Archive for September 1, 2011

AFRICAN REFUGEES IN EUROPE: DOES BRUSSELS OFFER AID?

September 1, 2011

AFRICAN REFUGEES IN EUROPE: DOES BRUSSELS OFFER AID?

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Hundreds of thousands of Africans and Arabs are pouring into Europe every year. It’s like Europe is going through a déjà vu, as the same phenomenon took place from 2,000 through 1,500 Before Present (BP), when migratory “barbarians” supposedly marauded Rome and sacked the West’s most powerful civilization then existing.

I have already forewarned, in previous articles, of the consequences of the dark agenda of Anglo-European elites to depopulate Africa and wage a global conflagration pitting the Sunni versus Shiite Muslims. Such evil agenda will eventually backfire on Europeans, as the affected states will see their peoples migrate in waves to Europe which they perceive as safe haven.

Just exactly what are Europeans doing now to address the onrush flow of colored “barbarians” to their continent? At a time when Europe’s economy is in dire straits, can it accommodate millions more of Africans and Arabs, such as those 11 million that are moving towards hunger induced by drought and famine?

Below is a case report of the assistance given by the Belgian government to resettling African migrants fleeing Libya.

[Philippines, 26 August 2011]

Source: http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnEU/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=30059

IOM and UNHCR Assist the Government of Belgium in Resettling African Refugees Fleeing Libya

Posted on Tuesday, 19-07-2011

Belgium – Twenty-five Eritrean and Congolese refugees have been assisted by IOM, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Government of Belgium to travel to and resettle in Belgium.
The resettled refugees, who arrived in Belgium on 17 July, had fled the violence in Libya and crossed into Tunisia, where they stayed at the UNHCR-run Choucha refugee camp while waiting for resettlement opportunities.
The group, including nine women and nine children, was assisted by IOM to travel from Choucha camp to Tunis airport and onwards to Belgium (Brussels National Airport). IOM staff assisted the refugees at both airports with pre-departure and post-arrival procedures including passport control and security checks.
IOM also carried out pre-departure health checks a week ago to ensure that the refugees were fit to fly. At departure, IOM staff provided a short briefing on in-flight procedures (pre-embarkation session) and handed out a short information leaflet concerning the reception and accommodation upon arrival in Belgium.
According to IOM Brussels, which organized the resettlement in close coordination with the Government of Belgium and UNHCR, the resettled refugees will be assisted by the Federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers (Fedasil), which is providing shelter and by the NGOs Caritas and Convivium, which will provide the newly arrived with an integration course. This includes language classes, educational enrolment and assistance to find employment.
This is the second time Belgium responds to an international request for refugee resettlement. In 2009, Belgium resettled 47 refugees from Iraq.
“These persons are in need of protection, I am proud that Belgium, like other European Countries, is taking up its responsibilities. Protecting those in need is not only an international obligation but it is our moral duty,” says Belgium’s State Secretary for Migration and Asylum Policy Melchior Wathelet.
This resettlement project is funded by the European Refugee fund (ERF). Other EU Member states such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal are also taking part in this resettlement programme.
For further information, please contact:
Jo De Backer
IOM Brussels
Tel: +32 2 287 74 14
E-mail: Jdebacker@iom.int
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ADDRESSING HUMAN TRAFFIC VIA TRAINING: AFRICA SHOWCASE

September 1, 2011

ADDRESSING HUMAN TRAFFIC VIA TRAINING: AFRICA SHOWCASE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Human trafficking can make or break a country that is known the seat of human traffic operations. So abhorrent is the phenomenon of human traffic and smuggling that any country named as seat of operations will need to work harder to shore up its tainted image, craft public policy to address the ailment, and strengthen institutions that can address the problem.

So gargantuan is the ailment of human traffic today as it has become globalized, with mafia groups collaborating across borders to smuggle people outside. Not only that, smuggled humans are also utilized to smuggle gold, treasures, and drugs, thus multiplying the complications to the problem.

Capacity-building initiatives aimed at training stakeholders, both grassroots and country-wide volunteer organizations, is another key result area for addressing the problem directly. Below is one such showcase training in Africa conducted by the IOM and partners.

[Philippines, 24 August 2011]

Source: http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnAF/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=30060

IOM Provides Somaliland, Puntland and Djibouti Coastguards with Lifesaving Rescue at Sea Skills to Protect Vulnerable Migrants

19-07-2011

Djibouti – Coastguards from Somalia’s Puntland, Somaliland as well as Djibouti are taking part in an innovative IOM training programme to equip them with the necessary skills to assist and protect irregular migrants and asylum-seekers travelling at great risk through Somaliland, Puntland and Djibouti en route to Yemen and the Gulf States.
The six-day workshop, which opened yesterday in Djibouti City, brings together 50 coastguards as part of a Japanese-funded initiative to equip them with the necessary equipment and skills to assist and protect vulnerable migrants, trafficking victims and smuggled migrants.
“This training is critical to enhance the coastguards’ ability to save lives,” says IOM’s Mixed Migration Coordinator Husham Halim. “We are particularly encouraged to see that for the first time, coastguards from Somaliland are taking part in the training alongside colleagues from Puntland and Djibouti. This will no doubt increase their ability to respond at a sub-regional level.”
These workshops are part of a broader IOM programme to strengthen the protection of, and emergency assistance to, irregular migrants and asylum-seekers from Somalia and Ethiopia travelling through the region.
Every year, tens of thousands, mainly Ethiopian and Somali migrants and asylum-seekers, make the hazardous journey from their place of origin across the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden to Yemen and beyond. These individuals, driven by political unrest and extreme poverty face not only dangers at sea but also physical risks, harassment and discrimination during their journey on land.
For more information, please contact:
Husham Halim
IOM Djibouti
Tel: +253 35 72 89
E-mail: hhalim@iom.int

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HORN OF AFRICA: MORE ON DROUGHT-RELATED MIGRATION

September 1, 2011

HORN OF AFRICA: MORE ON DROUGHT-RELATED MIGRATION

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The famine that is now taking shape in the Horn of Africa is the subject of news features in canned Big Media outfits today. The alarm bells raised by international organizations regarding the matter have been quite successful in rapidly surfacing the malady before the public mind via sensationalized media reports.

As already noted earlier, 11 millions of folks are forecast to face starvation in the short-run largely due to drought. The congestion of migrants in resource-rich areas is complicating the issue, by depletion and competition for resources, thus deteriorating such regions into hovels of famine, hunger, diseases, and deaths.

Below is a report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the same subject.

[Philippines, 22 August 2011]

Source: http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnAF/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=30061

Drought Related Migration on the Increase in the Horn of Africa
Posted on Tuesday, 19-07-2011

Horn of Africa – The severe drought which is affecting vast areas of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti is leading to a considerable increase in complex, multi-directional migration flows, both within and across international borders, according to IOM missions in the region.
Those population movements involve not only refugees and asylum seekers but large numbers of migrants and pastoralists who have little choice but to move along numerous complex migration routes, initially from rural to urban areas and for many tens of thousands, across international borders to neighbouring countries.
Although information on many of these routes remains sketchy, increased population movements have been observed from drought affected areas in southern and central Somalia towards the capital Mogadishu, where heavy rains over the past few days have wrecked havoc among vulnerable displaced persons.
Displaced Somalis are also moving along perilous land routes from impoverished rural areas towards Somaliland and the self declared autonomous state of Puntland. Others continue their journey towards neighbouring Djibouti and across the treacherous Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Grief in Arabic) to Yemen and the Gulf States.
Recent reports in the Sudanese press of Somalis drowning in the Red Sea south of the city of Port Sudan could indicate the establishment of a new hazardous migration route from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia to Sudan’s Red Sea State and then onto Saudi Arabia.
The situation in drought-affected regions of Somalia has led to a major increase of people seeking assistance in Ethiopia and Kenya, with some 50,000 new arrivals reported in June. Over the past three weeks, some 11,000 people have arrived in Ethiopia and more than 8,600 in Kenya, with daily arrivals now averaging 2,000 in Ethiopia and 1,200 in Kenya.
In Ethiopia, where the drought directly affects an estimated 4.5 million people, pastoralist communities are particularly in need of assistance because of the weakening or the death of their livestock. Their cross border movements in search of water and pasture for their livestock are creating a higher risk for resource-based conflict and further displacement, particularly in the drought-affected Northern Kenyan districts of Turkana, Wajir and Mandera, where Global Acute Malnutrition now exceeds 30 per cent among children, pregnant and lactating women.
The situation in Ethiopia is further complicated by the return of Ethiopian migrants from Yemen, where evacuation operations started in November 2010 resulted in the return of thousands of individuals to date. Major return areas are Oromiya, Tigray, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) and Amhara regions, which are experiencing drought, crop failure and a dramatic increase in food and fuel prices.
The impact of these returns to resource-constrained communities has not yet been fully assessed, but it can be estimated that about 30 per cent returned to drought affected areas.
“Drought related migration is exacerbating an already complex situation of displacement and movement, triggered by conflict and instability and the returns of many Ethiopians and Somalis from Yemen,” says IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker. “Drought recognises no borders. The response to the current crisis has to take into account internal and cross border mobility as a survival strategy for large populations.”
IOM and UN partners have been working with governments in the Horn and East Africa to facilitate safe movement of pastoralists across border regions as a climate change coping mechanism.
The Security in Mobility (SIM) initiative called on regional governments to develop a policy to facilitate the safe movement of pastoralists within their countries and across borders using a collaborative approach that encompasses provision of humanitarian assistance, provision of basic services, facilitated migration and comprehensive security initiatives.
“Of all the key mitigation and coping mechanisms, mobility stands out as the most essential for pastoralists,” says IOM’s Abdiker. “No country in the region can singlehandedly tackle the complex challenges of climate change and migration. A concerted regional effort is therefore urgently needed.”
For more information, please contact:
Mohammed Abdiker
IOM Geneva
Tel: +41 22 717 93 79
E-mail: mabdiker@iom.int
or
Jean-Philippe Chauzy
IOM Geneva
Tel: +41 22 717 93 61
E-mail: jpchauzy@iom.int

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CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSILITY THE BASF WAY: SUPPORTING WATER PROGRAMS FOR SCHOOLS

September 1, 2011

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSILITY THE BASF WAY: SUPPORTING WATER PROGRAMS FOR SCHOOLS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

CSR is the fashion among corporate giants today as an expression of philanthropy. As I’ve already articulated in previous writings. CSR is the corporate deodorant of ‘late capitalism’, which disguises tax havens as sources of aid for marginal sectors.

In America, where CSR was inexistent even as corporate foundations were tasked to fund ballets and engagements that entertained the capitalists, CSR is now catching fire. Europeans have been way ahead of their American counterparts in this regard, with corporate foundations funding the philanthropy of non-government organizations in developing countries.

Below is a showcase initiative of the German chemical giant BASF to fund the major water programs for schools.

[Philippines, 20 August 2011]

Source: http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?cid=9919&catid=7&typeid=6&subMenuId=0

BASF backs major water programme for schooles
Mangalore, India, 10 May 11
A major new water education project financed mainly by the German chemical giant BASF has been launched in Mangalore to help provide water education and safe drinking water for 25 schools and nearby communities under UN-HABITAT’s Water for Asian Cities programme.
BASF’s Social Foundation is contributing the lion’s share of EUR 145,000 of the total USD 343,000 budget for the project to be run jointly with UN-HABITAT and the local implementing partner, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) which are providing the remainder.
Launched at a ceremony in Mangalore City on 10 May 2011, the officials said the project would boost access to safe drinking water for 25 selected schools and surrounding communities. It will also promote water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools, and establish a school-led community-based drinking water quality monitoring programme.
Under the quality monitoring component, the project will establish science laboratories in selected schools and build the capacity of resource teachers and students to support the Mangalore Municipal Corporation and overall community with the adoption of adequate measures to reduce water-borne diseases in the city.
A total of 5,000 students will be trained to analyse and monitor water quality. At the international level, the Project WET Foundation of the United States will provide additional training support on water education.
Prior to the launch event, a UN-HABITAT, BASF and TERI delegation visited selected school education and sanitation facilities and met with teachers, students and school administrators who expressed their willingness and commitment to participate in the project.
The official launch ceremony was attended by local political leaders, civic officials, key sector representatives, and project beneficiaries. Mr. Nalin Kumar Kateel, Member of Parliament presided as the Chief Guest at the event. Mr. Jain, Member of Legislative Assembly of Moodubidri; Mr. Praveen Anchan, Mayor of Mangalore; Dr. K.N. Vijaya Prakash, Commissioner, Mangalore City Corporation (MCC); Mr. Prasad Chandran, Chairman and Managing Director, BASF India Limited and Head, South Asia Region; Dr. Hartmut Unger, Head, BASF Social Foundation; Mr. Dzikus, Chief, Water and Sanitation Section II, UN-HABITAT; and Mr. Pronab Dasgupta, Senior Advisor and Director, TERI, were also present.
Speaking at the launch event, Mr. Andre Dzikus from UN-HABITAT said that “Value-based formal and informal educational initiatives are key to bringing about behavioral change among students regarding water use”.
Dr. Unger expressed his happiness on the launch of this innovative project and added “We can certainly make a difference for the children and I am convinced that the Project will be a total success”.

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CHINA LOCALS EXHIBIT CITY PROTOTYPES

September 1, 2011

CHINA LOCALS EXHIBIT CITY PROTOTYPES

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

China is indubitably the biggest ‘emerging market’ in the global economy. It comprises 1.5 billion people who are getting more concentrated in rapidly growing urban communities.

Eastern China has seen its urbanization treble at dizzying pace since 1980 yet. Development in the coastal regions have already reached maturity-to-overdevelopment (led by Shenzen, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong), with urban saturation point about to reach the limits to growth.

Models of planned urban development should be perfected by Western China locals in particular, as they are now experiencing high growth economic booms that the East went through over the past two decades. To exemplify the agenda for such a planning success, the Chinese province of Zhejiang opened an exhibit on cities at Nairobi very recently.

The report on the exhibition is shown below.

[Philippines, 19 August 2011]

Source: http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?cid=9928&catid=7&typeid=6&subMenuId=0

Chinese province holds exhibition on human settlements
Nairobi, 26 May 11
The Chinese province of Zhejiang on Thursday unveiled an exhibition on human settlements development at the United Nations Office at Nairobi in Gigiri.
The exhibition has pictures depicting various aspects of life in Zhejiang, including countryside images, historical edifices as well as architectural and engineering masterpieces. Also being exhibited are books on Chinese history, culture, language, arts, architecture, environment and urban development. The books will be donated to UN-HABITAT at the end of the exhibition.
Speaking during the occasion, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos praised the Chinese saying the country was attracting a lot of interest especially in the field of urbanization owing to its cities’ rich cultural background and rapid urbanization.

“Chinese contribution to urbanization is very important and that is why we are very happy with this exhibition and the book donation. Because of rapid urbanization Chinese cities have become powerhouses for making China the biggest emerging economy in the world. Their experiences and lessons need to be shared with other cities around the world,” he said.
The Executive Director hailed the Zhejiang Publishing United Group- the book donors- saying their gesture was appreciated by the agency. “Chinese language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. We need to diversify our information and collection in the UNON Library and therefore we need books about China to learn, study and to search, not only the long history and wisdom of ancient China but also the new policies and practices that make the new and strong China possible,” he said.

In his speech, the deputy permanent representative of China to UN-HABITAT Mr. Zheng Guangda disclosed that the exhibition was the culmination of long discussions between his country and UN-HABITAT.
“The province of Zhejiang has taken the lead in this partnership but hopefully there will be more initiatives like this to follow because we want to expand understanding of China,” he said.
The head of the Zhejiang delegation Mr. Mao Linsheng said the book donation was important not only from the cultural aspect but also due to the fact that they will help more and more people understand China better.
During the occasion, students from the Confucius Institute of the University of Nairobi entertained guests with a rendition of the all-time Kiswahili popular song Jambo Bwana and a Chinese number.

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IRAQ’S ROADMAP TO DECENTRALIZED GOVERNANCE

September 1, 2011

IRAQ’S ROADMAP TO DECENTRALIZED GOVERNANCE
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

There’s a good news coming from Iraq, which concerns directing the compass of governance along a decentralized trajectory. Iraq was over-centralized for too long a time since the era yet of the caliphate and onwards to the post-Ba’th Party regime, and so that centralization pattern continues as a legacy of antiquated processes and structures.
Honestly, as an analyst of long standing, I am of the opinion that a decentralization for Iraq at this particular juncture is a premature action. However, there is no stopping the change agents there that it is best to define the contours of the roadmap towards decentralization. I would hasten to add that such a roadmap must be accompanied by urban/regional planning to indicate the spatial galvanizations of the roadmap into doable city planning.
Below is a summary report about the optimistic outlook for decentralization in the newly democratized state.
[Philippines, 17 August 2011]
Source: http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?cid=9924&catid=7&typeid=6&subMenuId=0
Key representatives of the Iraqi government including Mr. Istebraq al-Shauk, Senior Deputy Minister for Construction and Housing, Mr. Kamil Chadirchi, Deputy Minister for Administrative Affairs, and Mr. Ayad al Safy, Deputy Minister for Technical Affairs, were in Amman recently to attend a high-level conference to determine the future of Iraqi governance.
“This conference represents the extent of cooperation, and of joint and serious action between the Iraqi Government and United Nations Agencies to concentrate the concept of decentralized government in Iraq,” said Deputy Minister Mr. al-Shauk in his opening address.
The conference 8-10 May, organized by the UN-HABITAT Iraq office in Amman, brought together eminent speakers from the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and United Nations agencies together with experienced practitioners in the field of local governance, to set out a roadmap that will enable Iraq to move towards a system of effective decentralized local government.
All 18 provinces, or governorates, were represented at the Iraq conference 8-10 May in Amman Jordan by members of the Iraqi Local Government Association.
“The objective of this conference is to provide an opportunity for Iraq Local Government Association representatives to learn, experience and benefit from the process of decentralization, local government building and service delivery practised in several neighbouring and selected countries,” said Suman Kumar Karna, Local Governance and Decentralization Specialist with the UN-HABITAT Iraq Programme in Amman. “The conference will provide a focused practical perspective on how decentralization in urban areas promotes local government as an effective tool for service delivery.”
The experience of decentralised governance in Iraq has been minimal. After adopting a federal system in 2003, the Republic of Iraq’s Constitution of 2005 furthered the reform process by establishing a model of decentralized political and administrative government through devolution of power to eighteen provinces (governorates).
But many challenges remain, in particular, the devolution of authority for the delivery of services and an inter-governmental policy on the transfer of revenues to local governments from oil and other resources.
Learning from other countries
One of the speakers, Ehtisham Ahmad from the London School of Economics, said that while there was need for political decisions to made on how oil revenues are shared, it is also vital for Iraq’s local governments to have their own revenue raising options.
“It is important that local governments have own source revenues with control over rates as this ensures efficient use of transfers and spending and makes local governments fully accountable,” said Dr. Ahmad.
A common theme from the speakers was that Iraq must be patient as it moves from a very centralized regime to decentralized local governance. “The challenge is not to design the programme but to breach the gap between theory and practice,” said Shabbir Cheema, Director at the East-West Centre in Honolulu. “With decentralization you need to be patient. Indonesia went through 25 years of failure before it got to where it is today.”
Anwar Shah of the World Bank highlighted the risks if Iraq’s provinces are empowered too greatly and said China could give guidelines and practical pointers to Iraq in developing its decentralized system of government. “China has made remarkable progress on poverty reduction and has 89% of its public employees at the local level,” said Dr. Shah. “Past dependencies make these changes difficult in Iraq but we owe it to the millions of citizens to keep on trying.”
Other speakers provided case studies from Europe (Ed Cornies of UNDP), from India (Professor Dinesh Mehta and Professor Om Prakash) and from Indonesia (Professor Tommy Firman) to explain how local governance can be made effective for urban communities. While all of these case studies are particular to the countries concerned, they can provide useful indicators for Iraq in particular where decentralization initiatives were not successful, said Professor Om Prakash.
The discussions and debate from the conference will be published in the form of a toolkit, which will serve as a guiding tool to Iraqi representatives in the field. In addition, later this year there will be two days of field tours in Turkey where participants from Iraq will have the opportunity to see the results of the decentralization process on the ground. The tour to the region outside Istanbul will provide an insight into the challenges faced in the decentralization process and the means by which solutions are achieved in the field.
“The devil is in the detail and we now need to look at getting the details right on the functional and territorial assignments of responsibilities for the different services in Iraq, ” said Fiona McCluney, UN-HABITAT’s Programme Manager for Iraq, in her closing remarks. “If Iraq is to move from being solely dependent on oil as the main source of revenue, how cities function and are being managed, is going to be a key issue and considering this in the context of where functional responsibilities lie, is the major theme we need to work on.”
For more information, pls. contact –
Dr. Suman Kumar Karna
Local Governance and Decentralization Specialist
UN-HABITAT Iraq Programme
Amman, JORDAN, Email – suman.kumar@unhabitat.org
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!

Social Blogs:
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September 1, 2011

PACIFIC COUNTRIES LAG BEHIND ASIA, CATCH UP!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A tall order it is for Pacific island countries to catch up with Asian economies. It is a challenge call actually, meant to prop up the resource-rich yet phlegmatic island republics to resonate with the Asian economies most especially the emerging markets.

Take the case of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor Leste, both of which are petroleum-exporting. Resource-rich they may be, yet the gap between them and the emerging markets of Asia is so wide. The challenge is to fast-track the pump-priming strategies such as infrastructure development, while at the same time instituting safety nets.

Development should be a win/win engagement, thru a synergy of stakeholders and welfare interventions for the weaker sectors. The Pacific islands are new to the development game, so they can avoid the pitfalls of their Asian neighbors that prospered in a very lop-sided way.

Below is an analytical note from the Asian Development Bank about the Pacific island countries.

[Philippines, 15 August 2011]
Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/resource-rich-pacific-economies-thrive-while-others-lag-adb-report
Resource-Rich Pacific Economies Thrive While Others Lag – ADB Report
18 Jul 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Pacific’s resource-rich economies of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste will continue to expand strongly this year as commodity prices remain firm but growth in the rest of the region is set to remain subdued, says the new issue of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB’s) Pacific Economic Monitor.
The report, released today, projects growth in the Pacific region will reach 6.4% in 2011 before moderating to 5.5% in 2012. The petroleum exporting economies of PNG and Timor-Leste are expected to grow by 8.5% and 10.0% respectively, boosted by the high international price of petroleum, and increased investment and employment associated with the construction phase of resource extraction. ADB predicts growth of 7.5% in 2011 in Solomon Islands, driven by increased logging and the resumption of gold mining in the country.
The 11 other Pacific economies (Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) are expected to experience much lower GDP growth, at 1.5% in 2011 and 1.9% in 2012.
“The long term growth outlook for the Pacific region as a whole is very modest. If this trend continues, the region risks falling further behind the dynamic economies of developing Asia, resulting in a widening gap in incomes in the two regions,” said Robert Wihtol, Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department. “To avoid this scenario, Pacific governments need to focus on the core functions of good government—investing in infrastructure, improving education and providing an enabling business environment that will encourage investment.”
The July issue of the report raises inflation projections for 2011, due to the sharp rise in commodity prices. It warns that high inflation rates in Fiji, PNG, and Timor-Leste are of particular concern. For the region as a whole, inflation is expected at 8.4% in 2011, but will ease to 5.9% in 2012 as commodity prices stabilize.
The report notes that the smaller, more remote and heavily import dependent Pacific economies, such as those in the northern Pacific, are particularly sensitive to rising international food and fuel prices and are expected to be hit hard by inflation. The depreciation of most regional currencies against the US dollar adds to inflationary pressure across the region.
The ADB report assesses long-term growth prospects in the Pacific region. This assessment shows that Pacific economies can achieve modest growth in incomes in the long term assuming reasonable improvements in the efficiency of their resource use. Two groups of Pacific economies are emerging—those benefiting from their natural resources and those who are not.
To manage price volatility, the ADB report recommends developing safety nets to ensure that the poor in Pacific countries have access to food when prices become unaffordable, diversifying the agricultural base, and exploring alternative energy sources.
The report also presents an analysis of fiscal adjustment in Samoa and Tonga during the recent economic crisis. ADB helped these countries weather the crisis by providing budget support grants that ensured the continuation of essential public services amidst sharp declines in government revenues.
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HORN OF AFRICA: STARVATION THREATS

September 1, 2011

HORN OF AFRICA: STARVATION THREATS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gargantuan social crises brought about by almost ceaseless warring among ethnic communities surely have their tolls on the affected populations. Africa has been the most direly affected by such crises, with the end result of seeing up to around 3 millions of non-combatants needing immediate relief to stave off hunger and death.

There isn’t a single continent that hasn’t been affected by such calamitous events. The war calamity actually borders catastrophe, as the debilitation caused by starvation will be long lasting. My country the Philippines has its own versions of lingering ethno-religious and ideologically-driven wars, with hundreds of thousands up to a million displaced by the hot wars between Moslem rebels and government forces in Mindanao.

The hunger cum famine situation induced by long wars and unattended farms (during hot conflicts) tend to yank out textbook principles of crisis intervention. Expertise practically fails during such eventualities.

Take the case of the Horn of East Africa, where 11 million from 3 countries are threatened with starvation. As a development expert, I would admit to my own inadequacies to address such a gargantuan crisis situation, which demands humility and immediate relief. Below is an opinion note on crisis prevention in the said region.

[Philippines, 13 August 2011]

Source: http://www.devex.com/en/articles/crisis-prevention-the-meaning-of-independence
Crisis Prevention & the Meaning of Independence
By Rolf Rosenkranz on 14 July 2011
A vulture eying a starving toddler – a nightmarish scene. The late Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for that chilling photo taken 1993 in South Sudan. It shocked the international community and prompted massive relief for a region reeling from civil war and famine.
That region became an independent state Saturday in a long process carefully aided by the United Nations and others.
As citizens of the newly formed Republic of South Sudan put persistent worries aside and celebrate independence from Khartoum, a colossal food crisis is threatening to destabilize the Horn of East Africa.
Some 11.5 million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are at risk of starvation. It’s the most severe food security emergency in the world today, the worst drought in 60 years. And the current humanitarian response is inadequate.
That’s according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which predicted the drought last year. FEWS NET is run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has made food security and crisis response & prevention pillars of its new strategy.
Can development aid help diffuse or even prevent crises before they occur (and threaten the safety and economic security of others around the globe)? Most likely. The key to making it work: a functioning early warning system, political leadership, money and sufficient funding flexibility. And an international community working in partnership to tackle emerging issues.
But of course, things aren’t always clear-cut, especially when development, diplomacy and defense objectives collide. Should the international community freeze assistance to the Palestinian territories, for instance, as long as their leaders seek statehood with the United Nations? Should international donors continue to fund HIV prevention in China and other emerging economies? What exactly should be the role of private and public donors like the European Union?
Amid these current debates, the suffering continues in the Horn of Africa. As Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth wrote last week in the Huffington Post: “Two tragedies are unfolding in the horn of Africa. The first is the very visible one, the tragedy of families who’ve walked for weeks, their children growing weak with hunger, desperate for our help. Then there is the larger tragedy of a failing humanitarian system built around responding to emergencies, not preventing them.”
It appears as if sweeping reforms of our relief and development architecture are needed to truly tackle emerging crises before they get out of hand.
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TIMOR LESTE’S INTEGRATION INTO ASIA IS RIPE

September 1, 2011

TIMOR LESTE’S INTEGRATION INTO ASIA IS RIPE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Certain quarters among Asia’s continental stakeholders are of the opinion that it is ripe for Timor Leste to be integrated into the Asian economies. I am in complete agreement with the same stakeholders, even as I am of the opinion that the more prosperous Asian countries should land a greater hand in helping out the new independent state to accelerate development.

I also hold the standpoint that Timor Leste, which lies to the east of Indonesia, should someday become a full member of the ASEAN. It must first of all prove its own capabilities to achieve a relative state of political stability and move forward to modernizing its institutions and enabling policy environment.

Incidentally, the Asian Development Bank has been a lead stakeholder in aiding Timor Leste move towards the direction of integration into Asia. Below is a report on the ADB initiatives being undertaken toward such end.

[Philippines, 11 August 2011]
Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/president-kuroda-timor-leste-should-boost-integration-share-asias-success
President Kuroda: Timor-Leste Should Boost Integration to Share in Asia’s Success
12 Jul 2011
DILI, TIMOR-LESTE – Timor-Leste has made significant progress in recent years in securing peace and stability and initiating a new development phase, and now needs to strengthen links with its neighbors, Asian Development Bank President (ADB) Haruhiko Kuroda told the 2011 Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting here today.
“The longer term future of Timor-Leste lies in close integration with Asian economies. Such integration will help generate private sector-led economic growth needed to sustain development,” said Mr. Kuroda.
The Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting is an annual gathering of the Timor-Leste Government, civil society, donors and private sector representatives looking at how best the nation can tackle economic development and other issues. At this year’s meeting, Timor-Leste Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao launched Timor-Leste’s Strategic Development Plan for 2011-2030.
During his address President Kuroda said that the rebalancing of economic activity toward regional and domestic demand and the emergence of a higher-spending middle class in Asia provide ideal conditions for Timor-Leste to look outward for new sources of economic growth. He urged Timor-Leste to continue investing in infrastructure and innovation, education, and regional cooperation initiatives to take advantage of this opportunity.
Since ADB began operations in Timor-Leste in 1999, it has received six grants from the Trust Fund for East Timor totaling $52.8 million, three Asian Development Fund (ADF) grants of a total $62.0 million, and 31 technical assistance (TA) funds worth $29.11 million. Currently, two ADF grants of $52.0 million and six TA projects worth $18.4 million are active.
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ADB & SWISS AID ASIA TRADE

September 1, 2011

ADB & SWISS AID ASIA TRADE
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A Swiss corporate insurance giant had just committed significant funds to aid Asian countries in boosting their trade. The funding will be channeled to the Asian Development Bank or ADB.
This ‘corporate social responsibility’ or CSR initiative by the Swiss Re Group is most welcome. It comes at an opportune time when Asia has been bannered as the continent that drives the global economy up. Boosting trade means not only increasing the volumes of imports and exports, but also improving the institutions concerned such as financing processes, regulatory frameworks, and liberalizing inter-country trade among Asians.
Below is the report on the collaborative synergy of the Swiss Re Group and the ADB.
[Philippines, 09 August 2011]
Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-swiss-re-sign-agreement-boost-trade-asia
ADB, Swiss Re Sign Agreement to Boost Trade in Asia
Date
6 Jul 2011
SINGAPORE – As part of an innovative agreement to boost exports and imports in developing Asia, re/insurance giant Swiss Re will insure $250 million of trade finance conducted via the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Trade Finance Program.
The move marks the first time that the Swiss Re Group, through its commercial insurance unit Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, has provided insurance via a trade program run by a multilateral development bank and also the first time ADB’s Trade Finance Program has offset risk with a private insurance company.
Asia’s economy is growing rapidly, but that is largely due to the exporting prowess of a handful of countries led by the People’s Republic of China, along with a few others such as the Republic of Korea and Singapore. Many other Asian nations, by contrast, find it difficult to export or import key goods because they struggle to get the trade finance they need from international and local banks.
To fill that gap, the ADB’s Trade Finance Program provides guarantees and loans to banks to enable them to provide trade finance, particularly in so-called frontier economies. In 2010, the program supported 783 trade transactions worth $2.8 billion, with banks in Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal the five most active users. Demand in the first quarter of 2011 grew at just over 50% year-over-year across Asia.
The agreement with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions will allow ADB to provide even more trade finance support to the countries that need it most. Transactions under the Trade Finance Program tend to be short term – usually less than 180 days – so financing can be rolled over. As such, the additional $250 million in capacity through the arrangement with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions could result in around $500 million in additional trade finance support per year for developing Asia.
“ADB’s program has been remarkably successful in bridging market gaps currently constraining the financing of trade within some of our member countries. By partnering with the Bank Trade and Infrastructure Finance unit of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, we ensure that ADB remains responsive to the needs of developing Asia. More trade means jobs, higher incomes and lower poverty,” said Philip Erquiaga, Director General of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department.
A pioneering study released late last year by the Triple-A rated ADB and the International Chamber of Commerce provided data showing the low-risk nature of trade finance. The survey of nine banks active in trade finance showed defaults of only 0.02% of 5.2 million transactions worth $2.5 trillion conducted in the past five years. ADB’s Trade Finance Program has never suffered a default.
“We are delighted about this first transaction with ADB,” said Ivo Menzinger, Managing Director of Global Partnerships for Swiss Re. “ADB is a key partner for us in bringing financing solutions to support economic development in Asia across a broad spectrum of risks. With the expertise of our trade credit specialists at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, we can provide an alternative source of capital to banks, governments and international financial institutions beyond traditional risk mitigation strategies. This deal demonstrates our commitment to provide innovative solutions and capital support in emerging markets through partners such as the ADB.”
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members — 48 from the region. In 2010, ADB approvals, including co-financing, totaled $17.51 billion. In addition, ADB’s ongoing Trade Finance Program supported $2.8 billion in trade.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers innovative, high-quality insurance capacity for single and multi-line programmes worldwide. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers its capacity on a stand-alone basis or as part of structured and tailor-made solutions. In addition, it provides customised risk transfer solutions to large, multinational corporations across the globe to assist in mitigating their risk exposure. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions serves more than 50,000 customers across a network of 38 offices worldwide and is backed by the financial strength of the Swiss Re Group, a leading and highly diversified global reinsurer. For more information about Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, please visit http://www.swissre.com/corporatesolutions.
For more information, please contact:
ADB:
Ramoncito dela Cruz
Senior External Relations Officer
Tel: +63 917 891 7644
E-mail: rpdelacruz@adb.org
Swiss Re:
Barbara Yeung
Vice President, Communications
Direct: +852 2582 5635
E-mail: Barbara_Yeung@swissre.com
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DEVELOPING COUNTRIES’ SCIENTISTS FUNDED BY U.S. INITIATIVE

September 1, 2011

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES’ SCIENTISTS FUNDED BY U.S. INITIATIVE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The US National Science Foundation has allotted a fund block aimed at helping out the scientists of developing countries conduct their noble researches. Qualified countries are not only those poor ones but also emerging markets whose scientists are still struggling in the woods to take off with their researches due to fund lack.

In my own country, there are thousands of university-based professors and researchers who suffer from fund sourcing constraints. The likes of the University of the Philippines and Ateneo De Manila University, the leading universities, have already done enormous efforts to solve funding problems, even as their brilliant professors are capable of sourcing funds directly from institutes outside the country. But such isn’t the state of things for other struggling universities and research institutes.

The efforts by the US foundation involved should be welcomed by the appropriate stakeholders. Below is a report on the initiatives of the said foundation.

[Philippines, 07 August 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/us-scheme-targets-developing-country-researchers-.html
US scheme targets developing country researchers
Mićo Tatalović
8 July 2011
Developing country researchers will have access to new US funds through an initiative launched in the United States yesterday (7 July).

US researchers working in developing countries receive around US$100 million a year in grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

But so far, their developing world collaborators have not been able to apply for any of these funds, creating an asymmetry in relationships, according to Alex Dehgan, science and technology advisor to the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“What you want is … [for developing world scientists] to have their own sources of support so you’re truly building a partnership, what Obama called for in Cairo,” Dehgan told SciDev.Net, referring to the American president’s famous speech in 2009.

Now, USAID has partnered with the NSF to provide grants to developing world partners of NSF US grantees.

The Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) initiative will support applied research — science in support of development — in areas of global concern such as climate change, biodiversity, water issues, agriculture, seismic hazards and deforestation.

“It really brings together the best that America has to offer — our science and technology capacity and particularly the peer-review process that NSF uses — with developing country counterparts to finally be able to fund their research, their students, their laboratories.”

Most of the funds will be available in any developing country where USAID works. Additionally there will be some funds specific to Indonesia and Lebanon, and potential specific funds for the Islamic world, supported through Obama’s Global Engagement Through Partnerships project.

Applications from developing world researchers — who must already be collaborating with US scientists on NSF-funded projects and who will become principal investigators on new projects — will be evaluated on two criteria: scientific merits and development impact.

Pilot projects in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania are already underway.
Dehgan said the funds may motivate new partnerships, as they will not be restricted to existing collaborations.

USAID is making available US$8.3 million for developing country scientist-led projects, but the figure may increase if there is great demand, said Dehgan.

Michael Greene, a scholar at the Policy and Global Affairs division of the US National Academies of Science, said the initiative could benefit all parties.

“A less obvious benefit will be exposing the local scientific community to world-class peer review,” Greene said. “The best researchers will like it and want it for nationally funded projects as well, and the governments may also see the benefit of encouraging more productive projects … I hope that some training in proposal writing is available to prospective applicants.”
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RENEWABLE ENERGY THE PAKISTAN WAY

September 1, 2011

RENEWABLE ENERGY THE PAKISTAN WAY
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Pakistan is counted among the world’s ‘emerging markets’ or those countries with large populations and a significant middle class population. As such, Pakistan is confronted with the challenge of catching up on renewable energy sources to generate power with greater cost-efficiency and zero pollution.
Other emerging markets such as China, Philippines and Brazil are way ahead in technology production and power generation of mass scales of Rewable Energy or RE. These countries are therefore in a position to aid other emerging markets do the catching up such as Pakistan.
Emerging markets are the lifeblood of the global economy and so we hope that Pakistan is in tune with such a trend altogether. Below is a report on the strategic initiatives to fast-track green technologies for the country.
[Philippines, 05 August 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/pakistan-to-import-green-technologies-1.html
Pakistan to import green technologies
Saleem Shaikh
5 July 2011
[KARACHI] Pakistan’s research on renewable energy has been severely hit by a lack of funds, experts say, forcing it to look abroad to import green technologies.
The country will aim to boost technology transfer from China and Germany for solar panels and wind turbines, and attract more investment for research and development (R&D), according to its five-year policy on renewable energy, which will be launched in August by the Alternative Energy Development Board.
Pakistan already has plans to generate 2,300 megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar and wind sources under an agreement signed last year (19 December) with China’s Wind Electric.
But some experts say that importing technology is only a short-term fix and that the government should invest more in developing local technologies.
“The funding in renewable energy technology research by the government of Pakistan is close to nothing,” said Masood Ahmed, head of the Sustainable Development Research Centre at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology.
There is a “serious need” for government funding to tap into the country’s huge potential in the sector and “resolve the deepening power crisis in Pakistan”, he said.
The main power resources in Pakistan are oil and gas, but reserves of both are expected to have run out by 2030, according to the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Company, and the country already faces an energy shortfall.
“Previous and present governments have shown that they are only interested in short-term solutions to the present energy crisis, as reflected in mere imports of renewable energy technology,” said Ahmed.
This shows that strengthening research in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector is not high on the government’s agenda, he added.
Pakistan’s universities have run pilot projects in areas such as fuel cells, biodiesel, ethanol fuel, innovative lighting systems, fuel cells for vehicles and biogas.
But they lack the funds to continue their research and roll out the technologies, according to Arshad Abbasi, water and energy advisor at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The new policy will set a target of generating five per cent of Pakistan’s total commercial energy from alternative and renewable energy sources by 2030.
It will offer financial incentives for projects including a manufacturing base for renewable energy plants and components, and will seek to develop the infrastructure for renewable energy programmes with help from the Asian Development Bank and the US Agency for International Development.
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DISASTER RELIEF SEEDS: KENYA’S DIVERSITY CHALLENGE

September 1, 2011

DISASTER RELIEF SEEDS: KENYA’S DIVERSITY CHALLENGE
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Disasters in the form of floods and droughts do not only destroy natural ecology, flora and fauna, they destroy seeds as well. Thus, the idea of ‘relief seeds’ has turned out to be among the challenges for materialization by disaster-prone habitats with food production as their primary economic engagement.
Among rice planters, the idea of diverse seeds was long addressed with the founding of the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI. Based in Laguna, Philippines, the IRRI had generated a total of 90,000+ rice seeds, all of which are properly stored in the ‘seed bank’ of the noble institute.
Below is a country case on recognizing the relief seed challenge in Africa as exemplified by Kenya.
[Philippines, 03 August 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/disaster-relief-seeds-should-be-more-diverse–1.html
Disaster relief seeds ‘should be more diverse’
George Achia
6 July 2011
[NAIROBI] African farmers who lose their seeds in floods and droughts could restore their crop biodiversity quicker by trading local seed varieties at markets and through informal social links than by receiving seeds from aid agencies, a study suggests.
The genetic diversity of crops allows plant populations to adapt to changing environments and provides the raw materials for crop improvement programmes. It is crucial for ensuring food security through the traditional African cropping system.
But, after natural disasters, relief efforts may fail to provide a sufficiently diverse range of seeds.
“Disasters, as well as subsequent relief and recovery activities, have significant impacts on agro-biodiversity, including diversity of crops and their varieties that may exist in a farming system,” said Morag Ferguson, a researcher at the Nairobi-basedInternational Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the study’s lead author.
Aid agencies provide farmers with seeds from formal seed distributors, often from neighbouring countries. But these foreign seeds may fail to restore local biodiversity, putting traditional farming systems that rely on diversity at risk, according to the study published in Disasters (31 May).
The study explored cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) diversity in Gaza Province, Mozambique, following the 2000 floods and 2001 droughts, which caused some farmers to lose all their seed.
Researchers found a narrowing of the genetic base, with fewer rare alleles (alternative forms of a gene), although most of the biodiversity was regained within two and a half years.
Most farmers obtained new seeds from local markets, but these were mostly from the relief efforts and did little to restore diversity. But almost a third got them from friends and relatives in areas without floods.
“It appears that diversity was regained primarily through social networking in the form of loans or gifts of seed from friends and relatives,” Ferguson told SciDev.Net.
The study recommends that future seed distribution efforts target social networks and provide more local seeds at markets.
Shem Wandiga, the director of the UNESCO-associated Centre for Science and Technology Innovation, in Nairobi, advocates storing seeds of important crops to increase genetic diversity after natural disasters.
“To prevent loss of biodiversity, collecting the germplasm of various plants and storing it for future use is the surest way of avoiding the total loss of some species,” said Wandiga. But the best way to prevent biodiversity loss, he added, is to create protected areas where human activity and resource exploitation are limited.
Link to article abstract in Disasters

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ORDINARY SAND FILTERS WATER

September 1, 2011

ORDINARY SAND FILTERS WATER

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Sand has been in use as filtration material for so many hundreds of years. Maybe a second look at the ordinary sand that we find in beaches and in our backyards could provide the answer to lingering questions about more effective water filtration processes.

Scientists from across the oceans have done that precisely: take a second look at the ordinary sand, and cease to condescend on human communities that have been utilizing sand as water filter material. Indigenous technology combined with state-of-the-art innovations could mean, in this instance, combining ordinary sand with an emerging physical technology for filtration purpose.

Below is a report on the collaborative efforts of experts to address such a combination of innotech with high tech in the area of water filtration.

[Philippines, 01 August 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/-super-sand-could-improve-water-filtration-.html
‘Super’ sand could improve water filtration
Dyna Rochmyaningsih
7 July 2011
[JAKARTA] Ordinary sand, such as that from beaches, could be used to filter dirty water using a nanotech-based technique developed by researchers.
Sand, which retains bugs and chemicals in water flowing through it, has been used as a cheap water filtration method for hundreds of years. Coarse sand filters water faster than finer sand, but produces water that is less clean.
Now, a team of scientists in Australia and the United States has come up with a way to coat ordinary coarse sand with a nanomaterial called graphite oxide — which can remove five times more impurities than ordinary sand.
The graphite oxide is suspended in a liquid, to which the sand is added. This mixture is heated to ensure the sand is covered, and then dried.
Compared with untreated sand, the coated sand removed up to five times as much mercury and dye from water. The authors wrote that its activity was similar to that of activated carbon, a porous form of carbon that has a large surface area to absorb impurities but is expensive to make.
The method for treating the sand is simple and uses cheap materials such as sulphuric acid, making the technique likely to be used in developing countries, said Mainak Majumder, co-author of the study and a mechanical engineer at Monash University, Australia.
Although the sand used in the experiment was a commercially available filtration sand, any sand could be used provided it is cleaned beforehand, Wei Gao, a co-author of the research from Rice University, United States, told SciDev.Net.

The researchers have no plans to themselves test the sand in developing countries, as they do not have access to large-scale production methods, said Wei.
Thalappil Pradeep, a prominent nanotechnologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, said he has also conducted research into using a similar material to graphite oxide to improve the filtration properties of sand. He said the biggest issue is translating the technique into a product that ordinary people can use.
“The technologies have to be applied to real products. In our case, one product is undergoing field trials incorporating such materials.”
The research was published in Applied Materials & Interfaces in May.
Link to abstract in Applied Materials & Interfaces
Read our Spoltight on Nanotechnology for clean water.
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MALARIA FIELD KIT BETTER THAN LAB!

September 1, 2011

MALARIA FIELD KIT BETTER THAN LAB!
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Who knows what is in store in the future of such diseases as malaria? Better diagnostics could address the prevention aspect, and simple kits such as what can be brought as mobile tools to the field just might prove to do better than orthodox means offered by laboratory methods.
Improvements in the process are proving to be effective in the area of human behavior and industrial processes. Outright renovations on lab technologies just may not be the right response, but again the renovations on the processes involved.
Such a process intervention can integrate even the socio-behavioral aspect into it to constitute a more integrated approach to healthcare management. Below is a report on such an intervention initiative for malaria.
[Philippines, 01 August 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/simple-measures-could-improve-malaria-diagnostic-kits-.html
Simple measures ‘could improve malaria diagnostic kits’
Gozde Zorlu
11 July 2011 | EN
Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria could be greatly improved by a few simple measures, say researchers.
These include providing better information for health workers on how to use them effectively in the field and how to spot common errors, according to a study published in Malaria Journal last month (15 June).
“Inaccurate test results and poorly designed RDT kits were found to be limitations in the use of rapid diagnostic tests in malaria-endemic countries,” Philippe Gillet, the lead author and a researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in, Belgium told SciDev.Net.
The first Cochrane review of the tests — published last week (6 July) by the global non-governmental organisation the Cochrane Collaboration — found them to be “very accurate” when compared with laboratory-based microscopy or polymerase chain reaction tests. After analysing data from 74 studies it concluded that RDTs identify malaria correctly in 19 out of 20 cases.
But such reviews may overlook problems faced by health workers in real-life settings, said Piero Olliaro, a co-author of the review, who works on the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at the WHO.
In 2007, more than 70 million such tests were carried out worldwide. They offer an easier and faster alternative to laboratory-based techniques that are often lacking in remote areas.
When used properly, RDTs can save lives and slow down drug resistance, because only people with confirmed malaria are treated.
For the Malaria Journal article, Gillet and his team analysed the accuracy of 873 tests from a Mozambique hospital.
They found a range of problems, including false-negative results in patients with high parasite densities because the display was too faint to see. Meanwhile, where health workers replaced the buffer — a liquid solution needed to run the tests — with water or buffer from another kit, three-quarters of tests gave false-positive results.
The study recommends providing better information about these limitations, providing more than one buffer in the kit, and including a warning in information leaflets.
David Bell, head of the malaria diagnostics programme at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, said manufacturers should explore the problems of faint displays “to ensure the tests work across the whole likely range of parasite densities”.
An earlier study by Gillet’s team, also published in Malaria Journal (13 February), found that information on the packaging, labelling and information leaflets in 42 RDT kits from 22 manufacturers was difficult to read and often incorrect or incomplete.
“For a test to provide an accurate diagnosis, it has to be prepared properly and it has to be interpreted properly — and to do this you need very good instructions,” said Bell. “What might be good instruction in a laboratory may not be adequate for a village health worker who has a different level of literacy and training.”
Gillet suggested that the WHO or the European Union could demand improvements as part of the pre-qualification process, which certifies the quality of the tests and is needed for UN agencies to distribute them.
Olliaro agreed: “There is room for improvement to make these tests more user-friendly and perform better, particularly in the hands of health workers confronted with multiple tasks”.
Link to the first study in Malaria Journal
Link to full the second study in Malaria Journal
Link to full Cochrane review
References
Malaria Journal doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-166 (2011)
Malaria Journal doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-39 (2011)
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008122.pub2 (2011)
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