helped me. Because of the violence many people who are sick wait at home and die. Everyone is afraid of taking the road to the health center in Barsalogho.”

Across Burkina Faso, the rising insecurity has forced over a hundred health centers to close, or to limit their work. Half a million people now have little or no access to health care. Dedicated health workers, among them Dr Bertrand Dibli in Barsalogho, are struggling to meet the needs, and to stay safe themselves.

“This is one of the few health centers that isnt closed,” he says. “We dont have enough equipment. And the insecurity has caused huge anxiety among health workers. Even coming here to Barsalogho is a huge challenge because the route is so dangerous.”

The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, its a vicious circle that is trapping the civilian population between armed groups.”

“We also see,” Mr Maurer added, “that it is not only the violence that is affecting the country, it is also under development, and climate change. Together with the violence that is obstructing the health services, its an accumulation of factors.”

And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.

“By the time they are able to get here, it is often too late” she says. “Sometimes we can help, but if they have already been ill a long time, it is difficult. We try to do what we can.” (more…)

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World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the G..

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.

The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.

The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.

“WHO is very grateful for the World Banks support, which fills a critical gap in our immediate needs for Ebola response efforts in DRC, and will enable the heroic workers on the frontlines of this fight to continue their lifesaving work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “We keenly await further funding from other partners to sustain the response through to the end of the year.”

The DRC government, working in collaboration with the World Bank, WHO, and other key partners, has finalized the Fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP4), which outlines the total resources needed for the DRC Ebola Crisis Response from July to December 2019. The financing announced today is part of the World Banks previously announced financial package of up to US$300 million and covers over half of SRP4s needs, with the remainder requiring additional funding from other donors and partners.

“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”

The Government of DRC requested US$30 million from the PEF Cash Window to be paid directly to WHO. The PEF Steering Body approved the request bringing the PEFs total contribution to fighting Ebola in DRC to US$61.4 million. The PEF is a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank; its Steering Body is co-chaired by the World Bank and WHO, and comprises donor country members from Japan, Germany and Australia. The quick and flexible financing it provides saves lives, by enabling governments and international responders to concentrate on fighting Ebola—not fundraising.

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Borno State launches first Malaria Operational Plan, reawakens fight against malaria

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nige..

Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nigeria, the Malaria Annual Operational Plan (MAOP) was developed and launched on 08 August 2019 with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Aligned to the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014 -2020), MAOP was developed through a broad-based stakeholders workshop involving malaria stakeholders, reviewed on different thematic areas and endorsed by the Commissioner for Health and Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health.

Speaking during the launch, the Borno state Malaria Programme Manager, Mr Mala Waziri described the MAOP as the first to be endorsed and disseminated in Borno State. “WHO has made us proud by supporting the first ever Malaria Operational Plan right from development, review, printing to dissemination.”

Dr Ibrahim Kida, the Ministerial Secretary Borno State Ministry of Health and Incident Manager of the state, described the launch as “an historic event as stakeholders across the health sector made commitments to use the document as an implementation guide for all malaria programs”. The plan was also described as an advocacy tool for planning domestic funds mobilization.

The MAOP has seven objectives among which are: provide at least 50% of targeted population with appropriate preventive measures by 2020; ensure that all persons with suspected malaria who seek care are tested with Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) or microscopy by 2020 and all persons with confirmed malaria seen in private or public health facilities receive prompt treatment with an effective anti-malarial drug by 2020.

The MAOP will further ensure that at least 50% of the population practice appropriate malaria prevention and management by 2020, ensuring timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in Borno State by 2020.

In addition, it seeks to ensure that all health facilities report on key malaria indicators routinely by 2020 and finally strengthen governance and coordination of all stakeholders for effective program implementation towards an A rating by 2020 on a standardized scorecard. These strategic objectives have specific targets and the MAOP takes into account the humanitarian response.

“Malaria remains a leading cause of poor health in Nigeria. According to the 2018 WHO Malaria Report, 53million cases are recorded annually in Nigeria, roughly 1 in 4 persons is infected with malaria contributing 25% of the global burden,” says Dr Nglass Ini Abasi, WHO Malaria Consultant for the North East.

“Furthermore, 81,640 deaths are recorded annually (9 deaths every hour), which accounts for 19% of global malaria deaths (1 in 5 global malaria deaths) and 45% malaria deaths in West Africa. The Nigeria Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) 2014-2020 has a goal to reduce malaria burden to pre-elimination levels and bring malaria-related mortality to zero and WHO is working assiduously with Government to ensure the burden is reduced accordingly.”

Results from WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) week 30 report from 223 sites, (including 32 IDP camps) show that malaria was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality accounting for 35% of cases and 46% of reported deaths. In addition, results from the Nigeria Humanitarian Response Strategy (NHRS 2019-2021) indicate 7.1million people are in dire need of healthcare and 6.2million are targeted for immediate attention.

Despite recent improvements, insecurity remains a challenge limiting access to the functional health facilities. Easily preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases account for the greatest proportion of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable population. Furthermore, Malaria is endemic in North East Nigeria and the transmission is perennial with a marked seasonal peak from July to November every year. (more…)

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