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Monkeygate doctor says car firms were not kept in dark

The German scientist behind the controversial experiments on monkeys to test the harmful effects of ..

The German scientist behind the controversial experiments on monkeys to test the harmful effects of diesel exhaust fumes says there is no way senior management at the carmakers including BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler did not know about the trials.

Helmut Greim, who chaired the research advisory board of the now-defunct European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) that commissioned the monkey trials, said representatives from all three carmakers met with his team on a quarterly basis to discuss the think tank’s work.

All the carmakers have distanced themselves from the live trials carried out in the U.S. — which included caging 10 monkeys to assess prolonged exposure to emissions — and have sought to place the blame on junior employees. Both Volkswagen and Daimler have also suspended employees with ties to the monkey tests. The idea for the tests, reported last week by the New York Times, was to see if modern diesel engines were cleaner than older engines, and if diesel exhaust was a carcinogenic.

“The bosses of Volkswagen and Daimler Benz and BMW they respond that they don’t know anything about that. That’s not true,” said Greim, an 82-year-old professor at the Technical University of Munich, in an interview with POLITICO. He is also a member of the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits.

Helmut Greim, the German scientist behind the experiments | ARD.de via YouTube

“We had about three to four meetings per year … In all these cases the representatives of the different companies — BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler — always attended these meetings so they have always been informed what we are doing,” Greim added.

Asked if there was a constant link between the carmakers and his scientific institute he said: “Sure, definitely.”

The auto giants co-funded the EUGT’s work before it was finally closed in 2017.

Backpedaling

On Tuesday, Volkswagen suspended its chief lobbyist Thomas Steg over the allegations, with Bild reporting that the executive knew about the tests in May 2013. He will “assume full responsibility” for the scandal, according to a statement from Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller. And Daimler on Wednesday suspended Udo Hartmann, who represented the company on EUGT’s board.

Frank Hansen, a junior BMW manager, sat on the EUGT’s board between 2012 and 2015 and is still at employee at the Munich-based carmaker. Hans-Georg Kusznir, a close associate of Thomas Steg, was VW’s direct representative at the think tank.

VW, Daimler and BMW have all now launched internal investigations into the affair, with the latter companies insisting they had no influence on the testing process.

“We are of course asking ourselves if there had been a chance to pull the brake,” a BMW spokesperson said of the internal investigation now underway.

Revelations that Germany’s largest carmakers knowingly engaged in live trials has added yet another layer of controversy to the Dieselgate emissions scandal that has landed Volkswagen in deep trouble in the U.S. and the EU.

Last year, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to U.S. federal fraud charges and was ordered to pay more than $25 billion in fines, settlements and recalls after it was revealed the company had installed cheat devices aimed at lowering car emissions during testing. The EU is revamping the way it permits new car models and is pressing VW to compensate European car owners over its emissions cheating.

The tests on monkeys were conducted in 2014 and were first disclosed in a lawsuit brought against Volkswagen in the U.S. and reported by the New York Times this month. A separate report outlined tests on human subject.

Greim said the idea was the brainchild of the EUGT to observe the effects of pollution inhalation on the lungs. He said the trials, conducted in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were approved by an ethics committee.

“I am talking facts. There are a lot of people who don’t want these facts — Helmut Greim

Adding to the scandal, the VW Beetle engine used in the live tests were fitted with a cheat device so that pollution levels were far less harmful than when used on the road. Similar devices were installed in the software systems of around 11 million vehicles sold worldwide by the carmaker.

“The orientation was always to have a tolerable concentration of NOx,” Greim said, referring to the nitrogen dioxide pollution emitted by diesel engines that is one of the main ingredients of smog. “The studies in monkeys and the studies in humans which have been performed had nothing to do with the evaluation of carcinogenicity.”

Other experiments

Greim’s involvement in the monkey tests is not the first time the German scientist has been linked to controversial scientific research.

In 2015, Greim conducted a peer-reviewed study drawing on tumor data from 14 carcinogenicity studies on rats that deduced glyphosate — a popular weedkiller often sold under Monsanto’s Roundup brand — is not carcinogenic. The Commission late last year reapproved the chemical for five years after a long political battle.

Greim has also participated in research evaluating endocrine disruptors, a chemical used in some pesticides that is blamed for disrupting hormonal activity in humans. Greim was among of a group of scientists who wrote to Anne Glover, the former chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission, to complain about the approach in Brussels to place stricter controls on pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Greim denied his research favors industry.

“I am talking facts,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t want these facts. They are against industry and in many cases the facts agree with the position of industry, but that’s not my fault.”

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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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