As Cancer Tears Through Africa, Drug Makers Draw Up a Battle Plan

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
New York Times

In a deal similar to the one that turned the tide against
AIDS, manufacturers and charities will make chemotherapy
drugs available in six poor countries at steep discounts.

00CANCER-paul-superJumbo
Paul Mugumya, 7, lying in the Kawempe Home Care facility for children in Kampala, Uganda, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized he had a blistering football-shaped tumor. Cancers — many of them treatable — kill about 450,000 Africans a year. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

OCT. 7, 2017 | NAIROBI, Kenya — In a remarkable initiative modeled on the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with the American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines in Africa.

Under the new agreement, the companies — Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai — have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die.

Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they cost in wealthy countries.

The price-cut agreement comes with a bonus: Top American oncologists will simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.

“Reading this gave me goose bumps,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said after seeing an outline of the deal. “I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working.”

It reminded him, he said, of his work in 2002 helping design the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Pepfar, as it is known, has been a success: over 14 million Africans are now on H.I.V. drugs, many of them thanks to American aid.

“It’s exactly what we went through then,” Dr. Fauci said. “Finding the countries with the highest burden, figuring out how to approach treatment differently in each one, and getting the prices down.”

Cancer now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts. The most common African cancers are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors.

But here they are often lethal. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In Uganda, only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent do.

The complicated deal was struck by the cancer society, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, founded in 2002 by former President Bill Clinton; IBM; the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of top American cancer hospitals; and the African Cancer Coalition, a network of 32 oncologists in 11 African countries.

“I have a friend back home whose daughter has cancer, and I can’t believe the outpouring of support she got, like special lacrosse games and T-shirts,” said Megan O’Brien, the cancer society’s director of global cancer treatment and the chief organizer of the deal.

“There’s nothing like that in Africa — but I can save a child with leukemia for $300. That’s a disease that has a 90 percent cure rate in America, and a 90 percent death rate in Africa.”

An Ill-Prepared Continent
As more Africans survive into middle or old age, cancer rates are climbing rapidly. But most countries here are ill-equipped for the fight.

There are few oncologists, radiotherapy machines or advanced surgical suites. Tumors are often misdiagnosed or even blamed on witchcraft, and 80 percent go undetected until they have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Doctors often see cases far worse than Western doctors ever do: babies with growths half as big as their heads, women with breast tumors the size of softballs that have broken the skin, putrid and weeping blood.

On a recent day in July, Brenda Nakisuyi, 17, sat silent and despondent in a darkened room at Kawempe Home Care, a cancer hostel for children in Kampala, Uganda.

Burkitt lymphoma had torn open her left cheek, leaving a crater that looked as if a cherry bomb had exploded in her mouth.

“In our village, they know malaria, they know HIV, they know typhoid — but they don’t know cancer,” said her mother, Florence Namwase, 48. “People said Brenda was bewitched, and they began to shun her.”

Many Africans who get cancer assume they are doomed.

“I came here to see if I was condemned to death,” said a wry George Odongo Ogola, 73, a retired high school principal being treated for prostate cancer at the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi.

“But the doctor says they got it in a nascent stage and gave me a 99.9 percent chance that it will be contained,” he added. “I brought all my children and their wives so they could hear this. Here, once you are diagnosed with cancer, they treat you like a dead person.”

Even doctors — especially rural ones — may be slow to recognize the disease.

Paul Mugumya, a lively 7-year-old in the Kawempe hostel, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized that something else was swelling his abdomen, which now has a football-shaped tumor with tangerine-sized blisters on it.

And Flavia Anyesi, 4, who stood in her crib at the Uganda Cancer Institute in pink and white hair beads matching her pink nightgown, was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, said her mother, Teopista Nafuna.

Only when Flavia’s jaw kept swelling did doctors realize something else was amiss. She, too, has Burkitt lymphoma.

Even when in agony, victims may be too poor to travel for treatment. Patients who find the money to reach urban hospitals often sleep on mats on the verandas or in parks between their daily infusions, or while waiting for biopsy results, which can take weeks.

Read the full NYTimes Article and view more photos.
[ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/health/africa-cancer-drugs.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 ]

Women march through desert for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Reuters
Reporting by Rami Amichai and Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff
October 8, 2017

Women celebrate inside a "peace tent" erected as part of an event organised by "Women Wage Peace" group calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, near the Jordan River, in the occupied West Bank
Women celebrate inside a “peace tent” erected as part of an event organised by “Women Wage Peace” group calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, near the Jordan River, in the occupied West Bank October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

October 8, 2017: JORDAN RIVER, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.

The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.

“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.

The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

Rohingya: A Trail of Misfortune

By Farid Ahmed
IPS News Agency

Rohingya refugee sisters
Rohingya children wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Sep 18 2017 (IPS) – Forsaken and driven out by their home country Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingyas are struggling to survive in Bangladesh’s border districts amid scarcities of food, clean water and medical care, mostly for children and elderly people.

In a desperate flight to escape brutal military persecution, men, women and children in the thousands have walked for miles, travelled on rickety fishing boats or waded through the Naf — the river that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“I saw my houses being burned down and left behind all our belongings… my father was killed in front of us,” 12-year-old Nurul Islam told IPS as he reached Teknaf border in Bangladesh on Sep. 13. “In a bid to escape along with my mother and a younger brother, we walked almost a week to reach Bangladesh following a trail of people streaming out of Rakhine villages for cover.”

Islam is one of over 400,000 Rohingyas who have made the defiant and arduous journey to neighbouring Bangladesh in the past three weeks. Many of them were shot dead, drowned in the river or blown up in landmines placed in their path of escape.

Yet every hour, the number of new arrivals is rising. There seems no end to the steady flow of Rohingyas carrying sacks of belongings – whatever they could save from burning – or children on their shoulders or laps, or carrying weaker elderly people on their back or bamboo yokes. As they arrived, they were devastated, but happy to find themselves still alive – at least for the time being.

“It was a nightmare…the crackle of bullets and burning flames still haunt me.” — Rebeka Begum

But aid groups, both local and international, warn that this already overpopulated, impoverished South Asian nation is now overwhelmed by the sudden influx of refugees.

They said lack of food and medical aid are leading to a humanitarian catastrophe as starving or half-fed people arrive already suffering from malnutrition, and an inadequate safe water supply and poor sanitation facilities could cause breakouts of waterborne diseases.

“We’ve already detected many cases of skin or diarrhoeal diseases,” Ibrahim Molla, a physician from Dhaka Community Hospital now aiding refugees in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS

A newly arrived Rohingya refugee waits to be transferred to a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh,
Rohingya children wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM) held a joint press conference in Dhaka on Thursday where officials estimated the number of fleeing Rohingyas might reach one million as their influx continued.

The latest round of Rohingya crisis unfolded as Myanmar’s army conducted a brutal crackdown on “Rohingya militants” who attacked a security outpost killing solders in the last week of August. Though not independently verified, according to eyewitness accounts of fleeing Rohingyas, the Myanmar army torched village after village, the homes of ethnic Rohingya Muslims, in reprisal, killing hundreds.

Myanmar authorities denied the allegations, but satellite images released by a number of international rights groups corroborated the claim made by the Rohingya refugees.

In addition to arson, the Myanmar soldiers were also accused of raping Rohingya women.

Local people in Teknaf also said they saw huge fires and black smoke billowing across the Naf River from the Myanmar side several times.

The UN refugee chief called the situation a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine state in Myanmar.

It was not the first time the Rohingyas, mostly Muslims, have been targeted and faced discrimination in their hometowns of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they lived for centuries. In the past few decades, they have been stripped of citizenship, denied basic rights and made stateless, leading the UN to describe them as “the most persecuted people on earth.”

As the Rohingyas crossed finally the border after their death-defying trudge to Bangladesh’s southeast districts of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, many had no safe shelter, food or drinking water in a country of 160 million people, though Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to accommodate all on humanitarian grounds.

Though many countries started sending aid and others made promises, many Rohingya refugees were still starving or passing days half-fed. Those who were strong enough to jostle fared the best as local volunteers distributed limited amounts of food and water.

In many places when trucks carrying aid were spotted, starving people blocked them and desperately tried to grab food. The distribution process turned risky as the inexperienced volunteers threw food to the crowd of refugees from the trucks.

As they scuffled for food and water, many people were injured in stampedes or caned by the people given responsibility to discipline the refugees crowding for aid.


http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/

Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels

by Arthur Neslen
Guardian
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

Church Steple and coal plants
A Catholic church spire against smoky coal power plants in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission.”

She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”

Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.

In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.

Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.

“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”

The origins of the latest church action lie in last year’s climate encyclical by Pope Francis – himself named after St Francis of Assisi – although the project was advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

 

Foundation Stone Laid For Expansion And Modernization Of Juba Teaching Hospital

By Jale Richard
Gurtong

foundation stone so sudan
President Kiir (C), Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, He Xiangdong(R) and the Minister of Health Dr. Riak Gai Kok (L) laying the foundation stone on Saturday. [Photo by Jale Richard]
JUBA, 02 October 2017 [Gurtong]-The project worth 33 million U.S. dollars grant from the Chinese government will cover establishment of three departments, including the Out-patient and Emergency Block, Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and China Medical Team Dormitory.

Part of the grant will be used for Kiir Mayardit hospital in Rumbek and the construction will commence in November this year.

President Salva Kjiir Mayardit after laying the foundation stone said despite the country having the worst health care indicators in the world, the situation is gradually improving.

“We will ultimately improve with tremendous support for the health sector,” Kiir said. The president said efforts exerted by the Ministry of health with consistent backing by all the partners in the health sector and “sisterly countries with China on top” will improve the situation of health care in the country.

Kiir said the Ministry of Health which has been training adequate human resources for health, and developed the needed infrastructure and policies for the country will make quality health care services available, accessible and affordable for the people of South Sudan.

“With the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital along with all the infrastructural development project in the health sector, the landscape of the health sector will completely change for those who have been deprived of accessing and enjoying quality services since time immemorial,” Kiir said.

President Kiir said with the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital, he will be the happiest person to see that all those who go abroad for medical treatment including himself access medical services in Juba.

To achieve the plans of the Ministry of health, the president directed the Minister of Health and other health partners to scale up the training of health care cadres at all level for Juba teaching hospital and other hospitals.

“People of South Sudan have been waiting for long to enjoy basic health services that are part and parcel of the basic human rights,” he said. With the support of the health partners, he said, the health sector in the country will never be the same again.

The Chinese Ambassador, He Xiangdong said Chinese government will provide modern medical equipment and one year technical cooperation after the completion of the project.

“The project is another corner stone of China-South Sudan friendship,” Xiangdong said. Two years from now on, we are going to see a modern health facility and a new land mark in Juba,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Riak Gai Kok said it is a turning point in health care system to modernize and expand Juba Teaching Hospital.

He said his ministry is trying hard to train more health care providers in the country.


http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ctl/ArticleView/mid/519/articleId/20949/Foundation-Stone-Laid-For-Expansion-And-Modernization-Of-Juba-Teaching-Hospital.aspx

Marginalised Minorities and Homeless Especially Hard-hit by Mexico’s Quake

by Emilio Godoy
IPS News Agency

Mexico City Nahnu indigenous families Earthquake
A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

MEXICO CITY, Sep 27 2017 (IPS) – Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City.

The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla, caused structural damage to the building, which like many other buildings in the city is in danger of collapsing.

The two-storey building, inhabited by indigenous families since 2007, had already been damaged by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 10,000 lives on September 19, 1985 in the Mexican capital, exactly 32 years before the one that hit the city a week ago.

Since Sept. 19 “we have been sleeping outside, because the house is badly damaged and may collapse. We do not want to go to a shelter, because they could take the building away from us,” explained Fernández, a mother of two who works as an informal vendor.

The residents of the house, including 16 children, set up a tent on the sidewalk, where they take shelter, cook and sleep while looking after their battered house and belongings inside.

Fernández, a member of the non-governmental “Hadi” (hello in the Ñahñú language) Otomí Indigenous Community, told IPS that humanitarian aid received so far came from non-governmental organisations and individual citizens.

But she criticised what she described as disregard from the authorities towards them and the discrimination exhibited by some neighbors.

“It is unfair that they discriminate against us for being indigenous and poor. Nobody deserves that treatment,” she said.

The earthquake had a death toll of at least 331 people – mostly in Mexico City – while at least 33 buildings collapsed and another 3,800 were partially or totally damaged.

Most schools resumed classes on Monday Sept. 25, as did economic activity and administrative work, but thousands of students and employees are reluctant to return to their educational institutions and workplaces until they have guarantees that the buildings are safe.

A similar situation is faced by another Ñahñú community living in a different rundown, abandoned building in a neighborhood in the centre of the capital, which has a population of nearly nine million people and which exceeds 21 million when adding the greater metropolitan area.

“These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake…The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore.” — Alicia Vargas

After the earthquake they set up a camp in the street next to the building that is damaged but still standing, where they sleep, cook and eat. Their refusal to move to a shelter is due to the fear of eviction and the loss of their home and belongings….

earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico city
The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Read the complete article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/

 

 

The Tuxá Indigenous Paradise, Submerged under Water

By Fabiana Frayssinet
IPS News Agency

Tuxa families take a break...
Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS) – The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.

Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.

While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.

“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.

The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.

After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.

After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.

The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone.” — Manoel Jurum Afé

Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.

But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.

She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.

“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.

Read the full article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/